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TRON: Legacy IMAX 3D (2010) ***

December 19, 2010

written by: Brian Klugman  & Lee Sternthal (strory)  and Adam Horowitz & Edward Kitsis (story and screenplay)
produced by: Sean Bailey, Jeffrey Silver & Steven Lisberger
directed by: Joseph Kosinski
rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language.
127 min.
U.S. release date: December 17, 2010
 
 
It’s hard to believe it’s been 28 years since Disney released “TRON” which would go on to gain cult status after an underwhelming run in theaters. Anyone of age back in 1982 (a great year for film!) who witnessed groundbreaking technological was probably already into sci-fi or arcade games. Yet the movie also had a way of crossing over beyond the established fan base, introducing filmgoers to a digital frontier called The Grid, a vast world within a computer system where programs are at war. “TRON: Legacy” continues the dazzling visual effects and impressive set designs, while adding a sleek techno score, hoping that those elements would make up for a convoluted storyline, tepid dialogue, and boring characters.  Maybe all that won’t matter to TRON devotees or a generation that could either care less or are unfamiliar with the original.
 
Ever since his father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), an innovative software programmer, mysteriously disappeared twenty years ago, his son Sam (a stiff Garrett Hedlund) has become a rebellious recluse. He continuously gives his father’s company, ENCOM International a hard time, pulling pranks and causing chaos for those who now run the board. This raises the concern of Alan Bradley (welcome back, Bruce Boxleitner), a close family friend who’s kept a watchful eye on Sam, now twenty-seven. After Sam’s latest night brings more embarrassment for ENCOM suits, Alan informs him that he was recently paged by a phone number that no longer exists. The call originated from Flynn’s, a long-abandoned arcade where his father used to hang out.

        

TRON LEGACY Recognizer      

Out of curiosity, Sam stumbles upon a workshop of his dad’s there and is unknowingly zapped through a portal, into The Grid, a world developed by his father’s creative imagination. He is immediately taken by Grid sentinels and transported across a neon landscape to partake in gladiator games where you could get derezzed (killed) by either deadly discs or in the labyrinth Light Cycle arena. Sam is able to survive the wrath of an evil program, CLU (a de-aged Bridges) and escapes with the aid of Quorra (a spunky Olivia Wilde), who takes him to his father, now an exiled former deity.  As an awkward reunion begins, Sam shares his desire to bring his father back to the real world, but they only have eight hours before the portal closes again. Kevin helps aide both Sam and Quorra find a way to the portal, as all three are pursued by CLU and his programmed henchmen in an effort to prevent them form leaving. CLU wants Kevin’s identity disc, essentially an all-powerful Master Key to The Grid. His goal is to cross over into the real world in an effort to transform it into a perfect place….or something like that.  

I don’t know. I think I lost a memory chip taking in all the expositional techno-babble that jams up the system somewhere in the middle of the movie. It’s not necessarily hard to follow, it’s just too dense with jargon never explained, especially when a subplot involving Grid-centric species called Isomorphic Algorithims (ISO), that apparently hold the answers to many Science and Philosophy questions of our world. It’s never really explained why and how. It just is. That whole plotline seemed interesting yet it is one of several (like what really happened to the character Tron?) that wasn’t explored enough, just merely used as a quick history update.  

  

          TRON LEGACY CLU      

Making his feature-length debut, director Joseph Kosinski creates an inspirational digital world, programming “TRON: Legacy” with a dazzling scope of size and scale that is amplified by some amazing 3D IMAX applications. Today’s special effects have given the limited technology available in the early 1980’s an exhaustive update. Surely, that was the appeal of making a sequel for the filmmakers as much as it was for fans of the original. Kosinski makes the most of his tools during the energetic games, which are truly entertaining. Overall, they do a great job cleaning up the Grid, that’s for sure. Just imagining how the world of “TRON” could be envisioned today, it was easy to build anticipation and buzz. Something that Disney didn’t hold back on one bit in the marketing department.  

The look and sounds of “TRON: Legacy” has an expected modern upgrade. German designer Daniel Simon provides new designs for the light cycles and the solar sailor, as well as some other new vehicles. Although the set designs look like a cross between an Apple store and something out of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, with their marriage of pristine whites and cool hues mixed with antique furniture and classic novels (no Kindles in this Grid) on book shelves. The soundtrack provided by Electronic music duo Daft Punk, is an infectious mix of orchestral and electronic samplings, while Skywalker Sound takes care of the rest of what we hear.  Because of these elements, the film is very well made and it’s cool to look at. Unfortunately, it’s so cold and dark, I was at a loss as to why have anyone would want to live there. At least in “The Matrix” a being was living in a world in which there was enticement and alluring environments. There’s no trace of that in the Grid.  

    TRON LEGACY Jeff Bridges        

 

The world of “TRON: Legacy” is inhabited by humanoid programs that show little sign of any humanity. Their movement and look is all about form over function in a world that has little reason or culture. As Sam navigates his way around, he encounters a babe named Gem (Beau Garrett) who glides along with an alluring yet vapid look about her. The only character to really inject any sign of personality is a program called Castor (a manic, glam-rocked Michael Sheen) that runs the End of Line nightclub (which is odd in a place where there is no sun). He’s a welcome addition, but seems out of place in this black and neon world. Just like the first movie, it’s a cool video game come to life but it’s no place to be somebody.  

One character that glaringly stood out was that of the 1982-looking Kevin Flynn, realized in detail with ambitious motion-capture technology. We see Flynn interacting with a seven year-old Sam twenty years ago in this manner as well as the look of CLU. In both worlds, it came close to really working for me, but I was too aware of it which pulled me out of full immersion. The approach works a little better in the Grid and it is cool to see a ’82 Bridges going up against a naturally aged Bridges (who comes across as “far out” Zen hippy), but CLU remained more of an effect to me than a viable antagonist each time I saw it. 

 TRON LEGACY Olivia Wilde    

 

What bogs “Legacy” down at times its stiff pace at times, subjecting viewers with an unnecessary amount of exposition. This comes as a surprise considering two of the writers invovled here, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, also worked on soem of the best episodes on the TV series “Lost”. There’s also what I call “character catch-up”, something that often takes place in an action-heavy movie, where characters take a break to reconcile in order to proceed to the next level. In this case, the Flynns have some father and son mending time as they make their way to the portal on an immense Solar Sail. It seemed a short amount of time to make come to terms with the twenty years of space they both missed  

It’s hard to say how “Legacy” will go over with younger viewers who may not be aware that this is a sequel. It probably doesn’t matter though since it’s visually appealing and has sci-fi presence that definitely fills a void in theaters now.  There’s also the drama of a family reunion that could connect with kids. But many of the plot elements refer back to the first film, assuming viewers are either already familiar or won’t care.  

Ultimately, it all comes across a little too similar to the original, as “TRON: Legacy” downloads a plot where a guy gets sucked into a virtual world and has to battle a zealous ruler in order to make his way home. Those who grew up on it can look back with fondness now, knowing full well the movie was a visual feast despite some hoaky dialogue. That’s exactly what you’ll get here, in a film long-rumored not to be a sequel, but it is. Although I was psyched for it, I cannot say I let m expectations get carried away. I had a good time with it, but it honestly it left me a little underwhelmed. I’ll go so far as to say that “Tron Legacy” is to “Tron” what “Superman Returns” was to “Superman”, in terms of reintegrating something familiar for a new generation.  

  

4 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    December 24, 2010 12:21 pm

    Huh…. I didn’t realize it was a sequel! I thought it was a re-make! I’ll be honest and say I never saw the first one, so that is why. When I mentioned it just now, Matt was like “oh yeah, it’s a sequel, I knew that!” I think he assumed I knew as well.

    Looks like we will be going and getting the first one and watching it with the boys before checking this one out.

    Thanks for the review, it does look pretty good. (visually, anyway! :) )

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