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TRON: Legacy (Review)

For about two decades, there has been buzz around both on and off the web about whether there should be a continuation or a revisit to Tron, the film that was considered far ahead of it’s time when it was released, a film that did not find it’s audience until recently, thanks in part to the video game and computer boom. So as word and demand increased, Disney finally acquiesced and announced that there would in fact be another film – one that, over the years, switched hands and ideas, like many other projects, and eventually got lost in the shuffle.

The 2008 Comic Con premiered a three-minute teaser that blew everyone away, with the insanely rich visuals of thanks to los of heavy CGI work. This teaser just made everyone crave for even more; and three years later, after about a decade in development hell, Tron Legacy is here!

Like many 3D films of today, it’s not entirely 3D. The first quarter of the film is shot in 2D (though you’re asked to keep your spectacles on during the entire trip). The 3D universe is lovely and startling to look at, although I was more fascinated by the actual world (reality) in which the 3D universe existed.

WARNING: Spoilers Abound

The film opens with as we move through a city, gliding over calm waters to gently enter the front of a house as Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is explaining this magical land to his young son, Sam. Covering walls, pillowcases and shelves are posters and toys depicting what Flynn is working on – his creation, The Grid. To prepare us for the awkward de-aging (CGI tool to have actor appear younger), the camera is behind him until he exits and disappears.

Sam (Garrett Hedlund) flees and runs off on bike transitioning into him on a motorcycle with some incredible maneuvers in and out of traffic swerving about cars and a truck to escape by narrow margin with a delight of camera placement that CGI can’t duplicate nor manipulate. Breaking into Encom, which his father battled with in the previous film. Encom is announcing the release of there latest and greatest software yet with Alan Bradley (returning Bruce Boxleitner) sinking into his chair as part of the board. “What makes this one different”, he asks. The answer being simply they slapped a twelve on it. Sam steals the software and sends it out for free online. Then jumps off the building to parachute down to be detained by police. Sam exits jail to pass the guard whom he knows by name to retrieve his beautiful Ducatti bike.

Alan comes to visit Sam as he was paged by the missing Flynn by way of the closed-down Flynn Arcade. Sam with a bit of reluctance goes to the arcade/office of his father hitting the breakers to ignite the power to the lights and a booming Journey song (first film had a Journey track). Descending the stairs as The Eurythmics Sweet Dreams builds as he finds his father hidden office to hack into his computer, which transports him in.

The smooth dissolve into the Tron universe is a sight and the transition is so clean. The world looks similar yet more structured plus the added bonus of the hue of grayish darkened metallic gunmetal. On the run again the cornered Sam must fight and play a game to survive.

The fighting/battle sequences or the game play will blow you away to awesome wonder. The film has a detractor as films made with a video game sense or films derived from a video game tend to not adapt well in the crossover. This gaming portion is the high light with just about of these amazing shots depicted appear in the trailer. But where to go from here after such a pulse pounding heart starter is a whimper of a sigh of reaching for a story.

Sam defeats his high-flying ninja like enemies who scissor kick their discs across the arena in a bid to pull audience in by the fascination of the use of cool effects yet sadly the scene is over just as quickly as it was to build it’s momentum. After which he exits the arena and the enormously erected city by way of Quorra (Olivia Wilde) in her tank-like vehicle to which they head for a hidden away location where Sam is reunited with his father. It is here we see the actual Jeff Bridges who is a calm Zen-master type monk like figure who has accepted the hell of which he created which has escaped his grasp. At times it seems that Bridges anticipation to work with the Coen Bros. again for True Grit is so strong that his character her falls back to the Dude. His safe-house bunker visually is the exact ending set-up of 2001: A Space Odyssey with other little notes and flourishes to other great sci-fi films (Bladerunner & Matrix) which attempts to nudge its way into the list of cool by association.

Leaving his father’s quaint Zen like state Sam thrusts back into the city to find answers on how to escape and allow him and his father to enter reality once again. It is here we meet Castor (Michael Sheen), a program that air-guitar’s his cane with one leg up channeling David Bowie and Charles Chaplin. Sheen provides the only bit of life into the film. Hedlund is a bland dull shell of a person but his illuminating blue eyes work well within the confines of the lighting scheme which just pop gloriously, other than that there’s nothing there.

After an ambush on Castor’s by way of a double cross by CLU (Bridges in de-aging), his computer generated self, our villian, a reflection of himself that was to help create the world of perfection. Now he is the ruler of this world of blue lines and just as Sam catches his attention he decides he wants to take over the our world. But not before a super long cameo by composer’s Daft Punk as Deejays of Castor’s high rise nightclub. Altering to several tracks even while enemies (orange) are flying about breaking off into fights. But this would be a perfect cue to have your musicians for the film literally appear to change the file to spark the next fight and within a few minutes this happens nearly 3-4 times.

Departing within an inch of their file typed life the Flynn users take an elevator to reach a stream of light to take back to the real world. A beam that ends with a cloud and bright light (heaven) to which is more getting to know you mindless chatter as was expressed in the cave dwelling of their reunion. Snooze, needless to say for a large scale big budget sci-fi actioner I fell asleep a couple of times from bordom.

The film is gorgeous, the visuals excellent and the fight sequences are a breathtaking awe of glory. But void of any depth or life the film falls a bit flat. The first film is pretty good and has now obtained a cult classic status but the follow up is a showy display of a commercial director, Joseph Kosinski, who is used to shooting 2 minute ads for video games Halo & Gears of War. Yet as the film fails hold the arc of a story and scatter plot set up it falls to gimmicky, like a pair of 3D glasses to enter you in. Immersed into a cool new world you cant wait to leave and just be done with. Enjoy it for certain scenes that appear to rip from Matrix with the slick combat dressed in amazing outfits but holds no weight. Check out the insane battles fight sequences attuned to the awesome pulsating unbelievable scored soundtrack but don’t expect much else.

As if producing the film to market the sequel wasn’t enough there will be video games and comic books attached. The writers, Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz who worked on the little tv show phenomenon Lost. The writers have even instilled in the story a bit of back-story or a precursor to the events that happen in the film. Needless to say there is a video game, on-line game, comic books, graphic novel, iphone application that the writers felt the need to have planted info inside of so that when you can enjoy the film more if you had paid attention to all the extra content they laid out. Which always sounds nice on paper but always hurts the film. Remember how grand Matrix was right out the bat but when the Wachowski’s decided to amp up the second film by having Jada Pinkett-Smith’s character go off on a tangent story parallel to that of the second film with a build up of the Animatrix Anime short film, you lose the main point of what you’re attempting to do which is make a cohesive entertaining film. When your story is too big or you lose yourself in the marketing beast to sale more Disney logos you lose your film and the audience. The other time a prequel devised attempt to complete a large scale story was the abysmal Southland Tales . There were three prequel graphic novels that were to set up the last three chapters that were the film but all that attempt and effort was for nothing as the film never had it’s true release and sunk the depths of DVD blowout sale bins along with Dwayne Johnson‘s serious acting efforts. An overabundance of fluff leaves thin shrouds of transparency in a hardly there film illuminated by the hues of neon.

FYI: Yaya appears in the film all of 5 seconds, if you saw the trailer you saw half of her part, the other half is her walking up to Sam.

3 comments to TRON: Legacy (Review)

  • Would telling the whole story in the film made “Southland Tales” any less bizarre? I don’t think the extra tie-in material hurt the Matrix films. Nothing “hurt” The matrix, at least popularity-wise. When it comes to the story, I think audiences felt that the story was better left to the imagination instead of blown up into a larger world.

  • Sergio

    “Snooze, needless to say for a large scale big budget sci-fi actioner I fell asleep a couple of times from boredom.”

    I KNEW IT! It’s just as incredibly boring as the first Tron movie. How did I know that?

  • Tony

    Vichus Smith:
    Southland Tales was superb upon it’s bizarre insanity but was the graphic novels helpful, not really. The extra Matrix films is known that just about everyone disliked 2-3. I personally am a fan of Reloaded but when your great idea branches further than your reach of control it gets lost. The characters of which you were grew to adore becomes a footnote in later tales. Reign in your idea of which you are trying to express.