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Tron Legacy

I never got to see Tron when it originally was released back in the early 1980s - that was simply due to my only having been a few years old when it was released. So I was one of those people who saw it on DVD much later, long after it had stopped being a film that featured cutting-edge effects. In fact, the first time I saw it was only a few years ago, when the 20th anniversary DVD set came out. By that time, however, while the film certainly had a reputation for being a major cult classic, it looked and sounded incredibly dated. Despite this, however, I found the original film to be a really rather good, if overly simplistic at times, attempt to make a serious computer-centric film. One that took the technology of the time, and extrapolated where things might very well go into the future. So while the notion of little tiny people running around inside computers seems absurd by today’s standards, let’s not forget that it was entirely possible people saw this as a real possibility. So with the release of Tron Legacy, has the 30 year gap between the two films allowed for a maturation of content, and more importantly the effects? Read on to find out.

The film opens in 1989, as we learn through a set of news broadcasts that Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the CEO of ENCOM and creator of the Tron universe, has vanished. The film then moves forward 20 years, and we meet Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), who has become a stereotypical bike-riding computer-hacking young adult. He has gone off the rails a bit in life due to the disappearance of his father, but thanks to a chat with his father’s former colleague Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), Sam soon finds himself at his father’s old abandoned videogame arcade. Inside, he finds a way to enter the world of The Grid, the virtual reality created by Kevin Flynn during the events of the first movie. Here, he discovers that the utopia his father promised to create has gone badly wrong, and that Kevin has been trapped inside The Grid for the last 20 years. Unless Sam can locate his father, and both can escape back into the real world, the evil overload Clu’s dominance over The Grid has a very real chance of escaping the confines of a single computer, and threatens the destruction of the real world as well.

The plot is wafer-thin, it is true - but then you don’t go to a movie like Tron Legacy to see an in-depth character study on the state of the human condition. This film is, first and foremost, about the spectacle, and in this particular area the film is just as ground-breaking as the original was 30 years ago. It was pleasing to see the design cues from the original film have not been abandoned, but instead what the producers of the film have attempted to do is use modern computer power to realise the original vision of the first film, rather than update the original execution. This is an important concept to understand, for it explains why we get the changes we do get. A good example is the difference in the Light Cycle design - the new version is a lot closer to what the original producers had wanted the Light Cycle to look like, had they had 21st Century technology at their disposal. Director Joseph Kosinski’s background in architecture and 3D design has paid off well with this film, with the visual picture offered throughout the film is terribly good. He somehow makes neon lighting look amazing, and you cannot fault this film on visuals at all.

Something else that needs to be commented on is the sublime incidental score by Daft Punk, which I initially had reservations about - but now having seen the film, I honestly cannot see how the film would have worked without the excellent touch of electronica mixed with a more traditional orchestral score. It was a perfectly pitched score, really - and is easily one of those rare scores that I might consider purchasing when it comes out.

The assembled cast do a pretty good job considering the thinness of the plot, and the glaring plot holes that are so large you could drive a truck through them. Jeff Bridges does excellent work both as Kevin Flynn and as Clu. The CGI work undertaken to “de-age” Bridges is mostly impressive, and it really helps to sell the film’s authenticity when you can have the one actor playing both of his roles from the original film. Garrett Hedlund does an excellent job as Sam Flynn, even at times managing to vocally copy Jeff Bridge’s style - thus helping to sell the family connection between the two characters. Olivia Wilde does a super good job as cyberbabe Quorra, and Michael Sheen does a frankly brilliant job in the creepy comedy role of Castor, and despite what he does in the film, you cannot help but feel ever so sorry for the character when he finally does meet his maker at the end. Rounding out the cast was a lovely cameo appearance by Bruce Boxleitner.

Overall, I have to say that Tron Legacy manages to tick all of the right boxes when it comes to creating a worthy sequel to the cult classic of Tron. The visual design alone makes for compelling viewing, although in closing I must say that the 3D element of this film is a complete waste. While I applaud the idea of presenting scenes set on The Grid in 3D, with real-world scenes in 2D, the resultant execution is weak, and in the end, the film suffers from having to wear bulky 3D glasses during the screening. I really hope this 3D fad fades quickly, because it does spoil Tron Legacy slightly, which is so wonderfully visual in every sense of the word. This is one to see at the cinema. Go do it now before the film vanishes at the end of this month.

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