Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tron Legacy Review

In my article on the original Tron, I noted the upcoming sequel and stated that from the trailers it appeared this very late follow up would have none of the elements in it that made the original a classic. Now that I've seen Tron Legacy, I can confirm the truth of that statement. The unique computer animation styles seen in the first Tron are replaced by slick CGI graphics. Very polished, but so ubiquitous to moviegoers that it is simply expected to be part of any sci-fi film today. The visuals, characterization, and score have taken on a heavier and darker feel. Given the conceptual connection between Tron and the The Matrix, it is not surprising that this new version seeks to capitalize on the latter's successful fusion of sci-fi and stylism, sometimes rather gratiutiously (the original film took no interest in flaunting beautiful girls in tights). Every visual that was employed before has been fed into a computer and embellished in great detail. It adds nothing to the telling of the story except flashy visuals that are even less appealing than the simpler forms from which they were derived.

You would think with Lisberger in the producer's role they might at least maintain the ingenius allegorical parallels between the real and computer worlds. Alas, most is just sloppily borrowed and what is new does not try very hard to maintain the symbolism. I almost dropped my popcorn in one scene where Flynn's son is discovered to be a user because of what looks like anti-gravity blood droplets coming from him after an injury on the playing field. If he is only a programmatic representation of himself, would that really include a bleeding program? Does Flynn have a simulated dinner with his guests just for the nostalgia of it? The original games in Tron were there because the system running the matter transfer experiments happened to belong to an arcade gaming company and the evil master program was using the game programs to carry out his plans. In this film, the games are spectacles of entertainment for the sole pleasure of the inhabiting programs. This is explained as the creation of an evil twin program of Flynn's that has created some sort of perfect society in something called "The Grid" (yep, Matrix was already taken). However, the actual connection to the word "perfect" is never really illustrated.

Once I had accepted that this sequel would not be like the original, I at least held out a little bit of hope that an original story might allow it to take on a life of its own. Here is where we find the greatest disappointment. In 1980, the story in the real world was an interesting plot in its own right, and the computer world simply paralleled it in a way that actually made some sense. In this film, the reverse has happened. The evil plot comes from the computer world and intends to invade the real one. Instead of a clever allegory, we have the usual one-dimensional villain-wants-to-take-over-the-world idea. So much time is spent on the battles and flashy special effects that there is only minimal room for character development, which is a shame because it is the characters and their relationships that aim to be the meat of the story this time around. All the other peripheral characters are nothing more than a means to some end. Tron himself is only seen in a last minute Han Solo type rescue without ever really interacting with him (probably because programs aren't supposed to age like Boxleiter's character in real life does). The supposed helper, Zeus, who turns out to be a turncoat was never anything more than a silly showman anyway. How disappointed can you be at a betrayal when you never took the guy seriously? I'm afraid the script is of no real significance.

One new concept is introduced which is the supposed appearance of independent programs with an emergent consciousness. They are called bio-morphs and are portrayed as having child-like innocence. Of course, we are denied any exploration of this since they are all wiped out by the bad guy before we arrive. The one surviving specimen, played by Olivia Wilde, is by far the most interesting character in the film. It is refreshing to see a beautiful lead female play a character that is not essentially a love interest, although she is definitely loved. She plays the innocence angle very convincingly and I think we will be seeing more of her in future films. On the positive, the CGI work was integrated with some really nice sets in a way where you could not tell what was live set and what was not. All said, in spite of the huge promotional effort, I recommend waiting for the rental unless you want to see the 3D effects (I did not), which might prove entertaining.

No comments:

Post a Comment