Tron: Legacy

One word review: Meh…

Although I did like Olivia Wilde striking poses like this one the entire movie:

Tron: the best parts

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.

Welcome to the uncanny valley!

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.

This is Unix! I know this!

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.

More Unix

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.

Magic pixie action girl

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.

Daft Punk cameo

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.

I don't even...

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.

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7 Responses to Tron: Legacy

  1. Chris UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    If you look closely at the first computer terminal screenshot, you’ll see that it is actually a modern Emacs buffer. Another shot from the same scene shows he was also playing Emacs tetris and running the Towers of Hanoi clock for some reason, even though he was in a hurry.

    In your second screenshot from later in the movie he’s supposed to be on an old 80’s computer there, running what is meant to look like SunOS (“SolarOS”). However, it’s running on an i386 (wouldn’t happen in that era) and it’s running Xorg, which wouldn’t exist for more than a decade (2004). A couple of tiny mistakes, if you want to count them as that — but you could say it’s tall taking place in a parallel universe where these aren’t anachronistic. I really like that they were pretty careful with all these details.

    reddit post about this

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  2. ido Google Chrome Linux says:

    Regarding using actual linux commands and creating the sfx on Tron: Legacy, here is a very good article from one of the movie’s sfx guys:
    Where he talks on how it was important for them to keep the “digital culture” true to form.

    Regarding the movie itself,
    I agree with your “Meh”, Tron got zero points from me on the plot but it got major point on the use of music and visuals. without the music and visuals, the movie wouldn’t be worth the watch, but with it, it has some value.

    I don’t agree with you on not getting points over visuals, for most movies, yes – there is a constant climb in visual effects, a constant climb with a very gentle slope. But every once and a while, comes a movie that raises the bar. The first Matrix did it with the “Bullet Time” effect and Avatar did it with the usage of 3d. now I’m not saying that Tron had the same game-changing effect, but it certainly had one of the best aesthetics I’ve ever seen on film, way above the current level in films – it had the “wow” factor, and it should get credit for that.

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  3. Gothmog UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    I, too, agree with the ‘meh’.

    I saw the movie in IMAX 3D, and I have to give it this- the collusion of:
    1.) Incredible soundtrack
    2.) Impressive visual effects
    3.) and most importantly- a set of understated 3D effects
    Really stood out to me. It’s truly tragic they didn’t do more with the plot- they certainly could have.

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  4. Sean UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux says:

    I’d actually have to disagree. While I definitely agree that the plot was clearly ‘meh’, every other aspect of the movie was amazing. I usually don’t forgive movies so easily for not having a good plot but the music, visuals and overall style more than make up for it. It’s one thing for a movie to have good special effects (something which I would usually ignore too) but it’s another thing for them to be so stylized and artfully executed. Definitely take a look at the link that ido posted. It shows just how clever and artistic the effects were and this is only the work of one effects group.

    Also Olivia Wilde was extremely hot in the movie which may play a disproportionately large part in my opinion of the movie, haha.

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  5. nitro2k01 SWEDEN Mozilla Firefox Mac OS Terminalist says:

    More UNIX talk…


    Wa-it! \x2f, isn’t that… Yeah, it’s the humble slash, escaped. What’s going on there?

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  6. Tino UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    I agree on the ‘meh’.

    What really irked me as I watched the scene in your 4:th picture: Who in their right mind would look at that ‘history’ output and then immediately rerun the last command, rather than first check out the contents of ‘last_will_and_testament.txt’? I mean, seriously? Make me believe that if you find your missing fathers hidden ancient computer, and see that file being edited a few commands up, your first response is not to check it out?

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  7. Ron NEW ZEALAND Mozilla Linux says:

    While I agree that the plot wasnt amazing, but not every movie has to have the best plot ever, sometimes just enjoyable is good (that being a combo of things naturally) . The visuals were pretty amazing to me. Out of curiosity what where the movies involving tech that you didnt cringe with. Im guessing one will be Social Network

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