CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: TRON: LEGACY (2010)
by Michael Arruda
MA: L.L.? You here?
(Suddenly, a video game moves aside, and behind the game, a secret door opens. MA enters the passageway and discovers a secret office. There’s a photo of L.L. SOARES on the desk, and someone has scribbled a mustache, beard, and devil horns over his image. A note is attached. MA reads note aloud.)
MA (reading note): “I’ve entered a video game world. If I’m not back in the office by the time you get here, review the movie without me. Signed, L.L. PS: If I’m not back by the time you finish the review, you might want to come looking for me.” (MA puts note away.)
MA: Yeah, right. It’s just the kind of practical joke he’d pull, and I’m not falling for it. Yep, I can just see L.L. pretending to be stuck in a video game world, and I’m supposed to follow him to help him out. I’m sure it’s some sort of trap.
Still, I wouldn’t want to review these movies alone every weekend. Oh well. I’ll worry about that later. I have a movie to review. Well, folks, it’s just me today.
(A bright light suddenly fills the office. MA covers his eyes but then walks towards the light. He suddenly finds himself inside a remarkable video world. A CGI L.L. SOARES stands in front of him, with the tall, athletic body of a marine.)
MA: Whoa! Who the hell are you? Is that you, L.L?
CGI LS: No. I am not LL Soares. I am— TORN.
TORN: Torn between ripping your heart out or his.
MA: Oka-ay. This might be tricky. Well, Torn, you think you could put off your decision for a little while? I’ve got a movie to review here.
TORN: After I get what I want.
MA: What do you want?
TORN: I am seeking imperfection. I need to leave my world and enter yours.
MA: Is that all? You can step right through that door behind me. Wait a minute. Unleashing you into the real world probably isn’t the best idea. Um, have you ever listened to a movie review before?
MA: Pull up a chair. I’m going to review TRON: LEGACY. Why don’t you stay a while and listen, okay? Don’t worry. It won’t take too long.
(To audience) TRON: LEGACY (2010) is the big budget sequel to TRON (1982), a movie that was pretty much a flop when it was released, which begs the question, why make a sequel, especially nearly 30 years later? And the answer of course is the technology exists today to make the world of TRON look even better than it did in 1982, and here in 2010 it can even be done in 3D. I know, it could have been done in 3D back in 1982 too, but back then there wasn’t a 3D movie coming out every week! Jeesh! I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to reach my saturation point where 3D movies are concerned.
TORN: Saturation point?
MA: I wasn’t talking to you. I’m talking to the audience.
TORN: I don’t see an audience.
MA: They’re out there, believe me. Keep staring at the wall, and concentrate very hard.
TORN: Then I’ll see the audience?
MA: Sure, but you have to stare for a good long time. Sometimes it takes hours. You’d better get started. (Smirks at camera) Okay. Back to the movie.
Better special effects are the main reason for the existence of TRON: LEGACY. It certainly isn’t because there’s more of the story to tell.
Which brings me to my next point, and that is, you can have all the special effects in the world in your movie, but unless you have a good story, chances are your movie’s not going to be so great. The story here in TRON: LEGACY is average at best, and it certainly isn’t operating at as high a level as the effects in this flick.
The movie opens with a flashback, as a young Kevin Flynn—a CGI version of Jeff Bridges which makes him look like one of the passengers on THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004)— talks to his young son Sam about all the exciting work he’s been doing with his video game network, and how he promises to share this work with his son. He tucks his son into bed, and then promptly disappears.
The action switches to 20 years later, as the video empire Flynn had built is now run by shareholders who don’t share Flynn’s vision, of course. Flynn’s friend and loyal business partner Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) tries to convince the now adult Sam (Garrett Hedlund) to run his father’s company, but Sam’s just not that interested. Anyway, Alan tells Sam he received a text from his long missing dad, and it came from his dad’s old office.
Curious, Sam visits the now closed arcade and discovers a secret entrance behind the TRON video game, which leads him to his father’s private office. Sam discovers this secret entrance with such ease, it begs the question, if everyone and their grandmother had been searching for the missing Kevin Flynn the past 20 years, wouldn’t someone have stumbled upon this entrance as well? I didn’t find this very realistic.
With just as much ease, Sam discovers a portal into the world of Tron, and suddenly he’s inside the network described to him by his dad twenty years before. For the record, all the scenes before Sam enters the network world are NOT in 3D. I’m sure this is supposed to serve as a WIZARD OF OZ moment—remember how Kansas is in black and white, and when Dorothy sets foot in Oz it’s in color? — and yes the visuals are dazzling here when Sam enters this world, but all I kept thinking was I had to pay extra money for these 3D glasses, and the first 20 minutes or so aren’t even in 3D? I don’t think theater patrons in 1939 paid extra for their WIZARD OF OZ tickets because the film was in color!
Anyway, Sam enters this world, and he immediately finds himself having to fight for his life in duels to the death with video game beings. Before you get too excited, remember this film is produced by Disney.
TORN: I hate Disney.
MA: Well, at least you have that in common with your human counterpart. He hates Disney too.
(MICKEY MOUSE suddenly skips into the room holding a glow-in-the-dark ray gun.)
MICKEY MOUSE: Hello, everybody! How are you all doing? Are you enjoying our 3D video game world?
TORN: Die, rat! (Pulls out ray gun and blasts MICKEY into smithereens.)
MA: A chip off the old block. As I was saying, this movie was produced by Disney, which means these duels to the death have more in common with kids fare like SPY KIDS 3-D GAME OVER (2003) than movies like TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009) and RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (2010), two films that also did a good job creating fantasy worlds yet were hard-hitting and adult. Don’t expect any intense action sequences here. Heck, even AVATAR (2009) had more of an edge than this movie.
Sam survives these duels and is then brought to Clu (Jeff Bridges, again via CGI), and he immediately mistakes Clu for his father, since he looks just like a younger version of his dad, but Clu isn’t Kevin Flynn. He’s his father’s creation, and he’s seeking perfection, which is why he’s hell bent on destroying all imperfection inside this virtual world, but this isn’t enough for Clu. He wants to expand to the real world, and wipe out all the imperfection there, which of course means the human race, since we humans are obviously imperfect. Sounds like a job for Captain Kirk and friends. The story does play out like an elongated STAR TREK episode. I can see Spock now, defending Clu’s idealism, while Dr. McCoy rips into his pointy-eared friend, arguing that the idealism he’s defending is about to wipe out the human race.
Sam is then rescued from Clu’s clutches by Quorra (Olivia Wilde) who takes Sam to his dad, the now much older Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges, sans CGI). There’s a happy father/son reunion, and Kevin explains that he’s been trapped there for the past 20 years, hiding from Clu, who took his program too far, seeking out perfection at all costs.
Kevin explains that in this virtual world he had discovered an entire new race of beings, a new life form born in the virtual world, but Clu saw these beings as imperfect and sought to exterminate them, causing a mass genocide. Clu also killed Tron (a CGI Bruce Boxleitner – who we saw as Alan in this movie!).
Kevin has been hiding from Clu, because he has in his possession a disc that will enable Clu to enter the real world, which Kevin wants to prevent at all costs. So, it’s up to Kevin and Sam to stop Clu and save the world.
This story just didn’t wow me. It lacked bite, and it never drew me in. This surprised me because it was written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Hororwitz, two writers who worked on the TV series LOST. TRON: LEGACY has none of the creative touches found in that show.
Part of this is that the main characters aren’t that exciting. Garrett Hedlund as Sam Flynn, the main character and hero, is very ordinary and dull. He doesn’t do anything to distinguish himself, to make him stand out from other movie heroes.
Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn isn’t that exciting either. He looks like he should be on some beach somewhere in California meditating all day. He’s not that compelling.
And the main villain, Clu, is sufficiently villainous, but he’s a CGI creation, and not a very dynamic one at that. Even Yoda had more pizzazz in the recent STAR WARS movies.
YODA: Pizzazz I have.
TORN: Piss ass?
MA: No, that’s pizzazz.
YODA: Ears you do have! Use them you must!
(TORN blasts YODA with ray gun, but YODA defends himself with light saber.)
YODA: Too slow you are. Star Wars video game I’m off to play. (EXITS)
MA: Olivia Wilde is enjoyable as Quorra, and she was my favorite character in the movie. It helps that she’s good-looking too.
TORN: Does she take her clothes off?
MA: No. I told you this was produced by Disney.
TORN: I hate Disney! (fires gun into air.)
MA: Easy there, bud. Go back to staring at the wall.
Michael Sheen is also on hand as the lively Zuse, but he’s not in the movie all that much, nor is his character all that important. But in the brief time he’s on screen, Sheen makes the most of it.
This film is supposed to have some deep thought-provoking moments, like the concept of life from non-life, but it misfires here. The whole new life form bit has been done before. Again, this was a regular theme in the STAR TREK universe, including in the first STAR TREK feature film, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (1979), where a machine and human “mate” to form a new life form. It was hokey then, and it’s hokey now.
The best part of the story is the father/son connection between Kevin and Sam Flynn. Kevin realizes the most important part of his life isn’t what he has created in the virtual world, but it’s the other creation in his life, his son. This part of the story resonates, but it’s not like this idea is anything new.
The main reason to see TRON: LEGACY is for its visuals, and in this department, the movie doesn’t disappoint. It really is a lot of fun to look at, and I enjoyed the whole video game world. But does TRON: LEGACY contain some of the best special effects and visuals I’ve ever seen? No. Are its 3D effects the best in the business? No.
As I said earlier, I’m starting to get tired of all these 3D movies. They cost more, and there’s less and less of a payoff. Really, the best I’ve seen is AVATAR (2009). The only other film that’s even come close has been TOY STORY 3D.
Director Joseph Kosinski does succeed in creating an awe-inspiring virtual world, but his handling of the action sequences in this one leaves a lot to be desired.
I did like the music score by Daft Punk. It was energetic and lively, and complimented the movie very well.
But that’s about it. TRON: LEGACY is an average story with average characters all wrapped up in a colorful extravagant special effects-laden package. The visuals are topnotch, but on their own they’re not enough to carry this movie.
I give it two knives.
TORN: Give me the two knives, so I can rip your heart out.
MA: I don’t actually have two knives. It’s just a ratings system.
TORN: Then I will use my hands.
(A glowing door slides open, and LL SOARES appears. He fires a glowing disc at TORN, and it hits him in the head and knocks him out.)
MA (to LS): It’s about time you showed up. This guy wanted to kill me.
LS: That was the idea.
MA: Some friend you are.
LS: Who said I’m your friend? Besides, if I showed up sooner, I would have had to review this stinker. I’m glad I missed this one. Let’s get back to the real world. We have other movies to review.
MA: What were you doing in here all this time, anyway?
LS: Just a little housekeeping.
MA: Housekeeping? (peers over LS’ shoulder, and sees a great room full of wounded Disney characters, all keeled over, moaning and groaning.)
MA: I hope there aren’t any children reading this column. You may have scarred them for life.
LS: I’m a horror writer. That’s what I’m supposed to do.
(MA & LS exit, the lights in the room flicker and glow bright, before going out all together.)
© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda
Michael Arruda gives TRON:LEGACY - 2 knives