Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Tron: Legacy

Today I'm stuck in Jury Duty, so I might as well use the "90 minutes of quota time" alloted to me for certain web sites like blogspot (others are allowed and anything fun or interesting is just flat out blocked). I'll be reviewing the last big blockbuster film of 2010, Tron: Legacy. First some backstory.

Until a few weeks ago, I had never seen the original Tron. It's when I tried to finally see it that I realized why that is: it's incredibly hard to find. It's not readily available on DVD or home video for that matter and is pretty much never on TV, not even the Disney channel, the company that made it. It came out before I was born and it took heading to a Blockbuster Video Store to rent a copy on DVD, no small feat as most didn't have it and trying to buy it was not a viable option (it sells on eBay for about $80, yikes!). Needless to say I finally saw it and wasn't overly blown away by it. Yes comparing Tron today's films is an impossible task, it doesn't hold up one bit but it was so cool to see a young Jeff Bridges act and realize how great an actor he's become. Those special effects though, what can you say, I knew to take it stride and enjoy it for what it was while my wife likened it to something akin to a cartoon and I can see that.

The story of Tron is irrelevant because it was an experiment that didn't exactly succeed. Worse, the film leaves us on a terrible cliffhanger with little to no resolution. This is where Tron: Legacy picks up and gives us a little more backstory on what the heck happened over 20 years ago after Tron.

So this much needs to be said, Tron: Legacy, like Tron, isn't going to blow you away with brilliant writing or smart dialogue, but it's also not a dumb film. This thing knows its audience and the audience isn't mindless; they want to see an amazing world but also have an understanding of computers to an extent and aren't around to just see stuff blow up, anyone can do that. Let's see someone make a whole new world instead and build something on that.

Legacy tells the story of Sam Flynn, the son of Jeff Bridges' character Kevin Flynn, who after all these years has been stuck in the Grid, the virtual world he helped create. There's a good amount of early story here about what happened to them and their company, Encom, which is now in a Microsoft style control of releasing rehashed versions of the same programs with a new number on it. We even get a cameo from the great Cillian Murphy but that's all it is, a cameo. Bruce Boxlightner (the original Tron) gets a bigger role which is understandable and yet sad, Murphy was wasted likely to be brought back for another sequel (considering he's the son of the first film's antagonist).

Eventually, Sam reenters the Grid and that's when things turn awesome, it's what we paid to see. Personally I paid to see it in glorious IMAX 3D and recommend seeing it this way. Not all films deserve the treatment but this movie is all about the visuals and sounds so it's worth it. The world created in this movie is nothing short of staggering and a bit awe-inspiring. It has to be seen in motion and the play of colors vs darkness is a beautiful sight. Bridges finally enters the fray in the film here but as two different characters, and this is where the film really starts to divide people.

You either go with the fact that C.L.U., the villain of this piece, is believable as a computer-enhanced younger Jeff Bridges or not. There are times he looks real and others where it pulls you out of the film. As much hard work went into this effect, it's still no Gollum, which is sad considering that we last saw that character over 5 years ago.

C.L.U. is however an excellent foil for our heroes, because he isn't "evil" in the traditional sense, not even like the MCP was in Tron. He isn't after control, he's after perfection and building the perfect system. Of course like the MCP he was built by humans (in this case by Bridges himself) and has since come to haunt them. That same lesson looms but is taught quite different and more effectively. I found this conflict far more engaging because C.L.U. believes he is doing what he has to, what he was designed to do and believes he is right.

Sam and Kevin's reconnection isn't as strong as one would want but then, Kevin's been stuck here for too long and has started going loopy from what things seem (and apparently he also becomes Big Lebowski's The Dude from time to time, don't ask why, Digital Jazz, really?). The standout is Olivia Wilde as Quorra, who helps our heroes and is a free thinking creation of this world.

Needless the say the film has enough in it to engage and impress, and I feel it really shouldn't be missed if only for the fantastic effects and fun ride. It asks only slightly more of you than your average blockbuster film but is wrapped up in a tighter package better than most from this past year. There's definitely a few hindrances to get past, dialogue, potential confusion if you haven't seen Tron (though I think they did a fine job of recapping things) and the difficult effect of buying into the young Bridges face. All that said, I give the film the Silver Medal of End of Line. See it in IMAX 3D if you can but enjoy it either way.

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