A Few Tronquilizer Darts
Tron: Legacy is a movie I should like. It's sci-fi, it's effects driven, i.e. it's happenin'. It is the sequel to the marginally successful although critically acclaimed 1982 movie Tron, a movie that I saw and liked.
In the original, a computer geek named Flynn manages to get himself sucked into an electronic world populated by computer programs. It this world, programs look like human beings. The programs are being terrorized by a tyrannical MCP, Master Control Program and its henchman Sark who want to control everything. In a religious allegory, good programs hope that the "users," the humans that created them will eventually rescue them, and the bad programs, the minions of the MCP, preach that humans are just a silly superstition. Of course if you don't agree with the MCP, you get killed (de-rezzed). Well, Flynn, being a user, beats up Sark and outwits the MCP, and eventually unsucks himself from the electronic world back to reality.
In Tron: Legacy, we find out that Flynn came back, got married, had a kid which he named Sam. Flynn tells Sam bedtime stories about his adventures in the electronic world, but then when Sam is just seven years old, Flynn mysteriously disappears. Then, twenty years later, a mysterious message on an old pager leads Sam to Flynn's mysterious old computer lab, which is dusty but mysteriously still functional, and Sam is mysteriously sucked into an electronic world populated by computer programs. Of course Sark and MCP are gone, but tyranny lives on in the form of a program named Clu who wants to control everything. Clu looks just like Sam's dad, in fact Clu mysteriously looks exactly like Sam's dad did the last time he saw him twenty years ago, which is of course a clue that something isn't right. Sam knocks around a bit, eventually meets up with his real dad (who mysteriously looks like the real Jeff Bridges in pajamas), gets introduced to a good looking artificial life form that Flynn says can do lots of mysterious things which he discovered while being mysteriously trapped with her, alone, for twenty years, finds out that Clu wants to take over not only the e-world but the real world as well, and finds a way to stop him from doing that. Eventually, Sam returns to the real world, and he is obviously Clu-less, but he did bring the good looking artificial life form with him (I can't imagine why).
First let me say that this is a beautiful movie. The art and the CGI effectively transport the viewer into another world. The movie takes the distinctive look of the original sTron and polishes it with state of the art effects, then layers on 3-D.
HOWEVER, while this (or any) movie was far better than Skyline, about half way through the film I found that I had lost interest in the story. There wasn't anything new here. It was like watching this year's second graders perform the same Thanksgiving play that last year's second graders did, only this time the turkey outfit had been dry cleaned and old tail feathers had been replaced with new ones.
The story was thin and humorless, which is surprising since this project has been being kicked around for more than a decade. The weak story didn't give the actors much to work with either. Olivia Wilde as the artificial life form did the best job of pulling what she could out of a character ... at least she looked comfortable and interested in her role, something the other actors couldn't quite capture.
And one final observation: 3D is still a relatively new technique, and filmmakers seem to be trying to find their footing. For all the hype, the 3D in this film contributed nothing to the story or the experience, and I might not even mention that except for the premium tacked onto the ticket price for the 3D version. There was a 2D version of the movie playing in our multiplex, and in hind sight, if I had been my usual miserly self and refused to spend the extra three bucks for the 3D, I would have missed nothing. In fact, I might have actually appreciated the extra brightness of the images without the darkening that occurs with the 3D "sunglasses."
Tron: Legacy could have been a very good movie, one for the first run houses, but a weak story relegates it to a Saturday matinee double feature.
Bleah, she thought, wiping popcorn hulls off her collar. What did he go to see?
As I recall, from days of yore, we loved the original Tron because it was tres cool in concept and visuals. The story, even then, had its detractors because it was so shallow and obviously game-oriented. Did the character Tron have any character at all? Well, no, not that I remember. Were the heroes so memorable that we craved to see them in other movies? Oh, heck, well, no to that one, too. Actually, I can't even remember why the whole movie was named after Tron.
What made us check out the VHS player from the library more than once and watch Tron over and over again was the visuals. It wasn't that the CGI at that time was so good, it was that it was so good on the eyes. It was watchable. We wanted to be in there and on one of those light-cycles.
I don't remember much of the original Tron movie, except for the light-on-dark action sequences. Certainly I did not tie in any of the original characters with the ones in Tron: Legacy. I went for The Grid, for the light-on-dark again, for the Good vs. Evil, the Random vs. Enforced Perfection, the Human vs. Machine. I thought that all was there again, just like in the original Tron.
Especially the beautiful CGI. Unlike my beloved husband, I was wrapped up in the visuals as soon as Sam hit The Grid, and thought the movie over far too soon.
On one point, we agree wholeheartedly: once again there was no point or enhancement by seeing the film in 3D. Because I nearly puked from motion sickness on the poor fellow sitting in front of me at the 3D showing of Up a couple years ago, we sat near the top of the theater, and I frequently rested my eyes. There was indeed a 3D effect, but it seemed pointless, except for one split second scene where an orange bolt shot toward the audience, and made me flinch. Whoopee.
I loved this film. When I buy this one on DVD, Bernie can fall asleep in his chair ... but I'm guessing that he won't.