Prelude to a Review
If you’ve never seen Tron, you’ll need to track it down. As of this writing, Disney has taken all versions of the movie out of print, presumably gearing up for the inevitable Supergroovalisticprofunkstication Edition™. For the purposes of this review, I’ll provide a short summary of the original film:
Tron is the story of Kevin Flynn, a brilliant software designer who is sucked into his computer one day, only to discover his creations facing off against each other in gladiatorial combat and the digital world run by the malevolent “Master Control Program” (who seeks to expand its power into the real world). Kevin soon finds himself forming a resistance force with Tron, a talented AI who helps him to take control of his system and save both virtual and actual reality.
To the producers of Tron Legacy for committing to such a large investment for what is a sequel to a 28 year old film that was considered a disappointment in the box office. Since I first saw Tronsome years ago, I have counted myself among the cult of fans anxious to see the next iteration.For its time, it was a groundbreaking visual film with an adventurous spirit akin to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, and any number of other classic series. Like those franchises, the film drops you off into a world as you’ve never experienced it, where the rules are never fully explained and yet, do not demand an explanation.
Unlike say… this painting
In 1989 millionaire software developer Kevin Flynn disappeared without a trace, leaving the lion’s share of his company to his son. Years pass and Sam Flynn has grown up without a father. On the eve of his company’s release of a new operating system, Sam receives news from an old friend that Kevin may still be alive, and moreover may never have meant to leave. Sam soon finds himself in his father’s old office and with a few keystrokes finds himself transported to the digital universe of the first Tron. Programming has advanced considerably and the AI Kevin created in his own image to control this universe has turned against him once more. Oh, and somewhere in there you meet Techno-Bowie…
Much has been said of the special effects, which effectively immerse you in this techno-fantasy while still paying homage to the original. The film features dystopian themes and a fascist enemy hell bent on destroying everything it perceives as imperfect. Pretty heavy stuff for a PG rated film. But unlike another PG rated film this Christmas, this one handles the darker themes with taste, and even substance.
While some have criticized the film as being too much glitz and not enough story, I make the argument that, while certainly not high-brow material, the novel concept behind the Tron series is best appreciated for what it is: an exercise in action-adventure genre filmmaking (and far easier to appreciate than anything recent from the Michael Bay factory).
Everything this man touches turns to shit
Bonus points to Daft Punk’s score of the film, which envelops you further into the electronic universe. I’m not normally much for electronic music, but this just fits the film like a glove.
There are a few problems with Tron Legacy. First and foremost is in the exposition. It is understandable that many filmgoers who see it this season will not have seen the original first.However several key scenes grind to a halt to explain much of what was already made clear inTron. In one particular scene at the beginning of the 3rd act, when our heroes are supposed to be escaping, there is a good amount of time devoted to unnecessary monologue. Clearly either the director or the producers (or both) did not trust the audience enough to avoid this noticeable flaw.
While the pacing issues are forgivable to some extent, what is not is the near absence of the character Tron. The series is named after him and yet the screenwriters seem to have forgotten how important he was to the original film. Instead, the shoes of Tron are filled by Quorra, a female program played by Olivia Wilde. While I have no complaints of her performance, it is unforgivable that such a central character from the original film receives what amounts to a cameo appearance. I can understand the desire of the filmmakers to add a strong female character to the sequel. What happened to Yori from the first film? These questions deserve explanations.
Watch it. It’s Bio-digital jazz, man…
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a drink: whenever Daft Punk’s score is NOT playing
Take a drink: when Tron is mentioned, but not actually shown
Drink a shot: when Techno Bowie appears