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Tron Legacy

A 2010 movie directed by Joseph Kosinski.

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Back To The Future, 1982 (and 1928) style.

  • Dec 6, 2010
Tough gig, you would think, reprising a film that sank almost without trace 28 years ago. But Tron sank in heavy seas: it was released within a month of Stephen Spielberg's E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial and a fortnight of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, both by common consent amongst the inner circle of all-time science fiction greatness, and against both it does seem rather a pale facsimile. Yet it does have its adherents: it picked up and kept a cult following, some of whose membership were in evidence at the London première of its long awaited (by them) sequel, Tron: Legacy, still toting their original 1982 Tron tee-shirts etc. 1982's Tron did have Jeff Bridges, these days a much-loved elder statesman of dudeness even if, in 1982, The Big Lebowski was still a decade and a half away. In any case, it still had enough of a pulse to dare Disney to get out the CPR machine.

The thing is, if anything, Tron was the visionary film of those three. William Gibson cites it as an influence for his seminal 1984 novel Neuromancer, and its parallels with the Matrix and Terminator franchises are plain to see. This was the direction Science Fiction was destined to take, and for all its historical consequence, E.T. didn't leave much of a legacy.

Twenty eight years later, another 80s blockbuster that looms large is Back to the Future. Jeff Bridges has been remade as a digital avatar of his former self, and appears not only as the grizzled country and western singer we now know and love, but as his 35 year old alter-ego on the Grid, Clu. For the spods amongst us, that in itself is enough of a reason to turn up, and it's no surprise to hear they've done an incredible job on this. It is genuinely eerie: it's just about discernible that this is a computer regeneration, but it's hard to put a finger on how. It was enough to have me wondering whether the Screen Actor's Guild should go on strike about this, and conclude that they'd better not, because the eggheads would be able to cope without them.

As is sadly de rigueur these days Tron: Legacy is in 3D, though not always: the first scenes of the film, set in real-life 1989 were not, and I opted to take my foggy little spectacles off. That I would not recommend though, because as Sam Flynn goes into the grid we are magically transported into 3D in a reveal not unlike the bursting Technicolor of the Wizard of Oz, and this is worth seeing.

Still, I am sick of 3D, sick of the extortionate prices cinemas think they can charge for it, and I hope we'll get over this fad soon and go back to making good old fashioned 2D films where director concentrate on dramatic, rather than visual, extravagance.

That's not to deny the importance of visual design, of course, which is so spectacular in this film that it would almost succeed on production design alone. Tron: Legacy is a truly wonderful film to look at and there were occasional breath-taking tableaux which, in my frame of reference, handsomely outdid anything the saccharine day-glo of Avatar could muster.

The visual scheme is matched by the audio one. Daft Punk (who make a cameo appearance) have picked the musical vibe exquisitely: somewhere between the pulsing electronica of Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene and the icy square-wave soundscapes of Vangelis, but with a rocking beat. It is hard to overstate how important the soundtrack is here: I've tried and failed to get to grips with Daft Punk before, but this one puts them into a new space.

So to the drama. Now there are parts of the screenplay (and Tron's, er, legacy) that aren't a million miles away from preposterous farce. Debutant director Joe Kosinski's achievement is, as the saying goes, to have the courage to change those things he can, the patience to accept those he can't, and the wisdom to know the difference. Given how seriously the film takes itself - there is absolutely no self-aware sniggering going on here of the sort you'd expect as the standard issue post-ironic response to the silly old eighties - it is all the more an achievement that Kosinski gets away with it. He's helped ineffably by Jeff Bridges, given these days to lampooning himself (in the 20 years he's been on the grid Kevin Flynn has amalgamated with The Dude, and the Dude has come out on top), and who brings some mystic, bearded Zen magic to the picture. Star Wars is visually checked on a number of occasions, not the least by Bridges' hessian hooded Alex Guinness rendition.

Sure, Tron: Legacy calls to mind the Matrix, Blade Runner and Terminator (but no more than these films call to mind Tron) but somehow something more subtle is being said. Here I think we are helped, rather than hindered, by Tron's hokey original premise (being one of the facets Kosinski definitely could not change). Because the film's set up is so nonsensical and (contrary to Matrix) no time is invested in explaining it - how or why, for example, a human could wind up in a computer or why, if those MacGuffin Frisbee things are so important, it would ever be a good idea to throw them around like laser boomerangs - the viewer is left with no choice but to accept the basic resting-state absurdity of the platform and simply engage in the film itself. And this is really fun to do.

It isn't perfect, then, and thereby hangs the tale: this is the very point. (Tron: Legacy repeatedly curls back on itself like this - I am still turning such things over in my mind 24 hours later). The film's moral is that striving for perfection in itself is quixotic: perfection is unknowable, unattainable, and fractal: no amount of additional detail, analysis or processing power will get you to a place which simply can't exist in the first place, and the assumption that it can - and its quest - is in itself destructive and damaging.

Here, again, Tron: Legacy arcs back, reflexively on itself like a screaming lightcycle. For the grid is near perfection, but it's an empty, barren, cold and heartless place. The enhanced digital wizardry updates and supercharges the original, but never loses that anachronistic vision of the future from 1982 (in this way, really taking us back to the future). Once upon a time it seemed cool to think that the future would be all polished chrome, neon and rectangles - that dust and decay would be banished. Indeed, as a vision of the future, that takes us back further yet: for all the resemblance Tron: Legacy has to the Matrix and Terminator (and, as noted, that's a two-way street), the film whose spirit it summons most notably is Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

Truly back to the future, then: the *real* feel of the future, but as apprehended in 1982 (or even 1928): a glacial, angular, geometric dystopia of black, chrome and white neon. Nowhere is this more prominent than in the film's one moment of light relief: a cameo by British actor Michael Sheen who, having recently played Tony Blair and David Frost, seems himself to have been playing with Marty McFly's De Lorean, and has brought to the screen a white-washed character that is one part Ziggy Stardust, one part Frank-N-Furter, one part Gary Numan (and a dash of Godzilla for all the scenery he chews). It isn't entirely clear what else he's there for - there are shades of the Merovingian in him, too, come to think of it - other than to nudge the plot towards its denouement but again, there's enough going on (and he's funny enough) that it really doesn't matter.

If there are false steps they are towards the end, which gravitates towards a needlessly Spielbergian apocalyptic climax which the film really doesn't need, and there was probably a spaceship dogfight too many (again, so much Star Wars), but along the way there are so many beautiful scenes, and the production design is so impressive, that I still left the theatre blown away by the whole experience. None of the other big budget sci-fis of recent times have captured the thrill of that post-Lucas "Golden Age" of science fiction quite like this.

Olly Buxton

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December 22, 2010
Hello, Olly! Great review and thanks for posting this under the Movie Hype flag! I wasn't very impressed with this film but I liked the way you broke down its devices and premise. Thanks for sharing!
More TRON: Legacy reviews
review by . December 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Uninspired, Unimpressive, Dull And Redundant
Every once in awhile, we get to see a film aimed at displaying the latest advancements in movie magic. Movies such as this prove to be simple escapist entertainment that is meant to take the viewer along for its ride, and not much else. However, I think escapist entertainment is just another excuse of a mediocre film, since movies such as “The Matrix”, the anime “Spirited Away” and even the recently released “Inception” have managed to impress with a compelling …
review by . December 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Reviewing Tron Legacy is hard.  It is not a bad movie by any means but as I watched and observed it seemed as though there was something missing.  Along those lines it's not that Tron Legacy has nothing to offer, it's more that it's a movie that offers little more than it's own visually stimulation.  This wouldn't be bad at all IF Tron Legacy didn't try so hard to try to say something.  And we'll get to that.      By watching the …
review by . January 05, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I never thought I would like this movie so much
“Tron Legacy eh? Isn’t Tron that weird old movie with the terrible computer graphics?”      Those were my first words when I heard of this movie. I remember watching Tron as a kid it came on the Disney Channel one day while watching I thought it was the coolest and weirdest thing ever. Obviously as a 9 year old kid I was really only watching it for the Light Cycle battles. I saw bits and pieces of it again a few years ago on TV I was channel surfing between …
review by . December 18, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
**1/2 out of ****      2010 seems to be a huge year for sequels. Long-awaited sequels in particular. First, we got "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps". Then we get "Tron: Legacy". So how has "Tron" aged in 30 years? Somewhat well. The sequel isn't half bad either, and in all respect it is every bit as average as the original. In an attempt to get an actual audience this time around, the filmmakers decided to have Jeff Bridges reprise his role as …
review by . June 08, 2011
Let's be clear on something here, just to be sure we understand: The original Tron was NOT about characters or plot! Never, ever! It really wasn't - it was written and directed with every intention of being an excuse to show off Disney's new-fangled array of whiz-bang special effects. Although the special effects in the original Tron look badly dated by today's standards, back then they were a revolution, with Disney ushering in the official age of computer effects and using Tron as a way to intimidate …
review by . December 21, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   Ok, so it’s been almost a full day since I saw this movie and I’ve had to spend quite a lot of time, much more than usual, sorting out what I thought and what I wanted to write about it. The plot is pretty basic. The 1989 version of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), disappears. Twenty years later his son (Garrett Hedlund), goes looking for him. He gets sucked into the computer world where an evil program, Clu (Jeff Bridges), is masterminding a plot to take over the real world. …
review by . December 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   This time last year, almost to the day, James Cameron’s Avatar was released to fantastic reviews and an accolade of awards, leaving just as many viewers saying “meh” as there were praising it as “the best movie of all time”. I’ll admit I was one of the viewers in the middle. It’s not a bad film, in fact its visual flair and ambition are the best things about it, but it’s not a film I would consider a front runner for Best Picture, an …
review by . December 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
      This is a very ambiguous movie if you're trying to contemplate about it too much. It may appear to be a groundbreaking science fiction but it also may look like another pale blockbuster saved only by the visual effects. I'm not one of those Tron fanboys and I will not criticize the movie just for fun but I need to say that this film lacks in substance. You don't need to see the first movie to really connect the stories because there's an intro and many references …
review by . December 20, 2010
Tron: Legacy is a slicker, sexier, and faster movie than its predecessor - which for a movie about the digital world, makes perfect sense.      I took two of my daughters with me to see it, one of whom is just a couple years older than I was when I saw the original Tron, eons ago. I remember getting lost in the idea of a world inside the computer, programs represented as individuals, digital pathways traveled like roads, and games where the stakes were more real than I had ever …
review by . December 18, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Is it wrong of me to prefer logic over spectacle? Did I miss the point when I left “Tron: Legacy” feeling it was a monumental failure as a story? If I’m to continue with this review, I must first make it clear that I don’t see the “Tron” films in the same way a lot of people do. I don’t believe they deserve praise simply for their innovative special effects; I personally require an engaging plot, character development, and the sense that it’s operating …
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Olly Buxton ()
Member Since: Sep 26, 2009
Last Login: Dec 22, 2010 09:37 PM UTC
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“Tron: Legacy” is a 3D high-tech adventure set in a digital world that’s unlike anything ever captured on the big screen. Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), looks into his father’s disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 25 years. Along with Kevin’s loyal confidant (Olivia Wilde), father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous.Poster art for "Tron: Legacy 3D"
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Director: Joseph Kosinski
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: December 17, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 2 hr. 7 min
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
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