If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Hello and welcome to Cinema Dr. AJ's review of Tron:Legacy!
Now let me start off by saying this-
This is a positive review of the film. I loved it. The majority of people and critics did not, and almost every positive review is only as such because the person reviewing thought that the visuals were good enough to ignore the crap story. I disagree.
Now- On to business.
Tron:Legacy is a sequel to the 1980's original film entitled Tron. However, everything is explained in Legacy, so don't worry yourself about sitting through the crappy 1980's animation in order to understand Legacy. Long story short-
Kevin Flynn [Jeff Bridges] disappeared in the 80's, leaving his orphaned son to run his computer programming empire, Encom. His son, Sam Flynn grows up without a father, and once he is 27 or 28ish, one of his dad's business partners recieves a page from Kevin's old office- on a number that had been disconnected for now some 30 years. Sam investigates, and accidentally reactivates the laser that brought his father into the Grid, and Sam himself is sucked into the computer.
I found, obviously, the visuals to be the most revolutionary of any film yet to date. What they were able to accomplish was not only groundbreakingly done, it was stylized to boot. Think Takashi Miike depth-wise. Every small detail that I noticed continually blew me away- from the symbolism behind the circle all the way down to the detail in the costumes.
When I talk about the circle, think about the original. The film came out in the 1980's, the digital revolution, when CD's were replacing cassettes and 8-tracks with laser precision. In the original Tron, the art direction implied that everything that was advanced was circular. Light cycles, the disk fights, the disks themselves- advanced technology was embodied by the circle. Legacy takes this symbolism and refines it, bringing it back as not only futuristic, but also retro as homage to the original. It was a great dynamic.
The many different glowing robes and suits were just plain badass. Imagine Obi-wan's cloak with glowing stripes tracing out intricate patterns. The costume design was just really cool to look at, for me.
Side note- This film payed homage to many of its thematic predecessors. For instance, there is a scene involving Sam manning a turret and shooting down enemy planes, with the camera angles almost identical to Star Wars, with Luke shooting down Vader's Tie Fighters [spelling?]. Earlier on, when Flynn is explaining to Sam exactly what the grid is, we get a shot of them sitting in front of a fireplace in two high back chairs- a shot that made me immediately think of Morpheus explaining the Matrix to Neo as they sit in front of a small television in two similar chairs in empty space. There is a difference between ripping off and paying homage- insisting that Tron was a rip off would be like claiming Inception was a ripoff of the Matrix or Dark City, rather than influenced and paying homage to it.
Daft Punk scored the entire thing and holy fucking shit, for lack of a better 3 words, it was awesome. I don't really take well to electronic style music but this soundtrack was like a continuous 2-hour orgasm to my ears when coupled with what was happening on screen both visually and philisophically. Daft Punk, the french electronic duo, combines orchestral undertones and classical influences with heavy, thick, headnotic beats and melodies. I can't stop listening to the score even outside the theater. If they don't nab the Oscar for best original film score, I will be baffled.
[Yes, that was Daft Punk behind the helmets DJing Michael Sheen's club in the film]
I don't particularly care for the lead actor in this film, Garrett Hedlund. He does a good job, aside from a few poor deliveries, although I would have cast someone else, perhaps Chris Pine? The actress who plays Quorra, Olivia Wilde... Damn. She's hot. I mean--she's great. I assumed her role to be the archetypal heroine, badass girl who doesn't take shit and yadda yadda but I was happily surprised. Quorra is a quirky, sexy, fun character. Her goofy laugh and mannerisms bring an enjoyable refresher to that stereotypical role, and caused the audience to care for her that much more. It brought us a better connection with her character, and through her, Sam as well and for me at least, this covered up Hedlund's still-growing style.
Do I need to discuss Bridges? For anyone who has seen True Grit, you know he is back and better than ever. Bridges took on the Obi-wan, zen, Jedi-master role, put his own spin on it, and still reminded us that Flynn hadn't seen the outside world since 1980 by saying things like 'Radical moves!' A nice touch, and attention to little details like that make me appreciate the writers.
Michael Sheen was brilliant, whoever the fuck played Gem... I like her... definitely.
Negatives- Sam was a bit wooden, dismissively so for me but probably not for others, Wilde could have been afforded more screen time, and the CG on Clu was just a bit stiff- enough for you to be able to tell that the technology is still on the way and not yet arrived.
Now down to the meat.
The Philosophy of Tron:Legacy
The film is in many ways an objective allegory of religious philosophy- not with a bias in any way but as a take on the philosophy of religion. Jeff Bridges creates the world from an empty, endless, flat spaced grid. What he thinks, he creates. What he does, is. He starts to build a utopia inside the computer- "A digital frontier to reshape the human condition" as he says. Enter digital abiogenesis.
I can't remember the exact quote, but it blew me away. Something like, but not necessarily- "When the conditions were close enough to right, life... just... coalesced." If you are familiar with academic theories on the origins of life, the idea of Abiogenesis immediately comes to mind. What Legacy has done is take that philosophy to the computer, and suddenly we have bits of code condensing in endless space to form programs that in turn have yet to be given a purpose. They simply have come into being as a by-process of the environment around them. [Remember that people in the grid aren't people, they're programs.] This theme was incredible for me to see, especially in a Disney PG film. And all the while Daft Punk is spinning my head around between a Cello and a Synthesizer.
Flynn [Bridges], early into the creation process realizes that he has to return home day by day from the computer, to be with his son, Sam. He clones himself, naming his alternate identity Clu [Cloned Likeness Utility, I think] and while Flynn is at home, Clu continues to build- programmed by Flynn to create the perfect world. However, as the film progresses and Clu betrays and hunts Flynn, we come to realize that Clu is just as imperfect as Flynn was when he created him. Clu harbors Flynn's dated idea of perfection, while over the years Flynn has begun to understand balance. Anyone in the house right now a follower of Buddhism? Yeah. You like that.
The ending scene was the most epic I had seen in the memorable past. I was on the edge of my seat, curious as to how they were going to tie up not only the story, but the themes they had opened. In my opinion, they did so brilliantly, with Bridges as god of the grid, taking back the universe he set out, as well as his "son," not Sam- but Clu. As I said, I found this film as a digital allegory of the archetypal religious mythos that managed to be skeptical and intuitive.
I have to do it. Sorry if you think I'm being too generous, but I have to do it. Combining everything I saw on screen and heard from Daft Punk, and the amount I thought about the themes and philosophies presented here outside the theater and long after the credits had rolled, I have to say it- [Better Than Sex]
Breakdown[out of 5]-