Archive for December 23rd, 2010

Tron: Legacy

In the years that follow the end of the original Tron we discover Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) returned to “The Grid” (The world inside a computer where this and the original film are largely set), then one day on the verge of what he believes to be a world changing discovery he disappeared. Twenty years later his son, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), now 27 is the majority shareholder in Flynn’s software company but has no involvement in the day to day running of the company. Then a mysterious pager message via Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) leads him to his dad’s old arcade and in turn onto The Grid. This gives him the chance to find out what happened to his farther all those years before, but first he has to survive the games much like the ones seen in the original movie. I don’t think it can be classed as a spoiler (its in the trailer) to say Bridges, plays a duel role, his second character is Clu, a computer version of Flynn with a CGI facelift making him look something like he did in the 80’s.

The movie does little to inform the uninitiated what happened in the original movie, this is possibly because it is much of a remake/reboot of the original as it is a sequel. True the story does follow directly on from the original but large chunks of the (thin) plot are basically rehashes of the original movie. This is a great shame as the plot wasn’t the strong point of the original. The setting of The Grid is such that it would have been possible to work any plot/story into the movie. Were Disney playing it safe or do they have no original ideas? Probably a bit of both. With a budget estimated at around $175million (or ten times that of the original) the movie probably needs to gross around $400million to be considered a success and the bottom line is where it counts for the studio and they probably felt safe sticking to the well trodden path. The one thing the plot does offer is a subtext. There is a theme running through the movie that comes out when Kevin Flynn confronts his nemesis/alter ego; perfection isn’t possible and even if it were, we wouldn’t want it, it is the imperfections that make us human. Without sadness would happiness mean anything? Rather than exploring any existential themes, the movie hammers home an analogy involving ethnic cleansing and the rise of fascism, subtlety was never in Disney’s vocabulary!

Interestingly the films main protagonist is Sam Flynn, with Bridges’ Kevin Flynn playing a more supporting role, this is probably an aim to bring a younger demographic in alongside children of the 70/80’s. I am not that familiar with Garrett Hedlund who plays Sam but on the whole he does a good job but lacks any edge. More cynical and self assured than Bridges’ more goofy lead in the original but a bit by the numbers. It will be interesting to see how Hedland develops as an actor, his next role is Dean Moriarty in the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road due out next year. As for the supporting cast Bridges is great playing something approaching Bill Django (his character from The Men Who Stare at Goats) mixed with The Dude, Neo from the Matrix and a Jedi Master with a bit of Gandhi for good measure. Olivia Wilde isn’t given much to do (acting wise) as Flynn’s apprentice, Quorra but does play the part perfectly, displaying naivety without appearing dippy. She also gets some of the best action scenes in the movie, this movie won’t do her rapidly rising star any harm (an article about her has been my most visited post in the past year). Having said that the movie does have its best moments before Flynn and Quorra are introduced (other than Bridges brief prologue). Shortly after they are introduced the movie loses all momentum as we move into the third act. It doesn’t regain its early energy or pace until the finale, and even then it is somewhat muted in comparison to the earlier scenes. The issues here are script related and don’t reflect badly on the actors. The same can be said for the normally reliable Michael Sheen who is Jar Jar Binks annoying as a flamboyant club owner with a Ziggy Stardust haircut. Possibly the most interesting casting is Cillian Murphy in an un-credited role as Edward Dillinger Jr. the son of Ed Dillinger, the antagonist in the original film. Why is such a recognizable and established actor appearing in such a tiny cameo? Is he a fan of the original movie and wanted a cameo, or is his appearance a teaser for a bigger part in the third movie. Will we see him going toe to toe with Sam Flynn in a game of killer Frisbee or a Light Cycle battle in a future movie?

The movie started with an explanation that parts of it are shot and intentionally shown in 2D not 3D, my immediate thought was this going to be a clever updating of the black and white/colour device used in The Wizard Of Oz. This is an interesting comparison, firstly because the first thing that jumps out at you (sorry, could resist) is that the difference between black and white and colour is far greater than the difference between 2D and 3D. The other thing is that whist some of the 3D was very good and on a par with Avatar and Resident Evil: Afterlife other parts like all 3D was poorly designed and executed resulting in me forgetting that I was watching 3D, it could be said that I was so immersed in the film that I forgot, this isn’t the case. I actually found myself wondering is this 3D or not and lifting my glasses to see. The CGI effects are also an interesting thing to look at in this movie, obviously with all the recent advances they are light-years ahead of the 1980’s original and look spectacular at times but unlike those in the original movie they aren’t groundbreaking or original. The movie does nothing visually that I haven’t seen before, just like the plot.

What it all boils down to is that there are three things that makes the movie work. Fantastic visuals, great action and fantastic soundtrack by electronic duo Daft Punk (who appear in the movie as DJ’s in the End of Line Club). Olivia Wilde’s presence in a neon lit catsuit doesn’t do any harm either! This leads to the final question, is the movie any good? The answer, I’m not sure. It has its moments and it looks great but it all feels a little shallow and hollow but over and above that I actually found myself enjoying it despite its problems and the third act lull. That is why despite all conventional wisdom telling me it is only worth 3 stars out of five I actually give it:

Four Stars out of Five.

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