Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Review: Tron Legacy

Tron: Legacy   (2010)

Why do people go to see films that they know they're not going to like?  Why do they go to ones that they know will be loud, overlong, inane, and flat-out boring?  More important, why do they do so by shelling out a premium price for a 3D Imax show just so they can pay for the privilege of wearing silly glasses and getting sick headaches? The only greater mystery is why studios insist on dropping a fortune on overblown remakes to films that were fairly dreadful the first time around.

Such is the case of Tron: Legacy, which I saw the other night.  In my defence, I must point out that I didn't go voluntarily.  I wasn't kidnapped at gunpoint, dumped into the boot of a large American sedan and forced into the cinema.  No, I was there because it was the centrepiece of a Christmas party with some friends and I got voted down on my idea of popping in a DVD of Die Hard.  Instead, I found myself not just at a screening of Tron: Legacy, not only a 3D screening, but a 3D Imax screening, which I presumed would involve a man in the corner throwing oranges at me.

 The original Tron in 1982 wasn't that great a movie.  In fact, it was pretty dreadful.  I was in postgraduate school then where I spent some of my time learning such stone age programming languages as BASIC and FORTRAN.  Tron with its story about a man trapped inside a computer was hard enough for a layman to understand, but if you had any knowledge about how computers actually operate, it was downright confusing.  Granted, it did boast some cutting-edge computer animation, but it hardly made up for the appalling dialogue, the Star Wars-derived plot, and the late-disco colour scheme.  On the plus side, it took its fantasy world seriously enough to remain consistent, but it never took the whole enterprise at all seriously, so I never felt like taking a critical hammer to it. It was '80s fluff and that was that.

Jump to 2010 and we have a belated sequel that is so predictable that five minutes in I knew the entire plot.  It was also so padded and ran so long that the boredom of knowing what was going to happen five minutes ahead of time was now 20 minutes ahead.

The plot?  It hardly bears relating.  Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), our hero from the first film, mysteriously disappears in 1989, leaving his company to his seven-year old son Sam.  Twenty years later, Sam is a poor rich kid who fills his evening dramatically breaking into his own company headquarters and stealing the firm's new operating system so he can post it on the Internet instead of letting his evil executives evilly sell it for evil profits.  Why he doesn't just walk in and ask them to hand over the file instead of base jumping off of his own skyscraper is never explained.

Anyway, the elder Flynn's best friend played by Bruce Boxleitner gets a page from the abandoned video arcade that Flynn used to run.  In a secret office in the arcade Flynn secondus finds a computer that when he boots it up shoots a dirty big laser at his back and blasts a hole in his chest.  I wish.  No, it transports him to the Grid, a virtual computer world that looked as if Flynn primus spent too much time watching Bladerunner on HBO.  There young Flynn discovers that the Grid is ruled by a computer avatar of his father that is bent on world conquest and so Flynn must find his father with the aid of a mysterious beautiful girl who... I can't  go on.  It's a plot that I'd call boilerplate except that's an insult to the creativity of boilerplate writing.

The special effects are very impressive, yes.  They are, however, utterly ineffective.  Scenes that impress for thirty seconds go on for ten minutes and the fact that all of them are just bigger, louder versions of scenes from the first film doesn't help.  Disc battle with glowing rings becomes disc battle with jangly fragments.  Light cycle races become jumping light cycle races. Flying gossamer thingies become flying gossamer thingies.  Big U-shaped things become big U-shaped things with jets.  Wow.

As to characters, I have rarely seen such a waste of space.  Our hero played by Garrett Hedlund is so flat, so lacking in any real motivation that you forget he's there even when he's the only one on screen.  Olivia Wilde is very pretty to look at, but her Chosen One/apprentice/love interest character is so muddled that she comes across as a Goth Princess Leia.  And poor Jeff Bridges, who plays both a surfer Obi Wan and a CGI Darth Vader, is lumbered with a raft of exposition so large that one of our party went to the gents, came back, and hadn't noticed he'd missed a second of the film.  I won't even go into the details of the "Stare in awe at my 'pull my finger!'" moment.

The only bright spot was Michael Sheen playing Joel Gray playing Sidney Greenstreet.  He at least injects some fun into his performance, but it goes on for far too long and in the end he's left with shameless scenery gnawing to kill time.

But the greatest sympathy is for Bruce Boxleitner as the voice of the title character Tron, who has been corrupted into becoming the villain's baddie enforcer in a jumpsuit and racing helmet that made me think, "All we know is, he's not the Stig, but he is the Stig's digital cousin!"  He has almost no lines, jumps about a lot, and has unexplained changes of character that only occur because "it's in the script."

In the end, it's too long, too loud, too slow, and pays too much solemn "homage" (gads, I loathe that world) to a fluffy film from a previous generation that neither asked for nor deserves such a dark, self-concious effort.

The sixpence version:  When a cameo by Daft Punk upstages everyone else, you're in real trouble.

Reposted from Ephemeral Isle.

1 comment:

  1. When I saw the advance publicity on this one, and remembering how much I disliked the original, which I found outstandingly muddled and boring (even with the novelization to help explain things), I immediately filed it as one for my modern movie SOP;

    1. Wait for it to hit DVD.

    2. Wait for the DVD to sell through at my local rental place.

    3. Buy it for about the usual rental fee.

    In this case, mainly to freeze-frame on Olivia Wilde in her skintight catsuit. The rest of the movie doesn't even qualify as a good cure for insomnia as compared to, say, "The Mothman Prophecies", which invariably puts me to sleep about 45 minutes in.