Saturday, December 18, 2010
Well after all the build-up and an-tici............pation, the day of Tron: Legacy has come and gone. I went into it not expecting much beyond the cool visuals but I found myself really enjoying this flick just not for the reasons I thought I would.
This isn't really a review per se and if you want something well written and concise I suggest you search elsewhere. Dammit Jim, I'm an artist not a writer! What this rambling missive will be is just a stream of thought, just shooting out my views on the flick. Fans of tangents rejoice, I will probably often veer off topic because that's how I roll. Also, if you haven't seen it yet don't cry to me about spoilers because now is the time to click BACK and get your ass to the theatre.
Let's start with why this flick clicked for me. The story. *pause for effect* I know, I know-everyone out there is gasping because from the sound of it everyone is down on Tron: Legacy for a lack of a story or something along those lines. I'll admit that the writers did dumb down a lot of stuff but with modern audiences I can't really blame them. Yeah, I'm talking about anyone that thought Inception was "deep" live with it. The thing that stuck with me the most wasn't the whole "trapped in a computer world" storyline which is really the whole point of the Tron universe, but the story of Sam and his loss. As you read on you might think that I hated the story or lack thereof but the truth is I liked Sam's part in this which was the welcome surprise for me.
I can hear some nervous shuffling out there, I know it wasn't used as a shovel and you didn't get hit over the head with it but you can't tell me that the scene where Quorra takes Sam to his father and they see each other for the first time in twenty years didn't jerk a few heart strings. It was a bit short-handed with Sam just being the rebellious youth striking out over being abandoned by his father but the way it was his only driving force during the course of the flick was well handled. I don't know why this resonated so with me. Being a bastard myself and never having known my father I usually don't empathize with this sort of storyline but for some reason this clicked. We'll just chalk it up to some decent acting and straight-forward writing.
Overall the rest of the story was your basic action driven plot but there were some things that I wished the writers had either put in or even thought of. I loved all the little nods to the original Tron and was surprised at how many there were. Dillinger's hipster douchebag son, the "now that's a big door" quote, Bit in it's YES and NO postitions as decoration in the Flynn hideout, all these were cool and nice to see. For me though I wanted to see where Yori was. Now I'm talking as if you've seen the first Tron, but if you haven't and are lost-go check it out and all this will make sense. Based on the previews I wanted Yori to turn out to be Rinzler. When I finally came upon the notion that Rinzler was Tron (the "T" pattern on his chest gave it away) it killed me. That was so cliche and then I saw it in the flick and it was even more cliche.
For me it just would have worked more if Yori had been repurposed and killed Tron while he was protecting Flynn from Clu. Since Tron was such a badass that's the only way Clu could've beat him from my point of view. Rinzler seemed small, compact, lithe, and fast in the trailers I just figured it was Yori and she had derezzed Tron and taken his Identity Disc which would have been even more tragic in the end. Since we're on the subject of Rinzler, his "death" was just sad. He went out like a chump, but based on his circuit pattern reverting from the orange of evil to the white of good in the Sea of Simulations he may just be back if there is a threequel.
The things that did bug me a bit were surprisingly enough, the special effects. I know everyone and their mother is raving about how "nice Tron looks" or how "awesome the digital world looks" and it is visually pleasing overall. For me though, while a cool idea, the CGI Flynn failed. I could accept a plastic looking Clu as he was supposed to be a non-living program (I thought it was neat that Clu didn't blink a lot onscreen whether on purpose or by accident) but they could've pushed it a bit more for the real world young Flynn. This is one of the reasons I think Avatar fails in the CGI dept, there are some scenes where the CGI just works and looks impressive. Others not so much. It all comes down to the teams doing the animation for certain scenes and it's too apparent to ignore but like Cameron, they get points for trying something new.
Didn't it also seem like the action in this was a bit...well, slow? The Lightcycle sequence in the original Tron was just fast and furious. Breakneck angled turns and quick cuts made those scenes feel dangerous even though the bikes looked cartoony and fakey. Even the SDCC promo footage from '08 or '09 seemed faster, flashier, deadlier. The actual footage from the flick was just too slow. Same thing with the Discwar game since the Jai Alai sequence in the first Tron was more interesting than what was filmed for Tron: Legacy. The fight with Rinzler was decent with Clu using the chinese relaxation balls to rotate the game floor and alter gravity. My only caveat was that it was too short and again, too slow. I never really felt Sam was in any danger of getting derezzed even by Rinzler. Then there was the blood but I'll let other more intelligent folks ponder on whether or not the Flynns are really flesh and blood humans in the digital world or if the digitization process is so good their simulacrums are recreated that precisely. Or maybe that's the only way the writers could think of to show that Sam wasn't a program but a user instead.
As for the characters themselves I loved the fallen son Clu. He is one-dimensional but let's not forget that he is a program and in the end regardless of the means his one task was to make a perfect system. Bad thing about that is that perfection is not so easily defined especially from differing perspectives. Quorra was another welcome surprise since based on the trailers and net-chat I figured she was just going to be the token eyecandy for the flick. Granted she could have had a meatier role as Sam's guardian/host to the world of Tron but her innocence and synergy with Sam really endeared her to me. When she asks Sam if he knows Jules Verne, that's a laugh out loud moment that had a bittersweet effect when I realized that only my wife and I did in a theatre full of people. I think one kid even pulled out his phone to Google who Jules Verne was.
There was some doubt there for me with her, especially when she's listening to the Flynns talking outside and she's crouching by the pool. I figured at that point that Quorra was going to end up as some sort of betrayer/double-agent but gladly I was proven wrong. The scene where she asks Sam to describe the sun, that was really touching and heartwarming and acted perfectly by Miss Wilde.
Touching on betrayal, Castor/Zuse and Gem's time on screen was fun and enjoyable. His Bowie-esque antics and her striking looks and beauty really made the scenes in the End of Line bar unique. For those folks who are losing sleep as to why programs hang out in bars here's the answer you seek: BECAUSE FREAKIN' DAFT PUNK IS SPINNING THERE, THAT'S WHY!
The soundtrack to this flick was A-mazing! Very well done and executed and really the key element to this movie. I found myself tapping my foot along with each song regardless if it was on the official soundtrack or not. My only gripe with the sound of the flick was the sfx itself. Everything from the signature rumble of the Recognizers to the reen of the Lightcycles just wasn't there. The vocoder effects on some of the characters was a nice touch but the fact that not everyone sounded like that or that some really had alot of distortion took me out of the experience on quite a few occasions during the flick. So soundtrack great, sound design...not so great.
These things for me are more from a technical aspect so some of you out there may be rolling your eyes. I can't blame you, I'd probably do the same if I didn't pay so much attention to stupid details in movies like this.
Jeff Bridges. What can I say, he was perfect in this. I loved his take on the older Flynn, his sense of Dudeness that he brought to the role. Very well done. Again my gripe is with the writers and their choice to Stephen King it and wrap up the ending quick by just having him re-integrate with Clu and seemingly blow up. Of course we all know the old adage of any entertainment media of this nature: no body, no death. As long as they don't bring him back as a new MCP in the threequel I think we'll be okay. That and WTF is up with his kickass old school Lightcycle just being onscreen for like five seconds and then Sam giving it away as a diversion AFTER he drives right into the city? Damn writers, you're killing me here!
As for the ISOs, I thought they were a neat touch and yet another fail on the part of the writers to do something really cool with them. Let's face facts, the human DNA code is just like a computer program. Information in sequences that define a person in the physical sense. A program in the Tron world is no different aside from the materials that make it up. The blood of Sam shows that even that line is blurred so then come in the ISOs. It's a bit sad that the writers chose to just touch on them and maybe they're saving something for the next installment concerning them but seeing as how they were purged and the only surviving ISO is now in the human world well I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
For me it was a neat comment on the way the digital world is now. It is assumed that the Tron world is exsisting in it's own space in the ether. Growing and changing unaffected by the outside worlds of man. However I propose this: What if the ISOs are the outside world of the internet bleeding into Flynn's little creation. What if ISOs are the next evolution not directly influenced by Flynn or the happenings of the Tron world? Confused? Okay, most people that are online for more than 80% of the day and aren't working are doing what? Playing games like World of Warcraft, hanging around Second Life, checking and updating their Facebooks and Myspaces and even blogs such as this one.
My wife and I came to the conclusion that ISOs are the digital echos of these people. You take a person who almost literally lives on the computer, in digital worlds, and you have ISOs. Also for beings of infinite wisdom they sure got punked by Clu and a few well placed laser blasts? Yeah, I guess they were lasers given the advent of the Lightgliders. The Lightglider sequence was too slow as well. By that point I got the feeling that the CGI guys were just trying to show off their work by slowing the action down so much. I would've liked to see that flying chase replayed at a faster pace and maybe more usage of the lightwalls in relation to an aerial dogfight.
Where is Alan in all this? Did he lose interest after Tron got repurposed? I guess Flynn never told him or Lora of his adventures in Tronworld. Did he just figure that with the MCP out of the way he would just let Tron wander around without purpose since his main goal was to bring down the MCP in the first Tron? His lack of interest in all this aside from Sam's well being made me question why he was even in this flick. Writers, writers, writers...help me out here. I kept hoping Tron would pop back up even if it was as a Deus ex Machina to save everyone and then the shot would cut to Alan sitting at his desk looking at code for a new Tron and pleased that he had helped his old friends. That kind of cliche I could've lived with.
My final gripe: WHERE WERE THE GRIDBUGS!?! If you don't know what I'm talking about and claim to be a Tronfan then you fail so miserably I'm sorry you even read this far.
So I guess it's down to this: I liked this flick because it's Tron for one and no matter what my complaints it did more for me than I'm stating here. It also made me think about the world of Tron and the hows and whys of it beyond just the story I was shown up on the big screen. If a movie doesn't get me thinking even if it's just to inspire me in my own crazy ideas then it just doesn't work for me. The beauty of all this is if you've read this far I love you and you must love Tron more than I to sit through all my babbling. Unless you don't know what a gridbug is, then disregard the above. :)
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