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Old 12-16-2010, 08:55 PM
Joseph Kosinski's Tron: Legacy

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

http://www.examiner.com/movie-in-ric...ew-tron-legacy



http://www.examiner.com/movie-in-ric...ew-tron-legacy

Tron: Legacy (2010)

It’s been 28 years since the release of the original, groundbreaking film “Tron,” which presented a landmark in cinema for being one of the first films to extensively use computer animation. A sequel had been in the works for the longest time and has finally arrived. It takes us back into the world that was created all those years ago, but with the great advances in technology since 1982, a few things have changed since we last saw the amazing world inside the computer.

Starting back in the 1980s, the film fills in the gap between itself and the original by telling us that Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) had a son, but that his wife had died. One day, Flynn simply disappears without a trace leaving behind his parents and teenage son, Sam. You may remember from the original film that Flynn had become the owner of the company Encom after retrieving the evidence that his games were stolen. Now, after his disappearance, the company is run by a board that includes Flynn’s old friend, Alan (Bruce Boxleitner).

Several years after the disappearance, Alan receives a page from Flynn’s office at his old arcade. He tells Flynn’s son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), about it and suggests that he go to the arcade to check it out. After some hesitation, Sam goes to the arcade and finds his father’s office. He activates a computer console, and before he knows it, he’s pulled into the computer world. It is immediately thought that he is merely a stray program which causes him to be placed on the gaming grid where programs fight for their existence. He eventually meets Clu (Jeff Bridges), a program that was created by his father for good, but instead has taken over the grid. A sudden rescue from Quorra (Olivia Wilde) leads Sam to the one person he has been seeking this whole time…Kevin Flynn.

Being a big fan of the original film, I was really looking forward to seeing how the franchise would look after its humble start back in 1982. On the level of visual effects and production design, it certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s a richly detailed film that brings the computer world to life in an amazing fashion. In particular, the vehicles, which includes the lightcycles, the solar sailor, and several different flying contraptions, all looked fantastic. Even the architecture gave the grid a fascinating visual flare.

The film was presented in 3-D, which helped bring the world to life for a time, but like other 3-D films, I found that it became less and less noticeable as the film went on until I hardly noticed anything popping off the screen at all. At least it was used with the right purpose in mind. As I’ve said before, 3-D should be used in an effort to make the environment of the film richer, for films like this one where such a thing really matters, and to help draw the viewer into it by making it even more real than it would be in 2-D.

Where “Tron: Legacy” was kind of disappointing was in its pacing and story. The film starts off really well, filling us in on what we need to know, then immediately throwing Sam into peril the second he reaches the grid. But after this, the film slows way down for almost the entire remainder of the film. There are intermittent action sequences throughout the 2nd and 3rd acts, but somehow they’re just not as exciting as the games in the 1st act, probably because most of them are so quick. The biggest of these is the climactic battle at the end of the film, which doesn’t reach the level of excitement it should because it’s just a bunch of flying around while the adversaries shoot lasers at each other.

Then there’s how thin the story felt. For this film, Sark and the MCP have been replaced by Clu and his henchmen. Someone new comes in and has to save the day, but this time, Sam just wants to get himself and his father out of the system. The characters themselves aren’t developed particular far either, so don’t expect much of an emotional investment in them (those who’ve seen the original may still care about Kevin Flynn though). Luckily, the story manages to get by, especially with the help of the strong visuals.

What also helps the film are the nostalgic pokes at the original that it uses. It gives us updated versions of the lightcycles, the recognizer, the costumes, and just about everything else. One of the most famous parts of the original film was watching the game where players stood on a set of rings as they tossed a ball of light back and forth in an attempt to knock out the other player’s rings. The updated version involves throwing a disc back and forth to break up the ground under the other player’s feet. Another famous part of the original film was the lightcycle game, which was played on a big empty grid with players trying to knock each other out with the track they leave behind. Now the playing field has expanded and includes two stories with lots of twists and turns. The filmmakers have truly taken advantage of the advances in technology to give us a fun and engrossing experience for these sections.

This is also a rare instance where the soundtrack should be mentioned. To score the film, French electronic music duo Daft Punk was chosen. Their music ends up being a great combination of orchestral and techno arrangements that adds to and heightens the experience the film gives you. Their particular use of electronic music perfectly fits the cold, technological tone that the production design sets. In short, they were the perfect choice to write the music for this film.

While it wasn’t everything I was hoping it was going to be, “Tron: Legacy” ended up being a fascinating visual experience. The story and the characters could have been developed a lot further, but it seems that the film was made more as a showcase for the special effects rather than the storyline. There are several loose ends at the end of the film, so I believe we can expect another sequel in the coming years. If it looks as good as this did, then I look forward to returning to the seemingly endless possibilities of the dazzling computer world. 3/4 stars.
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