Tuesday 21 December 2010

Review: Tron: Legacy

Year: 2010
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Screenplay: Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen

Synopsis is here

Tron: Legacy is a quite a vapid feature. One wrapped in it's 28 year old history and brand name to keep it warm. Oh yes there's certain people who will think it's the best thing since sliced bread, but unfortunately some of these people who shout the loudest may have that horrid nostalgia effect playing with their judgment/emotions. Case in point the amusingly biased review from Jay Maynard (A.K.A Tron Guy) whose laments film critics and their reading of the film but has spent 28 years of his programming life waiting for this sequel. I really do not mean to cause offense in any way, that's not my style. However, when a guy who made net fame by making a tron suit states that this movie almost brought him to tears then you know that judgment is tipped in the brands favor.

Brand is the best word to describe Tron: Legacy because that really is the only thing going for it in my point of view. It's a film that really relies on it's name and what you've known before in order to get the most out of it. This is true for many sequels but with a gap between films that is older than myself and with some wondering if Disney are doing their best to hide the original film, we're left at in a bizarre limbo. Tron: Legacy hasn't got much of an entry point for new viewers, with much of the film talking about past events and techno babble as if everyone is on the same page. Unfortunately this is not Harry Potter 7, but a sequel on what is considered a modest hit almost 30 years ago the achieved cult status with the most important word being cult. For a $200 million film looking to make it's money back I was very surprised on the route this movie decided to take.

It's clear that the visuals are the main aspect of Tron: Legacy and director Joseph Kosinski has not only replicated the original films settings, but bolstered it to the what can only be considered as the most definitive Tron look. Kosinski who has said he's looked toward architecture to bring about the visuals gives us very interesting scenery to view throughout Tron: Legacy. Areas of the grid have a certain charm and the advancements of CGI have helped give everything the gloss a big budget movie like this needs. The problem for me is I really didn't care enough. If Tron: Legacy had an interesting story with some narrative drive and characters with at least some depth then we'd be in business. Kosinski isn't really using the visuals to tell the story; as they are there to show how pretty everything is. No anything narrative based is down to it's dull screenplay which is full of very uninteresting talk. It doesn't help that most of the film is full of this talk, with less action than one would expect. The lightcycles and flying discs were not my favorite film moments of the year, but were fun enough to provide a much needed distraction from it's "lets go to A to do B" screenplay.

Hints of interesting themes crop up at points, a moment in Flynn's off-grid home suggests that as creator, Flynn is also God. Clu as the creation picks up a sliver apple and thus implicates the idea of him as Adam and obviously original sin. I also liked the idea of Clu as an unknowingly fascist leader programmed to provide perfection but missing the vital fact that imperfection makes us who we are. The idea of lightcycle/discgames being futuristic gladiator-esque arenas is also an interesting element. While all this may sound a tad heavy (read: over thinking it), if Tron fully integrated these aspects into the film properly, I would have found the whole exercise a far more appealing one.

However, Tron: Legacy doesn't have time for such things (despite being 127 minutes long) as it's struggling to find a way to make Sam Flynn (Hedlund) an interesting person. With many films like this if you believe in the character, his stake and his goals, you believe in the world. I had no interest in Sam Flynn, nor his flat relationship with Quorra (Olivia Wilde) which is a shame as this lack of appeal dulls The Grids neon city. It's not really the fault of the actors as they don't have much to work with, however when watching Jeff Bridges and Micheal Sheen in the film who give do their best to illuminate their performances, you do see the gap in talent and experience. Case in point: Sheen is only on screen for around ten minutes and is still more memorable than most things within the movie.

For me Tron: Legacy was quite a forgettable experience all around. Another film that is quick to push CGI and 3D but less willing to provide an interesting storyline, strong dramatic conflict or appealing characters. I have an increasing sense of worry that soon; every December, we will be given a tent-pole, expensive, pretty release which will be marketed to death as it cannot afford to fail. I fret that these features will be hyped as the greatest thing since the last best thing but with only a different colour scheme to provide any difference. The early box office numbers have stated that Tron: Legacy is "on target" in financial terms, but from a personal point of view all I saw was what I can only describe as: Avatar's New Clothing.