Had a chance to see this last night at the Imax theater. IF you do want to see it, I would definitely say Imax is the way to do it. Review is listed below, let me know what you think
TRON: Legacy Director Joseph Kosinski, starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde
There were only a few movies this year that I felt I had to see on the big screen. TRON: Legacy was one of them. In order to provide a little perspective on why this was so important for me to see, allow me to talk a little bit about the first TRON film. To be honest, it was not a great movie. It was a bit of a variation on an Alice in Wonderland theme and the acting was a bit over the top. In spite of that, the movie was, to me, magical, because it captured a time and a culture so perfectly.
I was one of those kids who did not have a lot (OK, any) friends and spent much of my free time on weekends at arcades in local malls. That was my social activity. Not that I ever talked to anyone, but simply being around other people was comforting to me, even if I could not really talk with people. I had seen other films that blew me away, but TRON was the first movie that really spoke to me and captured my world. It took me to a place I had always imagined, being inside a video game, and made it seem accessible. I believe I started writing programs in BASIC within a couple of weeks of seeing the film and I strongly suspect that many others had a similar reaction.
The new film is well named, because it continues the Legacy of the previous film and enhances it. The story is a straightforward one, with the son of the protagonist from the first film sucked into the digital world, searches for his father and confronts a program that is trying to control the entire Grid. That is the big picture, on a smaller scale there are many more interesting subplots.
One of the aspects of the film that I enjoyed the most was that it was both nostalgic and very current. The nostalgic part of me loved seeing that old arcade and hearing Journey’s “Separate Ways” while the nearly 40 year old understood the dilemma of Jeff Bridges’ character of Flynn extremely well. While portrayed as a savior by some and a villain by others in the film, the truth is he is just a flawed man. He kept searching for perfection and in that quest he began neglecting his son, Sam.
Even before Flynn is sucked into the digital world, there were hints that he was not an attentive father. Flynn leaves Sam with his parents while he goes out on his nightly excursions. During his final talk with Sam before Flynn disappears for 20 years, Sam seems desperate to connect and spend more time with his father.
Flynn becomes trapped in the digital world when a program called CLU he created to help him create a perfect environment takes it programs too literally and takes over the Grid. The film implies that part of the reason CLU may have taken over was out of a sense of jealousy over his creator’s relationship with his son, and it also was looking for more attention.
Bridges does a marvelous job in this role. The viewer feels the regret Flynn has over mistakes in his past, done with only the best intentions, coming back to destroy him. He feels torn in that he is trying desperately to protect Sam from CLU, while also not wanting to end the life of his other creation. The one blemish on Bridges work as Flynn was that it felt like he was channeling the Dude from “The Big Lebowski” a bit too closely at times. On the whole, however, this was an amazing performance.
There was a lot of buzz around Bridges also playing CLU, and having his face digitally de-aged. This did not work as well for me. The director tries to keep CLU’s face in profile, or partially obscured, but even then it looked artificial and was distracting to me. In one of the final scenes you see CLU’s face in a close up shot and at that point the visual distortions became very noticeable. The technology has moved far ahead of the dead eyes seen in the Polar Express, but it is not to the point yet where there is a seamless integration of digital mapping within a film.
One aspect of this movie that I enjoyed was that it knows its place within a certain subsection of the population and made a ton of cultural references. Iconic geek films like War Games, 2001 (particularly the dinner scene), Star Wars and the Matrix are all referenced pretty obviously and the proprietor of a club within the Grid is an homage to David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust days.
Another part of the movie that deserves praise is the soundtrack. Daft Punk created the score and, even though I am not a fan of electronic music, did a fantastic job. The music really helped to establish the tone for the film and in certain scenes, especially in the nightclub, dialogue was not even needed as the music described the situation perfectly.
The original TRON was a pretty revolutionary film visually and conceptually. I doubt this film will have the same impact but it is many ways a better film. The theme of the film is contained in its title: Legacy. How we choose to impact our world, be it through a child or trying to better it in some way, is one of the most important decisions we can make as a human being. Flynn makes some rational choices that have horrific consequences, loses then reconciles with his son, and finally finds redemption. The legacy he chose to leave was that of having a son who can continue the work he began. This is a very satisfying ending to a story almost 30 years in the making. Highly recommended.
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