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TRON: Legacy (2010)

December 22, 2010

8/10 Next-Gen Uprisings

Thinkin’ it probably helps be a fan of the original, but it’s as awesome as it could have been without just being light cycles for two hours.

TRON: Legacy takes place some 20-odd years after our boy Kevin Flynn liberated The Grid from the evil MCP, took back his rightful place as The Big Cheese over at ENCOM, had a son and then disappeared off the face of the Earth, never to be heard from again. Then one day Flynn’s 27-year-old son gets a tip that his Pops is still alive, so he hits up his dad’s old arcade, stumbles upon a secret office, starts pushing buttons and finds himself sucked into The Grid. Even though this is his maiden voyage, it’s pretty evident from the start that shit has gone awry in this digital Colosseum, and with the help of a saucy little program with a funky haircut, he sets out to rescue his dad from his own creation before the computers take over and kill off all us imperfect users.

If none of this is making sense, you may very well hate this movie. It’s a direct continuation of the first TRON and it doesn’t do a great job of catching the uninitiated up to speed because (here’s my take on it) if you’re going to see a sequel to a movie, one might assume that you’ve seen the original beforehand. Not the most user-friendly way to set up a story, and it probably would have worked too if Disney hadn’t been plugging this like James Cameron on a crack binge, but since I was on the level, the transition was pretty smooth.

Then again, the story was never exactly the biggest selling point of this franchise to begin with. In terms of integrating movies with video games, TRON is the holy grail of storylines because it puts you in a game of its own instead of unsuccessfully trying to adapt a best-selling game that typically has no place being turned into a movie anyway. But from a more general storytelling standpoint, the eye candy helps. When push comes to shove, Legacy is pretty much a rehashing of everything that went down in ’82 with Flynn, Jr. encountering everything his dad did when he first got lasered into the system, Flynn, Sr. trying to bring down the very thing he created without getting derezzed, and that’s about it.

The characters are good enough even if there isn’t a whole lot of substantial development to be found amongst any of ’em, the dialogue has its moments but it’s nothing to write home about, and some of the story’s finer points don’t quite get the attention they deserve until I was watching Jeff Bridges display Professor X-like qualities with a very “WTF?” expression on my face as I wondered where I was when that got explained. All the same, it was fine for what it was back in ’82 and it’s fine for what it is 28 years later, but let’s just get to the biggest selling point of the franchise – The Grid.

All the neon-on-black was cool as hell back when Billy Mitchell got his first Atari, but as much as I can sit here and defend how the original’s special effects still hold up surprisingly well, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at that movie the same way again after this. I somehow ended up seeing this in IMAX 3D, and for once, I’m kinda glad it worked out that way ’cause this baby looks so, so nice. From the slick new jumpsuits that make Michael Keaton’s Batman getup look like a goddamn Snuggie, to the way programs shatter into cubed rain when derezzed by an identity disc, the Wow Factor is through the roof and director Joseph Kosinski never lets it up.

It’s all in the details, folks, and the details make for one stunningly realized digital frontier. The only drawback of it all is that since the action scenes are so effing boss, it makes all the chitchat in the middle stand out like a sore thum. But make no mistake, the action scenes are very. effing. boss. Can’t exactly do justice to an eight-tiered, gravity-defying identity disc battle royale, then a two-tiered, five-on-five light cycle match, and lastly a five-on-one light flyer dog fight without seeing it for yourself, but trust me, they’re totally insane and it’s a visual upgrade like you wouldn’t believe.

And that’s what TRON‘s all about: jaw-dropping, eye-popping, uber-stylish, original geekout fun that you can’t get anywhere else. It might be lacking on other areas, but as much as I was waiting to be disappointed from the moment I sat down, I can’t believe what a freakin’ time I had watching this thing.

But the acting ain’t half bad either. Never seen Garrett Hedlund in anything before, but he’s quite watchable and non-irritating as Sam Flynn; never seen Olivia Wilde in anything before, but she’s quite watchable and non-irritating as Kevin Flynn’s apprentice, Quorra; Michael Sheen is annoying as fuck and should have been written out entirely as Grid guru/albino Ziggy Stardust/emcee of the most dumbass club on the block, Zuse; Bruce Boxleitner is pretty solid here as Flynn’s old co-worker, Alan Bradley, and he briefly gets to kick a whole lot of ass as Tron; and Jeff Bridges is the man as usual. Bridges reprises his role here as system creator Kevin Flynn and he also gets a fancy new face lift to play the evil program version of his younger self, Clu.

The only problem with Clu is the same problem I’ve got with all the characters in those CG efforts that Robert Zemeckis keeps churning out: it’s just creepy how realistic he looks. Other than that, Clu’s a pretty decent bad guy, but Kevin Flynn is where it’s at. This time around he not only has a sweet beard, but he’s got powers over The Grid like Neo and has a Zen-like temperament that brought me right back to his days as The Dude. Not to say that Flynn is on the same par as either of these badasses at their best, but he’s got all the best lines that brought some unexpected levity to the mix and reminded me why Flynn was so sweet in the first place. Such is the power of Jeff Bridges.

No idea why Cillian Murphy showed up for all of five seconds though, that was odd.

So, as a fanboy, TRON: Legacy delivers the goods and then some. Wish I could weigh in on how it would gel with someone who’s just going off the trailers, but despite how badly it’s been getting shellacked by the critics right now, I really thought it was a damn entertaining way to kill two hours. As usual, I wish there was more action to be had, but (hopefully) that’s what the next sequel is for. At least give us a good video game to play with in the meantime.

And how about that Daft Punk soundtrack? Freakin’ perfect, man.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2010 6:18 am

    Yeah, I’m still skipping this until the inevitable BluRay release… and then I’m gonna rent first – I think I’m long past the stage where simply the visuals would drag me to see a first release… I need a good story, characters and visuals to back that up. Tron II doesn’t seem to be about the story as much as selling more 3D TVs down the track.

    • December 22, 2010 11:18 am

      As much as this is the one time I’ll endorse seeing something in IMAX 3D, won’t knock ya’ for holding out ’til BluRay. Still pretty awesome, feel like it’s getting an excess amount of flack, but definitely worth a rental on a pimped out TV.

  2. Max permalink
    December 22, 2010 10:10 am

    Great review Aiden! I think you hit it right on the head.

    A few years ago a great game released with intent to further the Tron series. I really enjoyed it and since it’s a few years old, you could probably pick it up for cheap.

    • December 22, 2010 11:17 am

      Thanks! And I totally remember when Tron 2.0 came out and I thought it looked awesome. Never had a computer that could handle any type of new game that I wanted to play, but that one still sticks out. Apparenlty this new TRON: Evolution game is supposed to blow though. No idea how you screw that one up.

  3. December 22, 2010 11:20 am

    Cillian Murphy.. never made a bad film.. until now.
    Sorry Aiden, knock three marks off your grade and then we can talk.
    this should have been a big barrel of dumb stupid fun. instead it is way too ponderous for its own good. if you were trapped in a video game or whatever the fuck it is, would you take yourself so seriously? no fecking way, youd be out there eating green mushrooms, sliding down pipes and riding dinosaurs with long tongues. that was a SuperMario World reference, by the way.

    • December 22, 2010 11:28 am

      hahaha. oh i got the reference, and while it’s staying at an 8, that kind of “let’s just do light cycles/disc battles/dog fights until the end of days” mentality would have bumped it up to a 9 in a big way. you’re right, it is too heavy on the mythology of The Grid (but that’s what happens when you get LOST writers to pen your script), but it was still pretty awesome to gawk at.

    • December 24, 2010 8:49 am

      It wasn’t that bad Ross and beside Cillian is not the real cast…he is only cameo, so that save him from bad movie (in your category) 😉

    • December 28, 2010 4:05 pm

      Can’t believe I’m saying this but I agree with Ross, the story knocks off major points from this movie. The visual is indeed dazzling but the half-assed storytelling barely measure up to it. I also have the opposite reaction about Hedlund, but glad you agree about Sheen’s annoying performance. Andy said it best, he is the Jar Jar Binks of this year!

      • January 3, 2011 12:51 pm

        haha. at least we can agree on Sheen. wtf was that about?

  4. Kristin permalink
    December 23, 2010 4:58 pm

    what is tron anyways

  5. December 23, 2010 8:06 pm

    Great review, glad you liked the movie, it seems to be getting a bit of flack from other bloggers but I really enjoyed it. I have been avoiding reading until now as I hadn’t written my own review.

    I have a theory on the Cillian Murphy cameo, If the movie makes enough movie and there is a third movie I see him playing an antagonist.

    • December 24, 2010 6:03 am

      that should read makes enough money, you get the idea!

    • January 3, 2011 12:37 pm

      Yeah, good point about Murphy. Makes sense and he’d be a good smarmy bastard down the line. And glad you dug this, too. Hopefully more folks’ll start seeing the light.

  6. December 24, 2010 8:38 am

    The last review on Tron I read was talking of the lackness. Good to read your praise on it. My review is somewhere in the middle 🙂

    Correction: Cillian didn’t appear for 5seconds, he was there for 5 minutes 😉
    I haven’t found the right article yet, but there are rumours that he will appear in Tron 3 (if it ever be made). It was a shame he wasn’t even credited 😦

    • December 28, 2010 4:03 pm

      Ha..ha.. he was on longer than 5 seconds but he barely got to do ANYTHING. I mean, might as well put Hedlund in his place and Murphy as Sam, maybe I won’t be so harsh about the acting.

  7. December 24, 2010 2:24 pm

    I’m sure Murphy was included for a storyline for a third Tron if it comes. Murphy wants to take control of the company from Sam, or something like that.

  8. December 28, 2010 12:20 pm

    I was surprised by how much I dug this film. Great visuals, great action and I actually thought the story was good even thought a lot of it took place in flashbacks.

    The 3D didn’t do much for me, but I liked the idea of the virtual world being 3D and the real world being 2D.

    Also, I really dug the ending.

    • January 3, 2011 12:46 pm

      Didn’t think this would be your kinda movie, man, but glad to hear you liked it! With ya’ on the visuals, with ya’ on the action, and the story wasn’t half-bad, it just seemed to be going for too much at one time. Looking forward to TRON 3 in that regard.

      And I don’t know if I really noticed the 3D that much, but it was pretty awesome to watch nonetheless. So damn pretty…

  9. HermioneO permalink
    December 28, 2010 1:47 pm

    Saw this on travel, not on imax or anything. Maybe would have liked it more. I dunno, it left me flat. Looks like a big set-up for the story of matrix from the machine side. And what’s with the posters that went out early listing Karl Urban and John Hurt in the cast? They weren’t in the movie, in case you didn’t notice.

    • January 3, 2011 12:47 pm

      Never saw those Karl Urban and John Hurt posters. Glad Urban was left out, but John Hurt is sweet, he would have been good but I have no idea who he would have played. Definitely some Matrix connections to be made, but I still really dug it for what it was.

      • January 6, 2011 11:14 pm

        Whatchu got against Karl Urban, Aiden? He was kickass in Star Trek. Sure, he’s been in a bunch of shitty movies, but I don’t think he was the problem in any of them (that I’ve seen). I would have loved to have seen him, Hurt, and more Cillian while we’re at it. Leaves me wanting a third flick even more, too.

      • January 7, 2011 9:28 am

        Haha. Nothing against the guy, just can’t think of a single moment where Karl Urban’s involvement has made me want to see or avoid a movie. Dude just exists, but he was pretty solid in Star Trek. And, yeah, I can’t wait for TRON 3.

  10. steve permalink
    January 5, 2011 10:05 am

    I have always loved the original Tron and was almost wetting my pants in excitement when I heard of the release of a new Tron but I have to say the experience left me cold. I have never even been to the toilet during a film at the cinema, including the Phantom Menace but actually walked out for a cigarette halfway through the new Tron. Jeff Bridges is a great actor and he did remind me hugely of his character ‘the dude’ during this film but that was the only good thing about it. Films shouldn’t have to rely on slick special effects to deliver a mind-blowing experience, just look at No Country For Old Men. Tron Legacy was a hugely disappointing 2 hours of my life, especially when compared to the masterpiece that the original Tron was. My personal rating? 2/10


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