Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Twice A Tron A Time

Tron Legacy 3D 2010 US
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
This film currently screening
at UK cinemas

This review contains electronic spoilers which may try to crawl into your computer systems to lead a software rebellion and eradicate humanity.

Tron Legacy is another great movie... but you’d find it hard to believe that given the amount of critical whining and pounding it’s received. Perhaps we’re all just living in more sophisticated times but Tron Legacy, though a sequel, almost at times seems like a remake of the original, which I reviewed here.

I say a remake, but it’s certainly a direct sequel to the original confection which lit up our cinemas and our collective computer-boom obsessed minds back in 1982. For example, the film starts up 12 years after the events of the first movie and then quickly switches to the present day. Bruce Boxleitner is back as the original human “model” for Tron. Unfortunately he is only briefly glimpsed as the younger Boxleitner version of Tron for some obscure reason... the Tron character (or what he has become) goes through the movie with his helmet visor covering his face... presumably a cost cutting exercise based on whatever it cost to do what they’ve done to Jeff Bridges.

And what have they done to Jeff Bridges? Remember what they did to Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan at the opening of the third X-Men movie (the worst X-Men movie ever made to date)? Well Jeff Bridges plays three versions of himself in this movie... he plays the younger, fresh from Tron, twenty-something version of himself outside the computer world (in a, frankly, less than successful CGI or however they did it version of “young Jeff Bridges”). He also plays the CLU version of himself... that’s the computer version of himself which got “de-resed” at the start of the original movie but seems to be back and is, in this movie, now the “villain of the piece” and he also, finally, plays the Jeff Bridges as he looks now, trapped in a computer for the last 16 or so years and... well he’s brilliant in all three roles but he really seems to be “channelling Liebowski” in this third version of his personae. Not complaining. Love The Big Leibowski and would like to see him do more work in this vein (he may get the chance... it seems Tron is about to become the next big Disney franchise with future movie installments and a TV show in the planning stages).

The movie is not hard to follow and has virtually no plot. The son of the original Bridges character Flynn should be running the global and kind-of-evil company that ENCOM has become since his dads disappearance but instead he has just been lounging around and lunging out at people and especially ENCOM. Then he gets sucked into a computer in Flynn’s old amusement arcade and has to help his dad defeat the evil CLU and also promote and propagate the one surviving “program” who is an evolved form of new life spawned chaotically from the computer world... kind of like a self-writing virus I guess. As it happens, said self-writing virus takes the form of sexy, young lady program so there are love and pixellated sex possibilities happening now in the Tron universe.

The movie, it has to be said, plays like a complete rerun of the first movie. Young Flynn gets sucked into computer, has to go and fight in the “games” by doing exactly the same things and in the same order as his father did in the first film... just more impressive looking versions of them. So... fight with flying discs... astonishing light-cycle chase and then a big, long, slow ride on that Jules Verne meets cyberspace flying contraption they used in the first movie (and I’m pleased to say, since I’m a big reader of Verne, that said author gets a little mention in the movie). Along the way a few more action sequences have been inserted (excellent bar fight scene) and some nice metaphors are made... such as the “rescue” dog young Flynn owns in the real/non-computer world and the “rescue” programme in the shape of a sexy, hot woman he ends up with at the end of the movie.

I also liked the little reference to Wendy Carlos’ score to the original movie that “younged-up Jeff Bridges” hums for a few seconds in the bedroom of his son at the start of the movie. I had been moaning about the lack of Wendy Carlos’music in this movie but, as it happens, the score to this one by a young band with the unfortunate name of Daft Punk is quite enthralling and compelling and toe tapping and worthy of instant purchase on hearing it (which I did, naturally).

Basically, the big fault of this movie is that it’s really just doing what the original movie did when it was released. That movie was all about the effects and so is this one. Tron was just eye-candy for an early 80s audience which looks a bit clunky by modern standards. Tron Legacy is eye-candy for the “now generation” and it’s actually very respectful of the look of the original movie... it’s all just ramped up a bit. More detail and the 3D aspect is really superb on this one (for once... wish they’d stop making 3D movies again now though... the cinemas are using it as an excuse to charge us more money for the tickets).

However, I’d have to say that the big fault of the movie being so much eye-candy is also it’s biggest asset. It doesn’t need much of a plot, it is what it is... and if it does kinda drag in tempo in the middle and towards the end, no matter. It’s got a lot to look at and your eye will be enthralled. This movie is not about the underlying art of its substance (of which there isn’t much, to be fair) but it’s everything about the art of it’s surface... and this, in this one case, more than makes up for the hollowness of that outer but beautiful looking shell.


  1. OMG, I have to say that I've reread this during hellworkweek, chortling, every time I needed a lift. Loved the honest review as well as how you dovetailed it with the elder version, which had a big impact on me way back then. Awesomely done--you need to do an encyclopedia of film!

  2. Ah, hellworkweek. Now I know why you've been so scarce on Twitter.

    Thanks for the kind words.

  3. Also hellwriteweek. Toying with scrapping the young adult version of the book and rewriting as coming-of-age. Why do we do this to ourselves?