Dec 20, 2010

[Movies] Tron: Legacy (2010)

Tron: Legacy (2010)When Tron first came out in 1982, it was a pretty landmark film in its own right. The kind of computer graphics that we saw in that movie were far beyond what was considered the standard at the time. Regardless, the movie was quite the flop and through the years this movie has instead become a cult classic in the home video market. But beyond that, we didn't hear much from the franchise apart from a comical appearance in the Kingdom Hearts II video game.

And yes, I totally loved the fact that Tron was in that game, given it is a Disney product. But let's get back to business, shall we?

When news of a sequel start to circulate, I have to admit I had mixed feelings about it. I've been pretty consistent in my regular complaints about the remake culture we often see in Hollywood these days. And for items that are so close to our geek history like Tron, I was worried they were totally going to screw it up.

But despite all the press, the various teaser trailers and all that, I still knew that the only way to determine the worth of this movie was by actually going out to see it. And thankfully, geek connections helped us get into the premiere screening hosted at the SM Mall of Asia IMAX cinema.

Tron: Legacy is indeed a direct sequel to the original movie. It features many stars from the original film reprising their roles with Joseph Kosinski as director. Steven Lisberger directed the first movie and this time around he was brought on as a producer.

Jeff Bridges at the Independent Spirit Awards ...Image via WikipediaAbout twenty years after the events in the first movie, we are introduced to Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the protagonist from the first movie. Kevin has been missing all this time and thus Sam has grown up in the care of his grandparents while avoiding his birthright as inheritor of ENCOM, the company that his father revolutionized after he gained control during the events of the first movie. After a complex prank against the board of directors, Sam is approached by Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), a friend of his father's.

Alan claimed to have received a pager message that originated from his father's old office at the arcade. Sam goes on to investigate at the arcade and discovers his father's secret office hidden behind an old Tron arcade console. While Sam tries to figure out what his father was working on, he ends up getting digitized and sent to The Grid, the virtual world of sorts that his father was creating. The he finds himself facing a lot of the same gaming challenges as the first movie while he tries to figure out where his father is.

Visually, the movie is beyond belief. This is indeed a modern update of the old movie with the same styling and light-piping that made the first movie so memorable. The use of 3D (especially in the IMAX format) was pretty impressive and it helped make the universe quite immersive. And surprisingly it didn't see quite as dark as I expected given the usual side-effect of movies shot in 3D. And should you get to see it in an IMAX theater, then you'll be able to fully appreciate how expansive the universe is.

The story suffers many of the issues of the original movie. Things don't make a lot of sense at times but you just have to go with it since the plot demands it. Character motivations tend to be shallow and single-minded and lack the kind of depth and complexity you expect from, well, real people. But then the story is hardly the best reason to watch this movie - just enjoy the eye candy that is personified by the special effects.

Acting-wise, I didn't have too much of a problem. Sure, Jeff Bridges can get pretty annoying since he's acting like The Dude from the Big Lebowski. And it's kind of quirky to hear his voice trying to bring to life the coldly animated version of his younger self, CLU. And Hedlund makes for a rather deadpan Sam Flynn at times. And Olivia Wilde (Quorra) is decently believable as a curious, precocious little program too. But no one particularly excels in his or her role. They just sort of coast through and end up being more background material for the special effects. And I suppose that's to be expected too in a movie like this.

The movie tries to be a lot smarter than the past one in terms of philosophical arguments and concepts. But it also tried to be less geeky by eliminating a lot of the tech speak that defined the original. That means no more Bit with its yes / no responses, no I/O towers as links to the outside world. I didn't even hear anyone officially say the world "derez". Thus in the long run, the movie felt sadly incomplete given the obvious efforts to try to make the movie more accessible to a wider audience. Instead it took away a part of the spirit of the movie and made it not quite as geekily fun as it could have been.

Tron: Legacy feels more like a remake of the original movie instead of a sequel to it. It eliminates the need to see the first movie unless you're the die-hard fan who wants to spot all the little homages and quaint touches here and there that try to connect things to the old movie. Just don't expect it to change your life in terms of content - just enjoy the pretty lights and all that. It gets 4 updated lightcycles that can drive in curved lines out of a possible 5.
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