Monday, January 10, 2011

Tron: Legacy (in theaters now)

I really wanted to see Tron: Legacy when it came out in theaters, but a few people I know saw it before I could and were disappointed, putting a damper on my excitement. All I knew about Tron, novice geek that I am, I had learned from playing the video game Kingdom Hearts, the only video game I have ever really played, which I am also proud and sort of embarrassed to say that I finished (let's not talk about the hours of my life invested). Anyway...I didn't know much, but the previews led me to believe it would be a visual feast.

Short but relevant is my wedding anniversary: seven years. We had a lovely weekend of celebrating, some of it with our one-year-old son and today by ourselves, haunting our old college hangouts. We returned to our favorite strip mall with its overly-priced Rave theater and almost flipped a coin (another old tradition that had a play in bringing us together, actually) over Tron: Legacy and Gulliver's Travels. But Tron was earlier, and that decided it. We did not see it in 3D, though Tron, being about a digital world, screams to be a 3D movie. We had been advised to save the money, so we lowered our expectations all-around for this movie and still forked out a nice chunk of cash for a 2D matinee.

Perhaps it was because of these lowered expectations, or perhaps the 3D effects were underwhelming, provoking the bad reviews...whatever the case, we enjoyed the movie. I won't say we loved it, but it was a good popcorn movie, a fun action flick.

Premise: Kevin Flynn has created a digital game world where he can go in actual physical form. He disappears when his son Sam Flynn is 12, leaving his legacy to his son. Sam discovers a way into the world when he is 27, but the world he finds isn't the happy world his father told him about. Clu and Tron, two "Programs" (as opposed to "Users" like the Flynns) Kevin was building the world with, have rebelled against him. The senior Flynn has been stuck in the digital world all this time, and Sam will soon be, too, unless he can get back to the portal before it closes and before Clu's evil plans can be realized.

This was a visual treat, as expected, despite the lack of 3D. The characters were interesting, and the acting was decent.

The complaints about the movie center around plot points, or the lack of them, really. Essentially, Sam gets into the world and then spends the rest of the movie trying to get out. Not a lot of depth there. The relationship between father and son is vaguely intriguing but doesn't make or break the movie.

There's a subtle jab at the way humans treat the earth that isn't long enough to be preachy, so I can overlook it. The possible political message of the movie annoyed others but wasn't blatant enough to bother me.

A few things don't make much sense or, being inessential to the movie, may detract from an otherwise shallow but straightforward plot. One is the miraculous life-forms that suddenly appear in the digital world, something almost human, looking human, a perfect being, of which only one remains for the plot. The idea is that she could be the key to curing mankind of its diseases (perhaps a political message really was trying to dig to the surface, but hazy plot development kept it mostly buried). The miraculous life-forms could have been left completely out of the plot and not changed the story's direction.

The second thing that is a bit out-of-nowhere and inessential is Tron himself. Weird, isn't it, when the movie is called Tron? He is a background character who does a few minor tricks in the finale of this story, but any Program could have taken his place and been as important. I guess they needed some reference to the original game, but why not name a more central character Tron or get him a more developed role? Who knows?

There are other minor pieces of the story that just need cleaned up to make this a tighter, neater film, plot devices that aren't used to their full potential or that don't serve any purpose at all, making them superfluous.

But it was an enjoyable two hours, nonetheless. Kudos for appearances by Bruce Boxleitner, best known for his leading role in the old sci-fi TV show Babylon 5, and Jeff Bridges, both stars of the 1982 version of Tron and reprising their roles as Alan Bradley/Tron and Kevin Flynn/Clu respectively.

It just now occurs to me that some of these superfluous plot points, like Tron himself, are supposed to be throwbacks to the original Tron movie and that Tron: Legacy is a sequel to the 1982 film. This may have been obvious to Tron lovers out there, but like I said, I'm just a novice geek, trying to catch up. As a sequel, I'm sure the movie was outstanding, by comparison to its forerunner, and had some nice insider references, but for those of us who were born in the year the first Tron was released, it didn't do a good enough job of catching us up on the past to feel like a clear-cut stand-alone movie.


  1. I totally agree about leaving the "perfect" race out of the movie all together. My biggest problem with the movie was that the dad was all about the "perfect" race saving mankind but than also admitted that his copy couldn't make a "perfect" world. I thought those two messages totally didn't jive!

  2. You do get a little more out of it if you've seen the original movie. Oddly enough, Tron is a secondary character in the original as well, which is why it surprises me that both movies are named after him.

    I'm a bit surprised people keep saying its low on story, especially since the screenplay was written by two executive producers from "Lost" and John Lassiter and a few other Pixar guys were given the screenplay and a rough cut of the film to beef up the story. I enjoyed it a lot, but maybe my expectations were raised when I heard that.


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