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TRON LEGACY (2010)

>> Monday, December 20, 2010

So...you come here often?

Tron came out in 1982 to mixed reviews. I saw it for the first time earlier this year and while I can appreciate it for what it meant to audiences when it was released, frankly I found it a little dull. The storyline proposed an interesting way to view how computers worked from a first person point of view, but the look of the film (colors, not graphics) was uninteresting to look at.

Twenty-eight years later, we find ourselves in the midst of a sequel to draw in a new generation of Tron fans, and of course it comes to us in 3D. Tron Legacy starts off seven years after the end of Tron. Kevin Flynn (the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges) now has a son, Sam (of whom the older version is played by the relatively unknown Garrett Hedlund). Kevin has also taken his experiences from the first film and turned them into a video game called, unsurprisingly, Tron. However, one night Kevin disappears forever, leaving his legacy to his son, Sam.

Fast forward to 2010 and Sam has the usual 'grew up without parents' complex that wealthy troublemakers like Bruce Wayne also seem to have. Although he could take over the company his father acquired after the first film (Encom), he decides to instead frivolously break into Encom on a regular basis and leak the company's software for free - as his father originally intended.

That sums up Sam's life until one day his lawyer and second father, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) tells Sam he received a page from Kevin's old arcade (aptly titled 'Flynn's'), which has been closed for the last twenty years. Sam heads there to investigate the strange occurrence and finds a secret basement room containing the portal into the virtual world we became aware of in the first movie.

As with his father, Sam is immediately put into a gladiatorial game as soon as he enters the system. Now that technology has advanced, so has the look of this virtual reality. As Sam identifies himself as a a user and not a program (more specifically as Kevin Flynn's son) an old friend named Clu (an exact digital replica of Kevin) takes sinister interest in Sam and it soon becomes clear what Clu's motive is. Clu wants to use Sam to get to an aging Kevin, who has since been trapped in this world for the last twenty years. More specifically, Clu wants to obtain Kevin's information disk and use it as a way to get out of the virtual world and into the real one, where he plans to continue his journey of creating and maintaining Hitler-esque perfection. With that threat against them, it's up to Kevin and his estranged son Sam, along with Kevin's mysterious protege, Quorra (Olivia Wilde) to not only stop Clu from getting to the outside world, but get themselves home.

Speaking of Clu, I was relatively impressed by the CG they used to animate both the younger version of Kevin Flynn as well as Clu. Although there is something uncanny about the way they move and they both indeed look like characters from The Polar Express (2004), it's a neat way to bring back a younger Jeff Bridges from the pre-Lebowski era and an effective story-telling technique. There are some people that are bashing this, but considering Clu exists in a computer generated world for the most part, it's not something I had a problem with.

On a pure aesthetic level, Legacy looks fantastic and is certainly easier to get into than its predecessor. I give it some credit for the idea to make the virtual reality world 3D and not the real world that sandwiches the middle of the film. Although the 3D isn't come-at-you amazing with Legacy, I believe this decision was still effective, at the very least.

The biggest problem Legacy does have is not anything that makes me hate the film per say, it's more or less just an improvement that needed to be made. Although some will gauge this problem as perhaps bigger or smaller than I am making it out to be, it is a problem nonetheless. What you will find as you exit the theatre after the credits begin to roll, is that although you have been pleasantly entertained for the last two hours, you weren't blown away - at least not as much as a fan of the first film (or even a newcomer) should be. The action was fine, the storyline okay but ultimately (and oddly) forgettable. I don't really know if it was because we've seen films with a similar storyline before (ie: Inception, The Matrix, I, Robot) or if the darker look and lighting of the film put your mind more asleep than doing what it should have, which was creating an effective atmosphere.

I would have ultimately enjoyed the film a bit more should they have explored the other possibilities this virtual reality had. There is moment in the film where Kevin gives Quorra (a virtual reality-born individual) a new arm by locating the broken code on her disk and fixing it, thus having her new limb grow right before their eyes. I couldn't help but think of a similar thing being done for people with cancer, who are handicapped or blind, and having their problems being solved as simply as a computer virus can be. Although this may not be viable in this storyline, it was something I felt should have at least been discussed. Meh, perhaps the sequel.

I also wondered why even simpler things aren't questioned - like why or how food exist in this world and why Kevin needs it, or more poignantly - why he even ages in the first place. These are things Sam didn't ask, and seeing as he was representational of the audience's point of view - it would have been nice.

Tron Legacy ultimately gets an open door. Although there are movies I've liked on a higher level in recent months, this one still has it's moments and is worth a trip to the theatre. Don't go in expecting too much and you'll have a good time. Also, let it be known there are some things left unanswered at the end of the film. It doesn't make or break the movie for me and I don't know if they're saving it for a follow-up, but it is something to be aware of as it may be a bother to some.

*Stills courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

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