Reviews: Tron Legacy
From The Outsider's Perspective...
Linkara once noted that when special effects are crap, a good plot has to carry it. Tron: Legacy definitely shows this. The 3-D is the worst I have ever seen, and I was one of the first people watching them. But the characters are AMAZING. I have to admit, I've never seen Tron. But I didn't need to. The plot carried itself, using well-defined, realistic characters. The hero, Sam, was a wild card, but understandably so; his ending goodbye to his father resolved his real-world issues perfectly for a coming-of-age story. Kevin played the Mentor figure wonderfully as well, but what really made it for me was that he was not perfect, and in fact nearly lost his temper once or twice. Of course, Quorra made the film for me. No romance for her; she's the last of her kind, helping her god fight for the freedom and survival of both worlds, and is always capable and competent, even while in the situation that seems to be Disney's 'off' button for female heroism, capture by the villain. When she and Sam do have romance, it's shy and sweet, realistic for two people who are very unromantic, but have found themselves bounding through trauma. The plot itself is, of course, the standard coming-of-age story fare. It was well-played, if the effects stunk. But what carried it, like all good stories, was the characters. So, though I do not often say this: Well done, Disney. Well done.
See it in theaters, preferably in 3D.
Because Tron Legacy looks and sounds fantastic. The 2-hour film is a rollercoaster ride of fantastic special effects and art direction, wonderful action sequences and Daft Punk's futuristic, pounding score. However, the script and characters are so lacking in substance that if you watch it at home, it'll completely fall flat. The plot is "Sam Flynn enters the Grid to find his father, Kevin, finds both his father Quorra, and now they have to leave the Grid while avoiding the antagonist" and it's exactly as thin as it sounds. There's additional little details *, but these subplots are all vaguely explained and inconsequential to the main plot. Unfortunately, the movie spends a good deal of time setting these subplots up, and it's dragged down because of it. The movie was atempting to ask and answer the question "What if a human, with human faults became God?" and it feels like it was trying to create this epic mythos for a sequel/prequel to expand upon, but in this movie it never pays off The protagonists are likable enough, but they have almost zero chemistry with each other, character development, or any personality besides "young, lazy rich guy", "Obi-Wan on weed" and "Naive But Skilled", and the antagonist is a generic AI-gone-bad with no motive besides "he's programmed to make everything 'perfect'". He's enslaving and brainwashing the citizens of the Grid to take over our world with, but they're just generic, faceless Mooks that are impossible to feel empathy for. Come to think of it, that's true of the rest of the plot, too. It feels too...dry, inhuman. There was but one exception - a scene where Kevin is angry at Sam for derailing their plans, and is trying very hard not to swear at his son, and he finally resorts to "You're messing with my Zen, man!" That said, it's still a blast to watch if you ignore the threadbare script, even if you won't remember what was in the movie a week later.
Mediocre, Poor Characters
A mediocre film. It's a worthy successor to the original Tron, but the original Tron has gotten by on Nostalgia Filter for the past 20 years. The two films are about the same quality, but the second one fails to up the ante. The chief problem is the cast of characters. Sam starts off the film as an obvious Flat Character and Mary Sue (wealthy young daredevil without a day job and generic good looks) and then proceeds to not actually grow or change for the rest of the film. Kevin Flynn gets by most of the movie doing a digital impression of the Dude from the The Big Lebowski. Quorra is your standard generic Magical Girlfriend looking up into the main character with starry eyes going "What is kiss?" A lot of navel gazing builds into nothing when the IS Os, Kevin Flynn's true plans for the Grid, and what happened in the intervening 20 years are only vaguely hinted at, instead of being fleshed out, feeling distinctly of Show Dont Tell. Worst of all is the run time, which packs in a lot of empty filler without a good story, characters, or even an interesting setting to back it up. If I had to sum up this movie, I'd say it feels like a Lets Play of a video game. The main character is a flat action hero who busts through a bunch of set-pieces, just like a video game. The female lead is a Mac Guffin Girl who exists only to be placed in peril. Kevin Flynn is reduced to a digitized stoner Obi Wan. All of which would be acceptable for a video game, but not for a film. In this way, it truly is a video game movie, but for all the worst reasons. If you want a video game, play a video game. If you want an interesting story set in a computer, watch Re Boot. Tron Legacy isn't offensive, but it is formulaic, souless, and sterile as actual computer hardware.
Thematically Effective and Brilliant
Tron Legacy is a movie about human flaws: about hubris and irresponsibility, but also about recognizing that and growing beyond it. While the original Tron dealt with exploring the new world of the computer, coupled with exploring faith and religion (particularly amusing in that the characters were revering a manchild in the form of Kevin Flynn) Tron Legacy takes a similar but different tack. As the name implies, Tron Legacy explores the legacy of Kevin Flynn, with an interesting study of both human failings and the need to carry on into the future - and best of all, the movie does this in a way that doesn't feel Anvilicious. Sam and Kevin Flynn's respective development is done quietly, without a lot of fanfare and declarations, carried in as much inflection and gesture as it is in actual words. Overall, I feel that the movie handles its story well. Kevin Flynn's fall-from-grace at the hands of his own metaphysical son in Clu is the fundamental driving force of the plot, and some of the best scenes in the movie involved that opposition between Kevin and Clu. By comparison, the scenes between Kevin and Sam were rife with Sam beginning to understand the need to take responsibility, lest he lose everything like his father had. This dual exploration of the lead characters' flaws - Kevin and Sam's respective failings as humans, caused by their personal hubris - was juggled surprisingly well. Though these two characters are central to the movie, it isn't complete without the other characters. Clu serves as an effective villain and face to Kevin's failures as a god-like being, while the flamboyant and hammy Castor/Zuse shows a more interesting and "human" element of that hubris - not the overt cruelty and destruction that is Clu's reign, but rather the quiet treachery brought about by loss of faith and trust. Finally, Quorra adds an element of hope and the chance to rebuild, and serves as an agent of change for both of the Flynns. Ultimately, this is what I feel makes the movie so effective. The theme of a fallible creator and irresponsible child is handled brilliantly. Of course, there are some problems with the movie itself - the ISO backstory could have been integrated and developed far better - but it is still an excellent exploration of both characters's flaws and their growth from confronting them.
This Film Deserves Better
I loved Tron Legacy. Being a fan of the original, yes, I am biased, but even a non fan has to appreciate what this is. It's a sequel that delivers, instead of being some cash in. So much could have gone wrong from things like executive meddling, or from being made by people who just didn't care. But these people did care. They stayed true to the spirit of the first and gave it an upgrade, with the most perfect choice of music and visual design. I don't understand why there's so many mixed reviews, especially considering the praise that Jame's Cameron's Avatar received, another movie notable for 3D, basic story and lots of CGI. Tron is more or less something original. It makes you think about the nature of God by showing us the trials of errors of a normal person being a god to this world, rather an action movie loaded with anvilicious themes of environmentalism which have already been done to death for years. It doesn't feel cliche, like some mad scientist playing god, and it doesn't feel like they just took another movie and put it into (cyber)space. The effects were great, obviously, and I think that the film lets the effects speak for themselves rather than always trying to show them off. I do have to say the action was a little underwhelming. I was expecting a lot more, but Tron is more about the world and adventure than the fighting. The music by Daft Punk is wonderfully diverse, from the dance club beats to the more epic and subdued pieces. The theme tune persists throughout and the synthesized music really sets the tone. Hedlund does a serviceable job as Sam, though he could have done better. Thankfully, every other character is played excellently. Jeff bridges does an great job of making Kevin a wise but very funny and eccentric godlike being to the Grid, and makes Clu both sympathetic and menacing. Olivia Wilde as Quorra was adorable, which I was not expecting from the trailers. I don't think I need to say anything about Castor, who steals the show with his Bowie-esque style. Boxleitner plays Bradley as a wise old mentor to Sam, which is fitting. For the most part, I genuinely believed in these characters. Even Sam has his cool moments. Save for him, they did not feel as though they feel into any cliche role. Give Tron Legacy a chance. For it's shortcomings, it does so much right.
A score of 7/10, like the first film, but in a different way.
I didn't have high expectations for this, since while Tron is one of my big childhood things, I know it was merely decent as a film. So I found this film to be also decent. Basically I found this had a major disadvantage, and a major advantage over the first film. The disadvantage is that the look just follows ground set before it. That ground itself was largely inspired by the first film, but it makes this look like a follower in its presentation instead of a pioneer. The advantage is the story. I don't get how some say the story is weaker this time. The first film was basically a hero saves the kingdom from the overlord plot, save for the twist of having one of their gods directly helping them. This film, on the other hand, takes the users are like gods theme and turns it into a plot that borrows from Paradise Lost, Frankenstein, and Colossus The Forbin Project. It's still not a particularly great plot, but it maintains its themes far better than The Matrix sequels held onto the themes from the first film. Overall, still a good film, and a fun way to kill some time. Also, the 3D is actually low key, and isn't "in your face", for those that have a problem with that (contrast with the Green Hornet trailer in our theater, that my sister remarked looked like it was filmed on a Viewmaster).
A world of infinite possibilities
To the modern eye, the original Tron can’t help but feel a tad dated; a relic of the world of 8-bit video games like Pac-Man and Pong. However, the main draw of Tron Legacy is how The Grid has progressed into a marvel that will impress even the most jaded gamers. If making movies is akin to creating worlds then, in the hands of CGI-wizard and first-time director Joseph Kosinski, this film has indeed reached the ultimate. It ushers viewers into a believable world completely created from scratch. It seems that every major film is finding an excuse to use the 3D gimmick, and in some cases it makes no sense at all – as the god-awful Yogi Bear trailer before the film amply reminds. However, Tron Legacy is exactly the film that is perfect for jumping off the screen. The added dimension gives real weight and scale to what would otherwise merely be computer graphics, and helps the viewer buy into the conceit of the virtual reality universe. With atmospheric sound designed and a throbbing techno score by Daft Punk complementing the eye-popping visuals; the film is clearly a triumph of style over substance; however substance is a close runner-up. Tron Legacy is ultimately a father-and-son story, and an off-key performance is all it would take to invalidate the visual effects bells and whistles. It is a good thing then that the performances, with Jeff Bridges leading the way, are generally on pitch. Tron Legacy’s main flaw is its somewhat convoluted storyline. Viewers are likely to get at least a little confused by the technobabble or distracted by the light show, and while the film stands pretty well on its own, it probably would help to have seen the original first. The dialogue is unwieldy at times, and the emotional aspect of the film is often drowned out by the sensory feast. It seems a tad ironic that this may be the best video game movie ever, and isn’t even actually based on a video game. As opposed to being made merely to cash in on an aging franchise, Tron Legacy is a worthy successor and breaks just about as much ground as the original – quite a feat considering how far technology has come already. And the best part is the film is that while the film is mainly enjoyable for its visuals, there is more to it than that. RATING: 4/5 STARS Jedd Jong