Making my daily rounds online, I could hardly ignore the hype that's surrounding the upcoming film Tron: Legacy. Being a sequel to one of the most technically-advanced films of its time, Legacy boasted returning cast, a soundtrack by Daft Punk and the special effects that would take advantage of the setting.
When I had the chance to see this film Monday night, I had a number of expectations going into it:
- Jeff Bridges needed to be awesome
- Daft Punk's appearance should be awesome
- The light-cycles would be awesome
- I wouldn't need to know too much about the first film
Most of these things came true, but I'd like to summarize my experience with Legacy in a thought: if you're a nerd, you'll love it. However, if you pay attention to the plot, you won't.
See, there are places where Tron: Legacy excels amazingly. These are primarily the areas of visual design, the strength of certain actors, and... that's it.
The lightcycle/disk battle sequences are extremely well done; the disk fighters are largely kung-fu inspired, and fanciful dodges/throws are plentiful. The lightcycles are brutal, fast and furious. Perfect. Those parts are hard to screw up. As my first 3D movie, I can say that Tron: Legacy kept the annoyance to a minimum and didn't abuse 3D effects. It can be seen in 2D without any loss in message or power, so I would suggest doing that.
Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn from the first movie, and plays an eclectic mix of Jesus and The Dude from his previous film, The Big Lebowski. Flynn is essentially a big software nerd in the first place, but his time spent trapped in the Grid has mellowed him out considerably. His hippie remarks are funny, well placed and hardly annoying. He is the highlight of this film. His CGI counterpart, CLU, posessed a wonderfully-rendered face that depicts Jeff Bridges about 20 years younger. It's Beowulf-quality without crossing into the uncanny valley. There were a couple sequences where it very much seemed real.
The lead actor, Garrett Hedlund, was surprisingly likeable. I didn't hate the whole "XTREMEEEE rebellious twenty-something" schtick as much as I thought, and he eventually grew on me. Olivia Wilde plays an extremely hot computer program called Quorra. She, surprisingly, didn't annoy me either; she was charming, cute and just the right levels of badass. She didn't reduce anyone facing her to ash in an instant, and actually felt vulnerable. Essentially, she was a less-infuriating version of any of Milla Jovovich's "female supersoldier" characters, and I thank the writers for that.
They also didn't force a relationship between Sam and Quorra, which I appreciate. Though there's a (possible) tension between them the whole movie, the "long-awaited kiss" scene is thankfully omitted.
However, the film has a couple speedbumps that kept the literary geek in me confused. The concept of "Chekhov's Gun" is simple: things that are mentioned in passing during narratives should come back later in the plot. A gun hanging on a wall should be fired, or not mentioned at all. It keeps the person experiencing the story focused, and not asking too many questions about "what happened with X?"
That was the opposite of what I was doing when I walked out of the film; in the 30 minute walk I had with my friend home, we discussed many of the plot holes that affected the film, or the items that were simply forgotten about.
What was the purpose of saying that the older Flynn's prototype lightcycle was "faster than anything on the grid" if you were just going to give it away to a stranger as a diversion? Why have lightsaber-esque batons if the identity disks do the same damage? Why hint at a rebellion within CLU's city and even SHOW resistance leaders if they weren't going to be used?
Why have CLU's head henchman be a corrupted version of Tron, the hero of the first movie, if there isn't going to be any interaction between him and the main characters? I mean, his name's in the movie, right? Why have him do one act of heroism, then die ambiguously? Where were Kevin Flynn's Jesus powers within the grid when they were needed most?
These were only a few of the questions I had with the film; I could easily write another 1000 words with the others. The problems weren't so much inconsistencies, but things that weren't explained: they didn't flip-flop - they were just dropped.
This didn't take away too much from the movie, or the satisfying ending, but it robbed Legacy of much-needed depth.
What Tron: Legacy needs is a Director's Cut, and badly. It needed so many scenes to explain little nuances that bugged the crap out of me, and to keep the film from feeling rushed. Hopefully there'll be a sequel, or at least a comic to tie up loose ends. I left the theatre craving more of the story, even if I had to turn my brain off to get to that craving.
Final verdict: see it in theatre (for the seat-shaking bass, at least). Don't shell out the extra bucks for 3D. Turn your brain off, and enjoy the visual porn.