Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TRON: Legacy (2010) Theatrical Review

I should probably start off by saying I’m not a very big fan of Avatar.  At this point you may be wondering why I would start off by saying something like that.  Well, from what I’ve been reading there’s already been a slew of comparisons between TRON: Legacy and Avatar.  That is to say, both films take place in an alien world, a world GREATLY enhanced by CGI (computer-generated imagery for the laymen, and by laymen I mean my mom), cutting edge 3D technology and an epic adventure narrative.  In my opinion Avatar was too long, kind of boring, overly preachy (Unobtanium, seriously?) and was so overhyped by everyone around me that I couldn’t help but be unimpressed upon my initial viewing.  Many critics have said the same thing about TRON: Legacy, but I have to disagree mainly for one reason – I freaking loved this film.  TRON: Legacy was the dystopic balls-to-the-wall adventure I’d been waiting for.  The visuals (minus one glaring infraction), the sounds and score, even the paint-by-the-numbers plot had me completely hooked.

For those of you that haven’t yet been inundated with TRON information by the Disney marketing machine, here is the basic rundown.  Sam Flynn, Kevin Flynn’s son, is transported to The Grid (that’s what the TRON world is called), the very same digital domain that his father (brilliantly played by Jeff Bridges) created in the first TRON film.  In this new and amazingly rendered world, Sam is forced to not only survive but is tasked with saving mankind and the world as he knows it.  Action ensues.  Things explode.

Light Cycles in the arena
Let’s start with what I loved about the film, and there’s quite a bit.  First and foremost – the visuals.  There, I said what we were all thinking.  The main reason to see this film is the visuals.  The world that Disney created here and has grown since the 1982 precursor is absolutely mind blowing.  The look is simple, elegant (in that neon-light explosion kind of way) and respectfully pays homage to the original while bringing something wholly new to the table.   The art direction in TRON: Legacy is the stuff of legends in my book, everything, including the architecture, the vehicles and costumes lend themselves to a sleek futuristic minimalist high-tech high-sheen aesthetic, and it’s simply mesmerizing to behold.  This film is complete eye candy and if you went for no other reason than that, I think you’d walk away satisfied.  Fortunately or unfortunately, depending how you look at it, this means the acting and plot are largely overshadowed by the gorgeous mise-en-scène.

While I think Garrett Hedlund as Sam Flynn did a fine job with the lines he was given and looks enough like Jeff Bridge’s Kevin Flynn as to imply a possible familial connection, the acting is secondary to the effects.  Even Jeff Bridges, who seems to be channeling an older and much nerdier Jeffrey Lebowski and is always great in pretty much everything he does, plays second fiddle to the bright lights and pulsing soundtrack.

Daft Punk making a cameo in TRON: Legacy
The other element vital to the film’s success would have to be TRON: Legacy’s score.  Disney was VERY wise in hooking up with the boys from Daft Punk as they really give the film’s visuals an added legitimacy.  With every synth tone the neon lights that illuminate the world of TRON become that much more tangible.  I can say with very little doubt that this was my favorite score of 2010.  So much so, that I purchased the album within an hour of getting home from the theater.  The score, which somehow manages to perfectly combine the duo’s traditionally electronic sound with an epic orchestral arrangement, is something altogether new and I’m sure will give Daft Punk even more opportunities to flex their musical muscles.  The film’s amazing score seems to be the one thing that everyone can agree on; people really seem to like it.

The digitally rendered Clu
Now I mentioned how beautiful the film is earlier.  It’s true, the movie is gorgeous visually and aurally, but there’s one small offense that’s a bit hard to forgive – Clu.  The Clu character is meant to look like a younger Kevin Flynn/Jeff Bridges.  It doesn’t work; it’s as simple as that.  The same problems that many films run into when incorporating CGI characters, including dead eyes and skin that looks like plastic, crop up here.  It wouldn’t be much of a problem if Clu had an insignificant role in the film and only appeared for 30 seconds here and there, but he’s the main villain!  With that said, Clu is really my only gripe with the film and I can’t wait to pick this up on Blu once it’s released.

TRON: Legacy was a gripping adventure that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to friends who don’t mind a big, sometimes dopey, often explosion-y action spectacle now and again.  The film is a revelation to look at and a complete thrill to listen to.  It might just be the perfect cure to anyone who is still dealing with the gut punch that the amazing Black Swan packed.  Go see the film and simply enjoy the ride it takes you on.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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