Monday, October 10, 2011

Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)


I'm back up for air. It's been a while, I know. I couldn't possibly hope to update you on all of the movies I've watched between then and now. Water under the bridge. Yet, I felt that continuity insists that I share my thoughts on TRON: Legacy. I wrote an open letter to Hollywood. Demands were issued. How could I not follow up on that?

Oh, TRON. Dear, sweet, phosphorescent TRON. This was the movie for any kid with even a remote interest in video games in the 80s (no pun intended. Power glove. Ha!) I cannot review this sequel without acknowledging a few things about the original. It was not Citizen Kane in a light suit. It was cheesy, it was predictable, and it was a little hokey for a science fiction film. But it was Disney, and it did look to please the kiddies. What made it was the action, the effects and the concept. Man vs. Machine. Could it be any more charming?

And that's how this new TRON succeeded for me. It got the tone right. It had a great concept, man was still up against the icy machine, and the effects are dazzling. It was charming as hell.
The ace in the hole is Jeff Bridges, his acting is light years (no pun intended) ahead of what it was in the first TRON. He is dynamic as both the calculating CLU and the older, wiser Flynn. There's a dash of The Dude visible here. I found it refreshing. It was a reminder that he was unarguably human living in a digital world. Every moment he's on the screen is incredibly gratifying. Garrett Hedlund as Sam Flynn is also pretty good. He reminds me a bit of Cillian Murphy (who is also in this movie for a millisecond) and Chris Pine (who was considered for the role), but I think he lacks in the presence department. He doesn't seem as big as Bridges, or even Michael Sheen, who is quite the hidden treat here channelling Ziggy Stardust. I do think Hedlund will get there. He's very likable as Sam. Olivia Wilde, I think it's hard to separate her from her look here. It's a lot of look. She pulls it off. I'm just not sure she can fill Milla Jovovich's bandage suit when it comes to portraying a female savant. But my favorite part was that Tron is in TRON. He's still the valiant program fighting for the user. He could have so easily been forgotten or written out, but he's the heart of the story.

That's where I have to say: Thank you, Hollywood. Thank you for remembering that what makes us love a movie, what makes a movie a cult classic out of the cheesiest of films, is a great story. A story that appeals to our higher values. TRON lived on past its expiration date because we all want to believe that man can create something better than himself, that technology will not be our undoing, it will be our gift to the world. TRON: Legacy kept that story alive.

My one gripe is that I think the pacing could have been better. The action sequences are good, but they don't transition well to the dramatic sequences. And while I do enjoy Daft Punk's soundtrack, I think it could have been better. Again, I feel a mix of orchestral and techno music was better accomplished in The Fifth Element.

Some faith in the Hollywood machine has been restored. However, I don't think Hollywood can take all the credit. I think they relied a great deal on fans of the original, and when the fans are involved, it's hard not to have a happy ending.