Thursday, December 23, 2010

Review: Tron Legacy

For those of you who forgot or never found out, Tron was unique and ambitious 1982 Disney piece, imagining a fairly generic escape movie set in the 'grid' of a computer or video game world. It was certainly visually and conceptually unique and featured some great performances, notably from Jeff Bridges, but the plot was fairly rote, the dialogue was often clunky and the pacing was terrible. It was also a HUGE financial flop, but nowadays appeals to the film geek culture for it's big ideas and potential. And so, 28 year later we have a sequel.

To rehash the plot, a few years after the end of the first one Jeff Bridge's Flynn disappeared, leaving his son Sam behind who, nowadays, is a cyber terrorist, fighting against Flynn's old company which is now looking a little too much like Microsoft to be accidental. He gets sent to his dad's old office and sucked into the grid to find that his father is trapped there and his digital copy Clu has become a fascist dictator. A few spoilers later, Flynn, Sam and Flynn's apprentice Quorra are bolting for the exit with a magic macguffin that Clu wants.

Right out of the gate, I want to say that I was a little apprehensive about this one. The first trailer (the one that ended with “IT'S JUST A GAME” if you remember) was easily one of my favorite trailers for going on a year, but each trailer after that got me more and more worried. My main requirement, going in, was that this movie not suck. And it didn't. It's not great, but it's pretty good and it's enjoyable. So color me satisfied.

To the good first: The CGI is absolutely incredible (with one notable exception), the action sequences are enjoyable and inventive, even if one is just a little too close to one from Star Wars for comfort. Olivia Wilde (who some of you might recognize from House MD) does a fantastic job as Quorra, definitely looking forward to her in Cowboys and Aliens. Garret Hundland does a good job as Sam, despite my initial apprehension. It moves at a nice clip, eliminating all of the pacing problems from the original. And Daft Punk's soundtrack is easily one of the year's best, being both distinctive and memorable on it's own, and well suited to the scenes it inhabits (and keep an eye out for the men themselves in the movie proper.)

Now to the bad, and there's more than a little of that. First off, while depicting Clu as a 20 years younger Flynn makes sense in context, the tech does not rise to the occasion (it's the face movements people, Gollum was 7 years ago, why do we still have this problem?). The script is still more than little clunky, especially since the second half of the movie is essentially an extended chase scene. You'll guess a pair of reveals way earlier than your supposed to. A lot of it is vaguely defined (the macguffin's purpose is defined, but not how it works and what precisely Flynn can do is never specified). And Jeff Bridge's performance is unfocused, flitting back and forth between the laid back role from the first one (which he perfected as The Dude in The Big Lebowski) and a fairly rote Obi-Wan knockoff. And someone REALLY needs to tell Michael Sheen to dial it back at least 5 levels.

I suppose the film as a whole's biggest problem is that it wants to be 3 separate thing. It wants to appeal to niche fans of the original, it wants to be a standalone action movie and it wants to lay the groundwork for a series (since Disney can't rely on Pirates anymore) and those three things are pulling it in different directions. The third is probably hurting it the most, since a bunch of things are hinted at and a couple characters cameo, none of which amounts to anything, leaving me feeling unfulfilled.

Still, the good outweighs the bad and it's definitely worth a look. I'd wait till you've seen True Grit or Black Swan first but if you feel inclined, go see it. It's not perfect, but it means well and is enjoyable. Or you could go see Yogi Bear. Or the new Meet the Parents movie. Since that was so fucking good the first 2 times.

Elessar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he doesn't advise you to see Narnia either.

1 comment:

  1. It's funny how Disney had enough cash to make a sequel from a flop, a very good flop I might add. I might know very little about the first Tron from seeing it on G4 to playing the Space Paranoids level in Kingdom Hearts II, but it's hard to believe that the Mouse House wanted some big money from a possible rebooted Tron movie series, with TV show to boot, but then look back to the day it decided to not bother with the Narnia series.

    Voyage of the Dawn Treader might have a Golden Glob nomination for Best Song, but it was like Disney was laughing it up with Fox having to deal with another kids' book turned theatrical disappointment only to have the Mouse House try to recollect the amount spent on this film.

    I thought Tron Legacy was fine for what it was. It looked and sounded better than Disney's other disappointment of the holiday season, Tangled, and that was good enough for me.