Friday, 31 December 2010

Tron: Legacy

In 1989, Kevin Flynn, CEO of ENCOM disappears without trace. 20 years later, his son Sam is the majority shareholder in the company but wants nothing to do with it. After Kevin’s long time confidante Alan Bradley receives a page from Flynn’s abandoned arcade, Sam investigates and soon discovers his dad’s secret office behind the Tron machine. But, when Sam is accidentally transported into The Grid, he discovers more than he could have bargained for; his dad got trapped inside after his computer program, Clu, went rogue and took over. Can the reunited Flynns, and a young program called Quorra, save The Grid and save the day?

So here we are, 28 years on from the original Tron, finally we get to see the true potential of The Grid in Tron: Legacy. Things have changed in The Grid somewhat though, things look a lot better now, everything’s shinier and everyone’s young and beautiful. Yep, it’s technology 2010 style. The film had a lot of potential, Jeff Bridges was back and the bad guy was going to be YOUNG Jeff Bridges?! Personally, I had been looking forward to this since that tiny bit of test footage featuring the test for Clu emerged from Comic-Con 2008, back when the film was potentially labelled ‘Tr2n’. Since then, we’ve had endless teasers, trailers, stills and clips, mercilessly hyping up the ‘3D event of the decade’. Does it live up to the hype though? Ehhh....

More than anything, I was disappointed, but that’s more than likely because I had very high expectations for it, but that doesn’t mean this wasn’t good. For everything that was positive, there was unfortunately a negative. The main gripe is with the buzzword of 2010: 3D. This is a gripe I’ve had for a while, but Tron has exemplified my problem with the technology. I should say that I was actually impressed with the 3D in Tron: Legacy; for the first time since Toy Story 3, I found it immersive and forgot I was watching it in 3D. Now, this may be because Toy Story 3 was entirely and Tron: Legacy was almost entirely digitally created, we weren’t looking at the real world here, thus making it easier to create 3D effects. Alas, what 3D giveth, it taketh away. In any 3D film, the main problem I have is that as soon as you put on those dark 3D glasses, you lose 30% of the colour on screen and with Tron: Legacy, a film which has a predominantly black and blue colour palette, it becomes a tough watch at times. As bright and shiny as the film is, the 3D glasses steal some of that brightness away and it’s a real shame.

That brings me onto the look of the film. One word: Stunning. It’s really, really good looking. It’s sharp, it’s attention grabbing, and it’s great; probably the most impressive CG film I’ve seen so far. Recreating a young Jeff Bridges to be Clu was risky, but they pull it off well. So well, in fact, that we see more of digitally created young Jeff Bridges than the actual Jeff Bridges himself. We do also get a small glimpse of a digitally created young Bruce Boxleitner as Tron in a flashback, but he they either spent too much money on doing young Jeff Bridges or they considered Boxleitner less important so any more glimpses of Tron are done with Tron wearing a black helmet hiding his face. Nice. However, having a really good looking film without a decent story to back it up leaves it feeling a bit shallow, it’s more of a visual treat and less of an overall film product. That’s a tad disappointing, as it weakens the entire reasoning behind creating a film in the first place. That does indeed lead me onto the story...

It’s a bunch of crap. It’s a flimsy, overcomplicated device to hold together all the pretty pictures. The narrative also irritated me. For a 2 hour film, it takes an ENTIRE HOUR to go through the THREE different back stories; what happened between Tron and Tron: Legacy in the real world, what happened between Tron and Tron: Legacy in The Grid and what Sam Flynn is getting up to now and how he ends up in The Grid himself. Only after all that is out the way do we finally get to why we’re here, what the film’s primary narrative is and it just drags. The most damning evidence I can give to this is a quote from one of my friends who I saw the film with: “Once they were in The Grid, I was awake, but while they were in the real world, I was falling asleep and waking up and not really feeling like I’d missed anything”. He wasn’t alone; I counted at least 5 people falling asleep during the 2D real world sequences before at the start of the film which goes on for a good 20 minutes. 20 minutes! Even after that, once Sam does get into The Grid, it takes another 20/25 minutes for something important/relevant to happen.

The acting. Hmm. Jeff Bridges is back, hurrah, that was good, but he doesn’t actually play Kevin Flynn is this. He plays The Dude, what with people harshing his Zen, man. Garrett Hedlund as Sam Flynn could easily be replaced by any number of young Hollywood leading guys. Olivia Wilde as Quorra is actually quite good. When I say good, I mean hot, Olivia Wilde is quite hot. I’ll also mention Michael Sheen here, because I feel so sorry for him, I do. He’s given the worst role of his life, being forced to play a version of Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s horrifying, and surely something he’ll want to forget.

I did like the soundtrack. The sound track was good, and was partly what the film was sold on. Daft Punk have scored the entire film and it’s on par with The Social Network for best soundtrack in 2010. The music interacts with the pictures wonderfully and it’s a near-perfect relationship between celluloid and audio. Kudos, Daft Punk.

Overall, it breaks my heart to be so negative about a film I was so looking forward to but it completely earned it. Whether it was because of bad writing or a pre-existing problem with 3D, the film is an odd combination of being really quite impressive and really rather poor at exactly the same time. The acting is generally poor, but the look of the film is impressive. The 3D is immersive yet a let-down. The story is garbage, but the score has been well executed. It’s sad to see this let itself down, but there you go. It’s worth seeing to see the graphics and hear the music, but don’t expect to see a Citizen Kane. Perhaps the inevitable sequel will have a better story but less impressive visuals.

Rating: ***