Archive | December, 2010

Tron: Legacy – the Grumpy Fanboy Review

22 Dec

With today’s special effects and fascination with technology, this was an ideal time to release the sequel to the 1982 cult classic. What went wrong?

Slick designs, modern special effects and the hundreds of millions of dollars thrown behind it by Disney provided every opportunity for Tron: Legacy to be a slam dunk for any fanboy. But as much as I wanted to enjoy it, I didn’t.

Tron: Legacy is about Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the son of the original film’s hero Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), searching for his father who has been missing for over 20 years. His quest inadvertently takes him into the same digital world that the elder Flynn discovered almost 30 years ago. There he encounters his father’s evil doppelganger, a program named Clu, who has since conquered this world and installed himself as its absolute ruler.

For starters, the “Clu” Jeff Bridges, whose face is replaced by a younger CGI version, is unable to convey any emotion convincingly. The very first scene, which is supposed to be a touching flashback between father and son, looks instead like a boy talking to a creepy Disneyland ride animatronic. A year after the Na’vi of Avatar and nine years after we first saw Gollum from Lord of the Rings, a lifeless CGI character is simply unforgivable for a film of this scale.

Sadly, the real life actors are no less unconvincing. Jeff Bridges, who recently won an Academy Award for Best Actor in Crazy Heart, often resembles the clueless “Dude” from The Big Lebowski more than the technological visionary Flynn is meant to be. Meanwhile, Hedlund’s performance is only slightly less wooden than the CGI Jeff Bridges.

Perhaps the biggest letdown is the world of Tron itself. The modern day versions of the light cycles, the disc duels, those creepy two-legged flying  gunships, the sail-ship / cable-car thingy all looked great. Of course, after almost 30 years of advances in computer graphics, they’re supposed to. And that’s pretty much where the expansion of the Tron universe ends. We are otherwise shown the same hi-tech city in the middle of a barren wasteland as we first saw in 1982. (The only significant new addition to the world is … a bar.) Only this time, everything is in 1280 x 768, when back in 1982 it was in 400 x 320.

In one scene, father and son are talking while a roast suckling pig sits in the center of the dining table between them. Are we supposed to believe that somewhere in this sunless land of glass, steel and LED lights …  there is a pig farm? Fantasy worlds are only believable when every element within it is consistent with the rules you set for that world. And that is Tron: Legacy’s fatal flaw. We are never fully convinced that this world really lives and breathes. The story simply plods along from one slickly designed set to another.

When we had our first glimpse of Tron, computers were the domain of only a select few and digital technology was mysterious and arcane. Today technology is both blessing and curse, bringing convenience and unprecedented access to information at the expense of personal time and privacy. In the same way that sci-fi cult classics like Battlestar Galactica have been updated in the context of today’s world, I was hoping for a Tron that played with these contemporary themes. Instead we get a dumbed-down, clichéd, adventure-by-the-numbers that could just as easily have been written, well, back in 1982.

Tron: Legacy

Final word: Slick designs and special effects don’t make up for soulless characters and predictable plot. Your kids might like it, though. Get the Daft Punk soundtrack; the music (plus their cameo appearance) is the best part of the film. Rating: 2.5 out of 5.