Friday, January 7, 2011

Tron: Legacy

Director: Joseph Kosinski Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Jeff Bridges Co-Starring: Anis Cheurfa, Bruce Boxleitner Watch for: Cillian Murphy, Daft Punk Editor: James Haygood Would I Buy It: Blu-Ray, for sure. Greetings, Programs. Explaining how I feel about Tron has been a difficult task. You could call it "pretty", you could call it "cool", "eye-catching", "heavily-contrasted", any number of things. I've never had this much trouble describing why I like something as much as I do. It's just... cool. Warriors on the mesa fighting battles with high tech boomerangs, chasing each other on fold-up motorcycles, flying through floating mountains... it's just cool. Though, let's start with this. One thing I don't understand about Tron are the rules of the world. They did a few things different in Legacy from the original film that I'm not quite sure I understand the thinking behind. In 1982's TRON, I always imagined that the Programs were made of light. The way they were glowing, how they interacted with things, it just seemed like they were a core of light contained by clothing. In Legacy, they are depicted more as physical bodies that wear lightstrips on their clothing as a fashion statement. Is it more like the Matrix, and they are merely a simulation that merely perceive everything as we see it as someone would a 3D room on their computer, or are these physical beings of a minute scale trapped between high-speed electrons? This is why I felt a little cheated with how they handled the laser in this movie. Sam (and the entire room) gets a nice digitizing filter thrown on the shot and BOOM, he's in the Grid. That felt a little cheap compared to the bit-by-bit scanning of Flynn in the original. Granted, newer times, faster technology, but to someone with a passive understanding of visual effects, that seems like cheating. Also, the ending with Quorra leaves a little to be desired. First of all, if she is just information in a computer, bits of code saved on the magnetic disc of a hard drive, how is it the laser is able to convert her into a physical form of flesh and blood? Does the laser work like a 3D printer? Perhaps more like the machine that rebuilds Leeloo in The Fifth Element? Also, did she have her clothes like Sam was given his original outfit back, or did she land crouched and naked like one of the Terminators? The movie takes it's premise lightly, brushing the finer details under the rug, hoping the visuals and details of the story will be enough to keep people from thinking about it too hard. That being said, this movie is freakin' COOL. It maintains the basic structure of the original in a poetic form that would make George Lucas and Bryan Singer nod with approval. Our main character, Sam, accidentally gets zapped into the Grid and before he has little more than a basic understanding of what has happened, he's thrown into a barrage of techno-gladiator matches where he must fight for his life (and some more plot development). Soon after, there's some light plot development, defining the mission and planning what our characters must do, which leads them to a Program that can help them find their way (though Castor turns out to be a bit less loyal than Dumont), which then leads us to a solar-sailor journey and the final action sequence. Legacy takes the basic concepts of the first film, glow-frisbee combat and wall-building lightcycles, and refreshes them with an exciting, gravity-defying and acrobatic flare. There is not a single, action-movie-going male who didn't watch Rinzler and open his eyes a bit wider as he unnecessarily flipped over an incoming disc before landing and ducking to dodge it on it's way back. The action was well-shot, well-choreographed, and while each set it brief, you definitely come away feeling like you've seen something you've never seen before. The lightcycle match is fast-paced, suspenseful and just brutal enough that the audience will cringe at each death, but Disney will still let the film be released under their name. I did rather enjoy the "We've gotta work together" segment. It can be likened to Tron and Ram playfully messing with the red programs (in blue bikes?) in the original film, but there was something about the teamwork aspect that tugged on my heartstrings when we had to watch Sam's new/only friend be crushed by the relentless Clu. Oh, Clu. He was probably the biggest triumph and failure of this film. Of all the special effects in this movie, there were two that pulled me back to reality. The first is the Tron arcade game Sam finds with internet flash-game graphics in a 1980's machine, the second is Clu. Well, before that even, digitally de-aged Flynn talking to young Sam. For a minute, my over-thinking brain thought that maybe the reason he looked digital in that shot was going to be some "Clu was acting as Sam's father in Flynn's absence!"... but no. That's just silly fanboy crap. The young Flynn work was very good. In a lot of shots, he does look very, very lifelike. However, the uncanny valley is working against them. The most noticeable thing had to be mouth movement. It's as though his lips were pressed up against a pane of glass as he spoke. The big climactic moment with Clu getting sucked back into Flynn, yelling as he does so... that flat, semi-open scream just completely yanked me out of it. I wish the production had had more time/money/staff/whatever they needed to get Clu to look better. I feel like they could have. Tron, the character, was the briefest and coolest of any. "Flynn, GO!" echoed in my ears for days after my first viewing. The picking up of the red identity disc was a tad fanfilm/hero goes to the Dark Side for my taste, as we really don't get an explanation of what exactly happens to Tron between that scene and his fight with Sam. It is assumed he is run through the rectifier like so many programs, but obviously he's so different from Clu's legion of troops that there's something else going on here. Perhaps we'll get more on that in a sequel. Sam himself was a solid lead. He's a typical fatherless hero as far as movies go and he really is more of a visual presence than anything esoteric, but as a hero walking us through the story, he works well enough. Quorra is a bit different than I imagined. She's a bit more wide-eyed and naive, though in a way that makes her seem curious more than unintelligent. She obviously knows much about her world and how to survive in it, as the strong female lead should, but Wilde plays her in such a way that she seems very fragile also. Now that I'm thinking about it, Flynn also had something that took me out of the moment. "Man." I don't want to say that Flynn is a hippie, but he's definitely gone down some sort of techno-spiritual path in his 20 years (or however many it's been in Grid-time) that he was missing. A few moments he felt more like the man trying to be a savior to his people rather than the one who actually was. This might be unusual turf for Bridges to be playing on, but the role felt like something between 1982 Kevin Flynn and Jeffrey Lebowski, with touches of Gandalf for flare (Seriously, the sequence of him reabsorbing Clu? Total Gandalf). Just certain moments (mostly in action scenes) it felt like he didn't know quite how to carry himself, but for the moments he did nail, he nailed them hard. Beyond that, the world looked great. The glossy, CG-esque nature of the ship and world designs worked in their favor to help the digital sets, props and costumes feel natural against their practical counterparts. There were so many shots with different levels of integration that my CG detector shut off early on and I was able to sit back and just take in all the visuals without over-analyzing every frame. Also, the score from notable artists Daft Punk refuses to fade into the background, leaving a very distinct and memorable impression to accompany the nonstop visual feast. Overall, Tron: Legacy didn't have the strongest story of all the films released this summer, but it certainly is high on the list for the amount of heart behind it. It's a welcome continuation of a film that now finds itself in a budding franchise few hardcore fans, such as myself, ever expected to see. There is talk already of a trilogy set after the two films, as well as a TV series, not to mention the Tron: Evolution game (which I kick ASS at, btw. Seriously, find me on the Game Grid and you will see) and various types of merchandise. I think it's safe to say that we won't have to wait another 20 years for the sequel. End of line.

No comments: