Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tron: Legacy

Flynn (Jeff Bridges) will no longer abide in Tron: Legacy.
Photo Credit: Disney
Review by Paul Steven Brown

Tron: Legacy
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Screenplay by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, & Olivia Wilde

One's appreciation of Tron: Legacy will more than likely depend on one of two conditions: the viewer's nostalgia for the original film Tron from 1982 and/or the ability to just sit back and watch the pretty pictures. That's not to say that there isn't a story here, but it's a simple one that is dressed up with complicated details.

Lucky for me, I belong to that group of people that saw the original Tron in the theaters many moons ago. While the story in the original film was okay, it was the mythology and the visuals that really won me over. The same can be said about the sequel. The mythology is developed upon and the visuals are mindblowingly great. I honestly don't think that the 3D added anything more to an already stunning looking pallet.

The core of the story is fairly simple: boy loses father, boy finds father after many years, boy tries to take father home. While the reunion of Sam and Flynn was touching, I couldn't help but feel a little bad for Clu, Flynn's digital clone. Clu was created to work on perfecting the Grid (well, you can't really use the term "Matrix" now, can you?) whenever Flynn returned to the real world. In a way, Tron: Legacy is a story of Flynn's two sons, both with abandonment issues. Sam was physically abandoned, while Clu's original purpose seem to become obsolete whenever a batch of new programs sprung into being, capturing his user's attention. I think that an exploration of this idea on Clu's end would have benefited the film. Instead, Clu comes off as a rather hollow villain.

Clu (Jeff Bridges) meets with Castor (Michael Sheen)
Photo Credit: Disney
It has been well-publicized that Clu is a digital rendering of a younger Jeff Bridges. The attempt is admirable, but in the end he does look a bit rubbery. Still, if in fact that Clu is a digital avatar for Flynn, I can let his imperfections slide. Also, Bridges supplies Clu's voice and able to convey the character's emotions in a way that the visuals cannot.

Bridges is certainly in top form as an older Kevin Flynn. In fact, this older, more zen-like digital wizard has a very "Dude" feel to him. It's a portrayal to goes a long way in helping warm up a very cold and sterile environment. I also appreciate that Bridges did not phone this one in. There's a fun whimsy to the character that continues from the original movie, but the years have also imbued the character, and the actor, with a believable level of gravitas.

Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and Sam (Garrett Hedlund) make plans.
Photo Credit: Disney
Sam Flynn, as played by Garrett Hedlund, is very much the modern equivalent of his father from the original Tron. He's just as rebellious and eager to thumb his nose at authority as Kevin Flynn was 28 years ago. Hedlund does a serviceable job in the role and his scenes with Bridges work on a convincingly emotional level. Also, Hedlund handles the action scenes rather well, which benefit from the establishment of Sam as a bit of a daredevil in the real world, at the beginning of the film.

The other main character is Quorra, played by Olivia Wilde. Thankfully she is given a lot more to do than be eye-candy (though she is indeed a very attractive young woman). While Flynn did not get the opportunity to watch Sam grow up, he was able to invest his fathering instincts into this little lost program. She's just as capable of a warrior as Sam and every bit the risk-taker. I guess this is a story about a father, two sons, and an adopted daughter.

I have to mention the welcome return of Bruce Boxleitner as Alan Bradley. It was nice to see him reprise the role as well as make a brief appearance in a flashback as Alan's program Tron. My biggest grief with Tron: Legacy is the fact that the title character is severely marginalized. There's no big mystery to what Tron becomes after Clu takes over (it's telegraphed very obviously and very early in the film), so the filmmakers could have used some the de-aging magic on Boxleitner as Tron instead of just relying on a stunt guy in a faceless helmet. I think it would have given what happened to that character an added sense of tragedy.

If anything, Disney has been able to turn what was once considered an embarrassment into what will more than likely be a multi-million dollar film franchise. I guess they just needed to wait until the technology caught up with the mythology.

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