Tron: Legacy, 2010.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski.
Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Bruce Boxleitner and Olivia Wilde.
Sam (Garrett Hedlund), hasn't seen or heard from his father Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) since his disappearance twenty years ago. Flynn's old friend Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) contacts Sam after he receives a page from Flynn's number at the derelict arcade, urging Sam to investigate. Once there, Sam discovers a secret lab and is transported into the digital computer world of 'The Grid' where his father has been imprisoned all this time.
We're all sat in the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square, eagerly awaiting the start of Tron: Legacy, crappy 3D glasses clutched in sweaty palms, popcorn on laps, eager chatter filling the massive auditorium. Someone from Disney makes a brief speech, then, it starts. We begin, naturally, with the Disney logo, familiar enough you would think. But not like this. In simple terms, it's been 'Tron-ified', made up of hundreds of white streaks on a digital background, the light almost dazzling us, the 3D swooping camera impressing. No wonder several people in the audience begin to whoop and cheer! A promising start indeed...
As any of you who might have seen the 'Tron Night' preview footage, the trailers or even the test footage a couple of years back will know, the visuals of Tron: Legacy are stunning. Beautiful, broad strokes of blue, white and orange light streak across dark backgrounds, light up character's black suits and emanate soft hues across every surface. The pulsing glow of the original Tron's suits and environments has been simultaneously preserved and updated into slick, crisp mise-en-scene that simply delights the eyeballs beyond belief. Equally impressive, though not as in your face as the scenery and character flourishes, is the remarkable job done on 'Young Jeff Bridges' aka Clu. Motion capture was used over Bridge's face to replicate his facial features and expressions perfectly, with a 'young' face digitally grafted over the mo-cap. The result is so seamless as to be un-noticeable, unless you know about it beforehand (keep your eyes peeled!). The brief exception is a shot in the final scenes whereby Clu's entire face is lit up by harsh light and only then does he resemble a character from Robert Zemeckis' mo-cap efforts The Polar Express or A Christmas Carol.
The soundtrack is by no means lacking either. Arguably the finest element of the film, Daft Punk's retro-futuristic score simply boggles the mind. The sound is thick and pulsing, like a living, breathing being existing within the film and the digital world of the grid. Springing to the forefront to make the action crackle and explode or gently imbuing more drama-orientated scenes with aural emotion, the score is the perfect accompaniment to the slick visuals. It's also so bass heavy in certain places that you physically feel it just as much as you hear it, so much so I was growing concerned for the cinema speakers and the humungous strain they must be under! Worth the ticket price alone!
However, this being my second time watching it, I was trying not to let myself get too swept up in the audio and visual perfection on display here and instead scrutinize the story and plot, a frequently underdeveloped element of many effects-driven features.
Fortunately though, a strong script has obviously been at the fore-front of the film-makers minds from day one. The believably sincere 'Father-Son' story resonates throughout, and the warning tale of Flynn's desire for 'perfection' becoming Clu's fascist plans for a 'perfect society' use political allegory well, if a little heavy handedly. But then, what better bad guy than a fascist or a Nazi? George Lucas was well aware of this when he was creating Indiana Jones! However, Clu is more than just a metaphor for the Nazis, he is an extension of Kevin Flynn himself, representing the dangers of blindly following one idea obsessively until it consumes you, to the point where reason is jettisoned in favour of fanaticism.
As I said, at the core of this belated sequel is a good, old fashioned father-son story. It's most predominantly about fatherly responsibility, not just children but all the things we create, be them living (Sam, Clu) or non-living (the grid, the 'perfect city'). It's the facing up to ones commitments of becoming a father and the expectations that accompany it. Ultimately, Kevin Flynn has two sons, Sam and his digital doppelgänger, Clu. In the final scene Flynn admits his part in the misguidance of Clu, and ultimately, takes responsibility for his emotional abandonment, mirrored by his involuntary, literal abandonment of Sam.
One glaring problem I must mention though, is that Tron himself, arguably the hero of the first film, is used so briefly as to be almost irrelevant. He appears in a flashback from Flynn, and is supposedly recognised by Flynn later on, but all he amounts to is temporarily saving the good guys (he's gone evil apparently) before being quickly despatched, the final shot of him being his body falling underwater, the lights on his suit switching back to blue to signify his re-allegiance with the users. This prompted a 'that's it?' sort of response from me, but more so in that his character just feels rather wasted. Unfortunate, but by no means a fatal flaw.
Ultimately though, you will find little to be displeased with here. Equally every bit a tribute as a blinding update to the trailblazing original Tron, this sequel excites, energises and enthrals just as the original did way back in 1982. It's about time they got one of these remake/ 'tribute sequels' right!
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