One word review: Meh…
Although I did like Olivia Wilde striking poses like this one the entire movie:
Yes, I’m serious. That is exactly my opinion of the new Tron movie. It was not great, but it wasn’t horrible either. It was just sort of empty. Devoid of deeper value and/or reflection. Granted, this is about as much I expected from this movie. Let’s face it, the original Tron movie was not a cinematographic masterpiece either. What it had going for it was an original idea and mind blowing visuals, but there was nothing spectacular about the plot. It was serviceable, but it was not why we all loved the movie. We loved it because of the light cycle races, the disk battles, the trippy aesthetic and that little floating bit. It made no sense for an actual bit to be that large, but whatever – I loved that thing.
The problem with making a sequel to a movie like Tron is that you can’t easily replicate it’s magic. Firstly, everyone already knows the story, so you are not going to get any points for an originality. But this is a problem of every sequel. Secondly, you can’t really wow the audiences with visuals anymore. At least not this audience member. These days every single movie looks great, and there is nothing to it. Special effects are so cheap these days that even low budget productions can look good. In fact, I expect spectacular effects when I sit down to watch a Hollywood blockbuster these days. And they barely register. Its just like with silent movies. Initially, watching a “talkie” was a mind blowing experience – but over the years we got used to it. That’s how I feel about computer generated special effects. The only time I tend to notice them is when they are bad.
Speaking of which, the only special effect I actually noticed in Tron: Legacy was the artificially regressed face of Jeff Bridges. Especially the part when it fell into the Uncanny Valley and stayed there for an entire movie. Honestly, I thought we sort of got this technology down. I vaguely remember noticing that Curious Case of Benjamin Button did fairly well regressing Brad Pitt to a teenager. But then again, it was less of a regression and they actually did not make him move or talk in that movie. The young version of Bridges is absolutely creepy, illustrating that we still haven’t figured out how to animate photo-realistic faces in a way that does not make them look like zombies.
Other than that, the look and feel of the movie is impeccable. The visual design team working on this project pulled quite a feat: they managed to jazz up the classic Tron style, while maintaining it’s spirit and core design ideas. So the movie looks great, but that means absolutely nothing to me. You don’t get points for that. You loose points if your effects look like crap, but you get nothing for flawless execution. Sorry, it is 2011 – that’s how we roll now.
You do get points for using actual POSIX commands though. I appreciate that.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say that perhaps the Hollywood is finally learning how to portray technology. I think this is a third or fourth movie I have seen this year, that actually managed not to make me cringe every time a computer display was on the screen. I’m pretty sure this is just a coincidence though.
I also appreciate Olivia Wilde’s character. Not that she really did much in the movie, no. But I loved every second she was in the picture. There is just something about such impish, playful pixie characters tat gets me every time.
Anyways, my opinion on this movie was going to hinge on the plot. That was the only thing that could make it or break it. I’m glad to report, the plot is not broken. It is serviceable. But it is not spectacular either. It is a few grades above your typical Michael Bay style mush, but it does not take you anywhere interesting. It’s a simple fast paced action adventure, just like the original. Nothing more.
Jeff Bridges goes missing one day, and after many years his son finds his gear and ends up inside the Grid. He finds out that his father was trapped in the system by a program created to manage the Grid in his absence. Instead a benevolent manager, it turned into an iron fist dictator bent on destroying all imperfections, forcing the original Bridges to go into hiding. Once the father and son are reunited, they hatch an escape plan and make haste for the exit, before it closes down forever. And there is much fan service to be had along the way.
It works, it is entertaining, it looks good – but at the end of the day, nothing really interesting happens. There is just nothing memorable about this movie other than the cameo by Daft Punk (who provided the excellent sound track) and a brief but energetic performance by Michael Sheen. His character is possibly the only named entity on the Grid that is not uniformly bland and one dimensional, but of course it is discarded with extreme haste as soon as it shows up.
To sum things up, here is the list of good things in Tron Legacy:
- Awesome sound track by Daft Punk
- Olivia Wilde playing a magic pixie action girl
- Michael Sheen doing… Whatever the hell he was doing…
- Costume design, and special effects I guess – they look great but that is to be expected
Other than that, it is an entirely forgettable but pleasant experience.