It’s time for the first in a series of “banked reviews” for Finally Watched as I had to clear as many movies as I could from the DVR box before we got the new one…that hopefully won’t cut off mid-recording but tell me the whole thing was recorded. Tron is a movie from the 1980s that I really enjoy despite being rather dated. At the time we didn’t know anything about the inner workings of computers and software and operating systems and what not. Well “you” may not have but I was just the right age for it and even had some rudimentary BASIC programming skills. Still, the idea of a computer world, silly or not, was rather fun and it inspired a number of these kinds of stories even as computers became more and more a part of our lives. Oddly the 90s would play with this idea a few times. Reboot took place in a computer world while Captain N: The Game Master and the “Power Team” segment of the first season of Video Power either had the hero visit a video game world before “isekai” was a term English speakers used or having the video game characters enter our world, both of which have also popped up in kids show and lighter science fiction. Tron even inspired it’s own video games.
So when a sequel was announced in the early 2000s it seemed like odd timing. There was a short series of video games, Tron 2.0, in 2003 and I still need to finish the PC version. However, that’s a video game. Tron: Legacy is a live-action movie, but I’m not sure the idea that inside our computer is fully realized world and any time we delete a program we commit murder is going to be as easy to suspend disbelief for. So they found a workaround and created their own movie, which also inspired a video game and an animated series. Now that I’ve finally seen it…how good is it?
RELEASE DATE: 2010
RELEASED BY: Walt Disney Pictures
RUNTIME: 2 hours 5 minutes
VIEWING SOURCE FOR THIS REVIEW: Starz Action (free preview weekend)
STARRING: Garret Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, and Jeff Bridges
SCREENWRITERS: Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz (story & screenplay); Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal (story only); characters created by Steven Lisberg & Bonnie MacBird
DIRECTOR: Joseph Kosinski
BOX OFFICE: $400,063,852 worldwide, $172,062,763 domestic according to IMDB
ESTIMATED BUDGET: $170,000,000 according to IMDB
The Plot: Years ago Flynn (Bridges) disappeared in the middle of working on a project called The Grid, a virtual world similar to the computer world he visited in the last movie. Now an adult, Flynn young son Sam (Hedlund) is drawn by a text by Flynn’s partner Alan (Bruce Boxleitner, who also voices Tron in a couple of scenes) to return to the arcade. There he finds himself being transported to The Grid, once protected by Flynn, Clu (a program created by Flynn and per this franchises rules is also played by Bridges), and Tron. Tron has disappeared, Clu has taken over The Grid, and Flynn is in hiding. Aided by Flynn’s associate Quora (Wilde), Sam has to find his father and return home…but that may be exactly what Clu wants.
Why did I want to see it: I still enjoy the original movie. Obviously time has made certain aspects of that movie a bit silly but this looked like an attempt to update some of those old concepts with an actual virtual world, like being inside a video game instead of some computer world.
What did I think: It was…okay. I wasn’t as impressed as I wanted to be with the story. The visuals of the Grid’s world were actually very good. It felt like a virtual world designed on a computer landscape. I wouldn’t expect the Grid to look like…I don’t know, Second Life or Minecraft or something. This was the 1980s when he started working on it. As a virtual city it’s quite impressive as are the updated and new vehicles and how they rez.
The polar opposite though is the attempt to make Jeff Bridges look like he did back in the 1980s. Flynn in flashbacks and Clu in the present (continuing the idea that programs resemble their users–thankfully not including the civilians of the Grid, just Clu and presumably Tron but we’re thankfully spared Boxleitner going through the same effect thanks to a helmet and not wanting to reveal him) just look so fake that it took me out of the movie whenever they were on. It would have been better to have Bridges do his scenes as he looks now then shave and use make-up to make Clu and younger Flynn look younger. The deep fakes here are worse than in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
However, like I said, it’s the story that fails to impress. Tron: Legacy, named despite having so little Tron he almost seems to be there as an afterthought to keep the name meaningful, is a lot more action heavy than the original. The cinematography is impressive with only minor issues with close-ups during fights and a reliance on slow-motion to look kewl. The worldbulding is impressive, with Clu’s obsession, the fate of the ISOs, and how much Clu ripped off the Master Control Program while still doing something fresh. There’s no forced-in romance between Sam and Quora that the movie doesn’t have time to develop, but early on she does say it’s nice to see him again, which is never explored and goes nowhere.
Clu himself is the usual “invade this other world” villain by the end and despite being smarter than most does devolve at some point to the usual baddie who is evil because of his obsessive and flawed view of perfection. He doesn’t have the presence of Zark or the MCP frankly, though he does show hints of the charisma in pulling these programs under him. There’s not really time to develop him as a villain and eventually the movie just stops trying. Bridges does keep Flynn and Clu apart in his performance.
Sam on the other hand is slightly more memorable. We get an example of his skills early in the movie in the real world as he pushes back against Encom, which frankly seems to be even more forced in than Tron to the point that one of the other programmers is Derringer’s son and has no connection to the story except to give Sam something to do after the movie ends. Otherwise he’s not bad, and neither is Hedland’s portrayal, but that’s all there really is to him, and I could say the same about Quora. Wilde is good in the role but otherwise she’s just a deus ex that isn’t really fully realized outside of some talk about how she’ll change the world for the better with no real evidence of how.
The best parts of the movie are the virtual city, the vehicle designs, and Daft Punk’s soundtrack, which I now want even more.
Was it worth the wait: I mean, I’m glad I saw it and everything but outside of the visuals it’s not a movie I’d rush to see again and I’m not sure how much I’d miss out. Frankly I’d be more interested in finishing Tron 2.0, the PC video game I barely got more than the tutorial section through. I also wouldn’t mind finishing the incomplete series Tron: Uprising if only to find out if either fits in with the timeline of the two movies. I might watch it again and at least it wasn’t hyped like Pacific Rim so I wasn’t really disappointed, just not really impressed or at least not as much as I wanted to be.