Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tron: Legacy Review

Back in 1982, Tron was a trippy sci-fi movie with state of the art computer graphic special effects. And while it was innovative and dealt with themes of religion and existentialism, the movie was hampered by goofy technobable and cute characters like Bit who was obviously inspired by Star Wars' R2D2. As time wore on, Tron became a cult classic.

Now in 2010, Disney has released a sequel to Tron, Tron: Legacy. Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn. At the beginning of the movie, we see a flashback where Kevin Flynn is telling his young son, Sam, the story of Tron and a world of a unique existence in a mainframe of a computer. Kevin disappears and leaves his young son, his controlling stake in the software company, Encom. Later as an adult, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) breaks into his Encom and releases software that the company hoped to make a large profit on into the Internet for free.

Later, Sam's defacto father and friend of Kevin, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) tells Sam that he has received a page from Kevin's old arcade. Sam investigates and finds a secret compartment which has laser. He inadvertently activates the laser and is digitized into the world of the Tron (also Boxleitner). Sam is immediately forced into gladiator games run by Kevin's alter ego-computer program Clu. Its purpose as programmed by Kevin is to seek perfection among the programs inhabiting the mainframe. Unfortunately, Clu. has a megalomaniac complex. As Sam is about to get killed in a light cycle fight, Quorra (Olivia Wilde) saves him and take him to his real father, Kevin. (Jeff Bridges) At Kevin's hideout, Sam decides to escape and try to shut down Clu from the real world.

When you watch Tron: Legacy in 3-D, the first thing that Disney tells you is that parts of it were filmed in 2D and some were shot in native 3-D. Why the honesty? I don't know but maybe it's to acknowledge the backlash against 3-D conversions. The film itself benefits from shooting in native 3-D as the special effects take full advantage of the medium. Broken pieces of programs look like glass flying at your face. Unfortunately, I had trouble focusing on the edges of the screen and had to keep my head centered. And with all 3-D films, the picture was still too dark. This was made even worse by the color palette which was black. Yet, I'm grateful for the native 3-D because the film had a cleaner look. So, should you spend the extra bucks for 3-D? No. I'm not as mad as I was when watching "The Last Airbender" (2010) but the 3-D doesn't do a whole lot for the film.

And speaking of special effects, they are spectacular. The filmmakers didn't break away from the first Tron as far as art design. The light cycle races were cool. There's also a light jet chase that's as good as anything in Star Wars. Then there's the de-aging of Jeff Bridges by CGI. It's seamless and revolutionary.

The acting is also very good. Jeff Bridges reprises his Kevin Flynn role and channels his inner "Dude" from The Big Lebowski for comic relief. (1998) Bruce Boxleitner hasn't missed a step as Alan. Whereas, Garrett Hedlund plays Sam in a realistic and understated manner. That could not be said for Michael Sheen as Castor. I'm guessing he got tired of playing Tony Blair (The Queen) because he goes to town as the flamboyant club owner, Castor. Olivia Wilde conveys Quorra's ingenue with grace and beauty.

Joseph Kosinki's direction is detailed and skillful. Here, the story comes first over flashy action. The screenplay by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis is smart and pays homage to the first movie without becoming parody. It has a more sophisticate approach then its predecessor. Yet, it maintains the themes of religion and existentialism. The filmmakers make the same mistake as the first one by hiring electronic music experts. This time it's Daft Punk. The soundtrack was more like musical wallpaper. Still, it didn't hurt the movie.

Tron: Legacy is intelligent and thought provoking science fiction. It's better than its predecessor. Take a journey back to the world of Tron. The grade is A.

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