May 30, 2011

Rabid Rewind: Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy
starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, and Bruce Boxleitner
directed by Joseph Kosinski
screenplay by Adam Horowitz, Steven Lisberger, Edward Kitsis
Walt Disney Pictures (2010)

Last year, I re-watched a childhood favorite to see if it held up after all this time. Tron was a movie that captivated me when I was a boy, but I only ever saw it the once. So, I sat down and viewed it--then I reviewed it. The abbreviated review: it didn't hold up.

After seeing the initial teasers for Tron: Legacy a year or so ago, I was salivating to see it, but it would be months before it hit theaters. So, I did the next best thing and hunted down the original. Oh man, what a disappointment that was. After watching that, I was considerably less enthused about a sequel, regardless of how advanced the CGI was going to be. The story from the first movie was kind of crap, really, and I expected the same from the sequel. So, I waited until now to watch it on DVD.

Turns out the sequel is better than the original in not only the special effects, but the story is more tightly woven and believable this time around--as believable as a movie about getting sucked into a video game can be.

Since this movie takes place some thirty years after the events of the first movie, it tries to do what it can to act as a stand-alone tale and offer direct links to the original. Flynn (Bridges), the hero of the first film, is gone, mysteriously vanishing one night in 1989 while working on a secret project for his technology company, Encom. Present day sees his grown son, Sam (Hedlund), summoned to Flynn's abandoned arcade via a mysterious page. When he goes there, he finds his father's secret project in a back room, a virtual game environment akin to the same one Flynn had been sucked into in the original film. Surprise, surprise, Sam gets sucked into the game world and subsequently goes on an adventure in this dystopian virtual world--all too similar to the adventure Flynn went on thirty years prior.

And that's about it. It's feels less like a Tron sequel than a reboot of the franchise, basically telling the same story with fancier graphics and more bombastic characters. Bridges plays double-duty, portraying a gray-haired Flynn trapped in the game world, as well as his youthful virtual counterpart turned nemesis, CLU. While I have heard people marvel about the CGI used to turn back the clock on Jeff Bridges' facial features, but I found it to be a mixed bag. Some scenes with CLU play rather seamlessly and it's easy to believe that this is an actual character, but I found more scenes showed the limits of the technology and CLU looked like a real person with a video-game character's head pasted on top of his shoulders.

As for the lead actor, Garrett Hedlund, I thought he had all the charisma of a wet boot. With competent to remarkable performances from the likes of Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, Olivia Wilde, and an especially David Bowian performance from Michael Sheen, Hedlund came off as a poor choice as the protagonist, making it really hard to care about Sam as a character, let alone root for him to win the day.

The visual effects are most certainly dazzling, effectively distract from the questions raised by a frenetic plot. The big question of how CLU sends the page into the real world to lure Sam in the first place is never answered satisfactorily, which nagged at me through the whole movie. Still, when I shut my brain off to that plot hole, the rest of the movie is quite enjoyable.

At the end of the day, I don't think this movie is going to carry as much weight as the original over time, nor will it outshine James Cameron's Avatar as a visual 3D feast, but I am far more likely to re-watch Tron: Legacy than I am either Avatar or the original Tron.

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