December 18, 2010

Review: The Spectacle of 'Tron: Legacy'

Tron: Legacy is the sequel/reinvention to the 1982 video game/cult film hybrid oddity that no one really demanded. The original is a very strange, ahead of its time in concept film of pure imagination. Its sequel, 28 years later, is fully equipped with state of the art visual effects and technology thats serves as a somewhat worthy follow up and definitely equally out there in concept. The film dazzles cinematically, especially in IMAX 3D, but misses dramatically.

Commercial director Joseph Kosinski makes his feature film debut and lights it up. His keen eye for visual construction and the creation of this digital landscape give credence to the ridiculous construct. The script by Lost writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis is nothing spectacular but gets the odd tone of the original. There are pacing issues as Tron: Legacy peaks after the first act. However, that first act shines with intriguing storytelling and dazzling action. The middle portion drags through some weird exposition and travel dialogue.

Garrett Hedlund plays Sam Flynn, the son of Kevin reprised by Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski). Sam enters the digital Tron world pretty quickly in search of his long lost father. Hedlund lacks the charisma and presence to really carry the film, but his reckless attitude fits his character. However, I questioned why Sam would sabotage his own company to protest its dealings when he could seize control at any time. Hedlund tries to match up to Bridges' powerful presence as Bridges snaps one-liners amid his serious portrayal.

Quorra, played by Olivia Wilde as the cipher computer program, steals the entire film. Her performance is nothing short of fantastic. She somehow manages to bring curiosity, feeling, emotion, and fun to a computer program humanoid. Her unique yet playful role brings much needed depth to the universe.

I enjoyed the dramatic extensions of the disc and light cycles battles from the first film extended with larger theatrics and stakes. There is little explanation of the physics and existence of the world and that probably was a wise decision. The whole digitalization premise itself is wildly illogical today even if it was not in 1982. The universe feels more than a little hollow at times as there is a lack of deeper character development. I saw the picture more as a straightforward adventure ride driving forward with a direct mission like the basic structure of a video game.

My biggest complaint of the film was the digital recreation of Jeff Bridges twenty years younger. His skin texture looks plastic and he suffers from dead eye syndrome associated with fully rendered digital copies of actors. The young Jeff Bridges character in the beginning and flashbacks as well as the Tron world villain twin of Clu look creepy. The de-aging digitalization is far from seamless unlike say Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

The score by French electronic duo Daft Punk is joyous. The pulsing music compliments the visual eye candy remarkably well. Their cameo is also very enjoyable. The background elements, production design and overall look of the film shine as a magical digital kingdom. Even Michael Sheen (The Queen) shows up, channeling 1970s glam rock and David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust in an inexplicable sequence that is amusing in its randomness.

Tron: Legacy does what it should well. It dazzles with great flair. The picture is fun and the story is basic yet ridiculously crazy. It mostly serves as a spectacle despite the weak scripting and sometimes questionable acting. The picture is such a mish-mash of ideas and imagination much like the original, but amps up the volume and visuals. I loved the colour scheme and cannot deny I had good fun soaking the experience up. Tron: Legacy is far from perfect or even as epic as it promises, but it illuminates a great sense of wonder. Mostly, you leave the theatre not knowing what to think and what you have just seen just like the original Tron.

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