Tron: Legacy

Movies that are pure spectacle have to provide something more than that to survive in the long term. And a sequel that comes almost 30 years after the original has a mountain to climb. Now Tron, the original 1982 flick, was a cheesy and silly movie that showed us something no one ever had before. A near-completely green-screen filmed story. In fact, you can think of Tron as the Avatar of its day in that respect. It was the first all-electronic (OK, nearly all) scenery. It lives on for many of us due to nostalgia more than its brilliant script.

So fast-forward to the near present and you have its sequel. I didn’t go see this in IMAX 3D, though I had planned to, because the reviews just weren’t enticing enough to get me to spend the $13/tik. I knew I would be seeing it at a disadvantage on the relatively smaller screen at home. And, clearly, it is designed for shock and awe in the world of the Grid. And it was pretty. In fact, the transfer is very nice and preserves the IMAX screen ratios by adjusting as necessary (and it was very seamless for me). But there were distractions.

The plot was thinly thought through and confused. The relationships were cliches. The characters, cookie-cutter. The script was, fortunately, never painful, but it never engaged. And the F/X…

OK, I’m going to break a rule here and discuss a small spoiler. It’s small in that it happens early on and, frankly, wasn’t that surprising. But it had a huge effect on my enjoyment. So if you must preserve the integrity of your experience, skip past the next paragraph.

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F/X are always the blessing and curse of films. It can become all about the F/X. Remember Kevin Costner’s hair in Waterworld? A fortune spent making him look less bald, when they should have really just done a better story. In Tr2n, the issue for me was Bridges’ evil counterpart being painted with his 30 years younger face. It never looked quite right and, while the idea was good, it pulled me out of the story every time he took off his helmet or purposely shot it so they wouldn’t have to spend the money to paint his face. Perhaps if the original Flynn wasn’t still around in the story, it would have felt more a taunt to the younger Flynn, but it had the same “dead eye” problem that Polar Express and similar mo-cap films suffer from and the skin wasn’t quite alive either. It just wasn’t working seamlessly.
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Overall, it was a pretty popcorn film. And, yes, popcorn was had while we watched. But you know what, so are most Roland Emmerich flicks (e.g., 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla [1998], etc.), however he provides fun dialog, emotional ties, and slightly more complex challenges. He is far from my favorite film maker, but he manages to get me to rewatch films, just for the silly fun… at least on disc.

Not that Legacy is unwatchable, it just isn’t very rewatchable for me–not even Olivia Wilde in skin-tights is going to do it. But given that it was announced this week that TR2N has minted the highest grossing, first-time director, there is sure to be a TR3N. I can only hope that between the desire of Disney to make $$s and the effort to create the animated bridging series and the marketing machine to sell toys and games, that maybe, just maybe, they’ll give us a better film the next time around and lose their love affair with the shiny.

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