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Tron: Legacy (2010)


Your Old Man’s About to Knock on the Sky and Listen to the Sound

I’ve been harboring a hankering to watch this movie again for a while.  I believe I initially saw the movie in theaters, and then I purchased the special edition BluRays when they came out, and I’ve probably seen the movie some three times by now.  But I haven’t reviewed it yet.  When I started reviewing movies, this one was in my mind as one I was looking to get to at some point, but it wasn’t until Fabian recommended it that I actually bothered to get around to it.  I felt it necessary to knock out the original movie yesterday, and today we get into Tron: Legacy, written by Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, directed by Joseph Kosinski and John Lasseter, and starring Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde, Anis Cheurfa, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Michael Sheen, Beau Garrett, Cillian Murphy, Jeffrey Nordling, and Daft Punk.

Not too long after the events of the first Tron film, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) goes missing.  His son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), does not take it that well.  20 years later, he’s ENCOM’s primary shareholder, but has no interest in running his father’s company.  He instead prefers to play a prank on the company every year, like releasing their new operating system to the world for free.  His father’s longtime friend, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), comes to him to investigate a mysterious page he’s received from Flynn’s arcade, even though the place has been abandoned and the phone lines shut off for many years.  Sam goes to check it out and finds his father’s hidden office and, while messing around on the computer there, activates the laser that transported his father into the Grid years ago.  Now in the Grid, he’s instantly captured and put into the games, having to fight for his digital life by throwing Frisbee’s at other guys, eventually losing to a program called Rinzler (Anis Cheurfa).  Rinzler takes Sam to someone that appears to be his father, but actually turns out to be a program his father created called CLU (played by Jeff Bridges and computers).  CLU then attempts to kill Sam on the light cycle tracks, but he’s rescued in the nick of time by Quorra (Olivia Wilde), who takes Sam to see his real father.  Then shit starts to get hairy.

I really like this movie, and I’m not sure why I’m apparently one of the few.  This movie was poorly received, and I get the feeling like people’s nostalgia and love for the original movie probably hindered their ability to appreciate this movie.  Having no particular affection for the original, I found this to be a pretty great and enjoyable movie.  And I’m not sure why the fans of the original seemed to take so much issue with this when it appeared to me that the writers had a great affection for the original.  They threw a lot of things in the movie that were big nods to the original movie, like repeating the joke about the big door, the look and style of Flynn’s arcade, the little handheld device Flynn was messing with in the first movie, and a couple other hidden Easter eggs.  And, when compared to the original Tron, the story here was much better.  Unlike the first movie, there was actually an emotional connection developed in the story for the characters.  You had Sam’s desertion issues, Flynn regretting what happened himself, Quorra being the last of her kind, etc.  The first movie didn’t even seem to take the idea that they could write interesting and flawed characters into consideration.  And the overall story of the movie has much more on the line than one guy wanting to get his comeuppance by proving that he made the games that made ENCOM famous.  They were saving the world, man!  This is not to say that I found the story of this movie to be perfect, of course.  Just superior to the original.  I admit that I did not understand what they were talking about with the ISO’s.  They were some sort of aberration in the Grid that somehow held the potential to resolve various mysteries in science, religion, and medicine.  …How?  They’re just some kind of randomly occurring program.  Is this the same kind of thing like giving a room full of monkeys some typewriters and waiting for them to write Shakespeare?  My best guess is that the writers wanted to keep up the religious overtones they had laid out in the movie (with things like Flynn coming off as God, but God that loves weed or something) and wanted them to represent miracles, but also not bothering to try to define anything about it because they couldn’t figure it out.  Well, CLU gets all threatened by the chosen people of the Grid and gets his genocide on with them, making him basically bio-digital Hitler, man.  I still wonder what would happen, in the minds of the writers, if someone like Quorra got out into the world.  What would that mean?  Would she still have the potential to inexplicably solve the world’s problems, or would she just be some girl that gets locked up because she’d seem crazy because she grew up in a computer?  Either way, I found the conclusion of this movie much more satisfying, though slightly depressing as well.  Whereas the other Tron movie just ended with a guy landing a helicopter on top of a building, this ending has loss, sacrifice, but also an uplifting and somewhat happy ending.

Much like the original, the look of this movie elevates it above its own station.  At least SOME parts of it do.  The movie captures the style of the first movie, but advances it to fit the world as it is today.  With today’s technology, it would’ve been really easy to have the look of the game simply duplicate the original Tron, but that wouldn’t make sense.  The look of that movie was made to look like the video games available at the time, most of which are just slightly more graphically advanced that Pong.  With the state of video games today, this movie needed to look much better, and it does.  It also reflects the change in the system since CLU took over, coming off a lot darker in tone while still being cool and stylized, just as it was in the original.  It’s probably slightly less stylized because it didn’t originate a lot of the look, but it’s cooler because it’s dark and metal.  Like Mastodon.  Of course, there is a problem with the look and it’s one that was talked about frequently when the movie came out: young Jeff Bridges.  You could tell that they tried really hard to make that work.  They did facial captures from Bridges so that the computer could replicate the performance, they used facial captures from Bridges in Against All Odds to get the look and the age right, and they had a stunt double duplicate Bridges’ performance so that nothing was left out.  And it looks like young Jeff Bridges … kinda.  It suffers from the Uncanny Valley thing that the Polar Express suffers from.  It’s so close to being human, but still obviously not, and comes off as a little unsettling.  You know what doesn’t?  The four Siren cyber broads!  But one could argue that they were just four hot chicks in skintight clothes.  The action in this movie was far superior to the stuff in Tron.  The memory disk battles were exciting and well-choreographed.  The light cycles looked awesome and the animation of the light cycle battle was exciting and cool, and they no longer had to travel in straight lines.  There’s even an awesome airship battle.  So much better than Jai A-Die that they played in the first movie.  And the thing I respected most about the movie is how they handled the fact that things were going to die in this but it’s a Disney movie.  Instead of blood, the characters bled bits and disintegrated, leaving some crushed up glass in a pile on the floor.  This looked cool and allowed them to do badass things like shooting a character through the face, leaving a big gaping hole, but as something that kids could watch.  Another thing worth mentioning about this is the music by Daft Punk.  I’m typically the exact opposite of a techno fan, and that doesn’t usually change very much for the typical DJ music, but I enjoyed the score that they put together for this movie.  It elevated the feeling of the scene, and techno was really the only kind of music you could use in this setting.

I don’t have a problem with any of the performances in this movie.  I feel sorry to say that Jeff Bridges gives another performance that’s very similar to The Dude in this movie.  Flynn was vaguely Dude-esque in the original Tron, but in this one – with all the talk about bio-digital jazz and knocking on the sky to see how well it held the room together or some shit – he really reminded me of the Jeff Bridges performances I’ve seen before, or sometimes a Ninja Turtle.  His performance of CLU wasn’t particularly Dude-esque, but I’m beginning to feel bad about this.  I really like Jeff Bridges as an actor, but I just keep reviewing movies that he chose to act Dude-y in.  Because of that, I’m going to review True Grit tomorrow.  There’s no way I could call Rooster Cogburn similar to the Dude.  Garrett Hedlund didn’t really impress or disappoint.  I really liked Olivia Wilde’s Quorra character though.  It’s not the most revolutionary character for a girl to be cute, innocent, and naïve, but it’s a likeable character type.  And she’s hot, so she’s got that going for her.  I had thought myself so clever for saying that Michael Sheen’s Zuse character reminded me of David Bowie, but Wikipedia tells me that he based his performance on him.  Well fuck you too, Wikipedia!  I also really liked Anis Cheurfa as Rinzler.  His face was never seen and he didn’t need to act, but the capoeira fighting style was pretty awesome to watch.

Tron: Legacy is a really cool movie, and far superior to the original as far as I’m concerned.  Unlike the original, there is actual depth in the story, some emotional impact, and the action is much more interesting.  The original Tron only had the looking going for it, and this movie keeps that going and looks much better, though perhaps slightly less of an accomplishment in the style category.  I definitely recommend watching Tron: Legacy, and I think the only reason you might want to bother watching the original is because it helps you understand this movie.  Tron: Legacy gets “Bio-digital jazz, man” out of “You’re messing with my Zen thing, man.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Tron (1982)


Old Enough to Remember When the MCP Was Just a Chess Program

Fabio recommended that I review two movies today at work.  The first movie (today’s movie) is a science fiction classic from the early 80’s that I had never bothered to see until they released a sequel in 2010.  I felt like it was necessary to see the original before watching the sequel that had piqued my interest with its cool, stylish graphics.  And, since the first movie was known for its own cool, stylish graphics, I figured I’d be right on board with it.  As with most movies, before I review the sequel, I feel it’s necessary to review the original.  So here comes my review of the first Tron, written and directed by Steven Lisberger, and starring Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan, Dan Shor, Barnard Hughes, and Peter Jurasik.

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has been repeatedly trying to hack into the software of his former employer, ENCOM, looking for files that would prove that the current chairman of ENCOM, Ed Dillinger (David Warner), plagiarized several video games that Flynn created in order to rise to power in the company.  Flynn’s numerous attempts have failed so far, having been prevented by the artificial intelligence program that controls ENCOM’s mainframes, the Master Control Program.  Hearing about the attempted hacks, ENCOM employees Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) and Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan) go and see what Flynn is up to and agree to help him get what he needs.  Alan tells Flynn he needs to get his security program, Tron, away from the MCP and allow him to do his job.  While trying to forge higher clearance for himself, the MCP activates an experimental laser that turns Flynn into data and puts him into the ENCOM mainframe.  Now inside, he must meet up with the manifestation of Tron (Boxleitner) and take down the MCP so that he can make lots and lots of money.

It’s a little sad to say this, but this movie is more than a little overrated.  My opinion is not hindered by nostalgia as I didn’t see this movie in its entirety until 2010, but I feel sad about not liking it because it seems exactly like the type of movie I should like.  It’s science fiction and it’s set inside a video game.  What’s not to like?  The lackluster story, that’s what.  It’s just not very interesting.  The story has an interesting premise, but not an interesting story.  I like the idea of someone being turned into a computer program, but you then should have something happen.  You get a couple repeated scenes of a tank shooting at a flying upper-case M, then some people play Jai Alai to the death, some light cycle chasing, but none of it is particularly gripping.  I can’t really recall a time in the movie when I felt like Flynn was in danger, and without that it’s just a process of waiting for the hero to inevitably win.  The biggest issue with pacing I had was the moment when Yori, the female program, died … for 2 seconds.  What the hell is that, man?  She’s just standing in a room, the lights turn off, she swoons, but then Flynn catches her and she’s alive again.  My brain didn’t even have time to say, “What the hell just killed her?” before she was alive again.  The outcome of the movie also didn’t make any sense to me.  ::SPOILER ALERT::  Once the MCP is destroyed, Flynn returns to the real world and gets a printout that says Dillinger stole the program to the video games from Flynn, which he apparently uses to take control of the company again.  The problem with this is that I don’t know how a couple of words printed out on a dot matrix printer is proof.  I could print out a statement on a piece of paper that would look way more professional that could say, “Idea for the iPod.  Created by Robert Bicket.  Appropriated by Steve Jobs.  Give Robert lots and lots of money.”  I don’t feel entirely confident that this would convince anyone.  I’ll let you know what the outcome is.  After that, the full ending of the movie is completely lackluster as well.  Alan and Lora are waiting on the top of the ENCOM tower, Flynn arrives in a helicopter showing that he’s in control of the company (the piece of paper works!), and that’s it.  I suppose it’s a happy ending, but it’s entirely blasé.  ::END SPOILERS::

Some people actually find the story of this movie super amazing, but to me the only thing noteworthy about this movie is the look, and it is still very noteworthy.  By today’s standards, it’s not the most impressive thing in the world, but this movie was made in 1982.  At the time, this movie would’ve been mind-blowing.  I respect the movie for its visual accomplishments.  Though it’s something that I’m sure would not be hard to accomplish with today’s technology, it’s still awesome to look at and very stylized.  I’m sure the younger audience wouldn’t understand it, but I remember full well when video games looked like this, and they captured the video game feel very well.  I’ve played those little tank games, and I’ve played games like the light cycle battle, where you created a wall and tried to make your opponent crash into it before you did.  I remember it as a snake that kept getting larger, but it’s the same principle.

All of the performances in the movie were fine, but none of them really impressed either.  As it seems like the movie was more geared towards the younger audiences (and because it was a Disney movie) they never went for anything super heavy in the story, so the characters never really required any stretching of their acting chops.  Because of this, the only thing I could think to say about anyone in the cast was that Cindy Morgan looks like a nerdy Michelle Pfeiffer.  …That is all.

I found myself somewhat disappointed by the original Tron movie.  The premise of the movie is great, but problems with pacing and a misunderstanding of how to make scenes have impact made the movie somewhat boring and monotonous.  I would definitely agree that the look of the movie deserves all the praise in the world, pulling off a very cool and very stylish look with technology far inferior to that which is available today.  It’s cool enough, but nothing special beyond something cool to look at.  It’s a movie worth seeing once, but not worthy of that much acclaim.  Tron gets “If the Users can no longer help us, we’re lost” out of “End of line.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.