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Monday, December 27, 2010
A Tale of Two Trons
The thing about Tron, is that like the cyberpunk work of the legendary William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, contemporary to the flick, it's an idea, a fictional concept, that has been washed away by reality. The world of 'the grid' is over, like the rocketships and rayguns of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, it no longer even makes sense. That doesn't mean I didn't like it, or this sequel, mind you, it just raises the suspension of disbelief a hundredfold is all. Trust me - Gibson, Sterling, Rogers and Gordon all still rock my world in a major way - it's just harder to do these days.
What I remember and respect most about the original Tron is its simplicity of style. A true grid world accessible and relatable to the videogames of the time was realized and endeared itself to a generation. That's a real feat. It was visually exciting and forward-thinking for its time, and even today remains a very unique vision, separating it from much of its science fiction competition.
I also remember the music, a Journey song "Only Solutions," that I liked - at a time when I wasn't all that fond of Journey. Of course, life with The Bride has changed that. I like Journey and she likes comics - the concessions of love. The soundtrack however was mostly composed by the wonderful Wendy Carlos (formerly Walter Carlos), one of the first musicians to seriously work with the synthesizer as the next wave in sound. The soundtrack is memorable for that sound. Daft Punk more than does the job for the new century in the sequel. I recommend both soundtracks highly.
If 1982's Tron posits a world called The Grid where programs compete in videogames for their users, the sequel Tron: Legacy represents a current day return to that world. Shortly after the events of the first movie, Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges, makes it big in the computer and videogame industry, and then after beginning to act erratically, disappears, leaving his son, Sam, alone.
Sam gets a page from his Dad and returns to Dad's arcade, and in a flourish of 1980s nostalgia, punctuated by vintage videogames, Eurythmics music, as well as Journey, in a nod to this film's predecessor, he ends up in The Grid. This is a much darker Grid, and a world that exhibits every strength today's CGI special effects can avail. In this, the hype is true. This is the movie that 3D and IMAX were made for, it's just a shame that not all of it is in 3D. As cool as these visuals are, the half 3D, half 2D of it damages it. All or nothing, I say.
As I said, this is a very dark film. Dark in the same way Disney's Return to Oz was to MGM's The Wizard of Oz, so in some ways it's not a good thing. The idea of a sequel to Tron is essentially a return to a world of wonder, a world of adventure, a world we enjoyed. This new fascist Grid, under the thumb of Flynn's evil computer counterpart Clu is not a happy place. The problem, spoiler alert, is that even though the good guys win at the end, we never actually see anything but the bad place.
Rather than this dark vision with spectacular effects, I think I would have much rather seen a remake. It's been almost thirty years after all, and one of the legitimate reasons to remake a film is that the special effects have gotten better - and they surely have. The Light Cycles are amazing and realistic. The Recognizers are gigantic and menacing. And Clu, wow, let me tell you about Clu. Clu is a haunting CGI effect of the younger Jeff Bridges from 1982. This 'effect' is both stunning and disturbing.
Cast-wise, it's fun to see Bruce Boxleitner as Alan once again, Garret Hedlund is promising in his first major role, and Olivia Wilde is definitely someone to watch. Jeff Bridges, mostly as his older current age self, is the unfortunate weak link. He seems to channel The Dude from The Big Lebowski to the point of ridiculousness. While humorous, it pulls me completely out of the film whenever he does it. And it even ruins the strong dramatic moments like when he finally connects with his estranged son. Sorry, The Dude is one of my heroes, but he doesn't belong in Tron.
Like Avatar, this is a film you must see for the special effects at least once. In this case, the 3D and the IMAX are worth it, even though I have railed against their cost and worth before. It seems to be doing well so I suppose a sequel is possible - maybe we'll see more of Dillinger's kid, which I'm sure all the Tron nerds wanted as well. Despite my reservations, Tron: Legacy is recommended, and don't forget to check out the original too, first if possible.