Tron: Legacy

Seeing as in my infinite laziness I have yet to peruse the Spring Runway shows (so behind, I know), I'll kick things off with a film review.  Also thanks to that same laziness, it's going to be the last film I bothered to watch, Tron: Legacy.

When I first saw the trailer for Tron: Legacy (hereafter Tron) I had something of geek-out.  I mean you can't help but be excited for a film scored entirely by Daft Punk, whose completely obscure Interstella 5555 I have owned and loved for years.  For those of you who are too lazy to look it up, Interstella 5555 was an animated musical film Daft Punk made to accompany their album Discovery.  Their first four singles - One More Time, Aerodynamic, Digital Love, and Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger - were released with the corresponding sections of the film.  You might remember it as those music videos with the blue anime people.  Daft Punk have dependably released fantastic music over the years, and I was excited to see what they would do with Tron.

Besides the soundtrack's potential, the actors who had signed-on for the film each had promise.  Jeff Bridges won an Academy Award shortly after the trailer was released, and Olivia Wilde has been an installment on the popular House for at least a couple of years now.  The star, Garrett Hedlund, you might recognize from Troy (he played Patroclus), or, less likely, you might remember him from Georgia Rule (TERRIBLE MOVIE).  He also is in the recently released Country Strong with that entitled crack-job Gwyneth Paltrow (who names one child after fruit and another after a prophet? Really?  Really??).  Other cast members included Cillian Murphy (Inception, Batman Begins, and many many others) and Michael Sheen (The Twilight Saga: New Moon, The Queen).  Not exactly small potatoes.

On top of all this, the trailers showcased a mesmerizing visual landscape that incorporated the best CGI available and showings in 3D.

So, how did it turn out?  Well, I'll have to admit I built up some big expectations, and so the film came as a bit of a disappointment.  Its strengths were in the soundtrack and the visuals.  Daft Punk came through spectacularly with a soundtrack which perfectly balanced their signature electronic style with the film's need for emotive music to support dialogue and plot developments.  The CD jacket explains they studied soundtrack composers and their music intensely to prepare for composing Tron's score, and that comes through in Tron: Legacy's soundtrack.

Similarly, the visuals were quite the work of art.  The only CGI I found distracting was the young version of Jeff Bridges, and only during close-ups.  The rest of the imagery blended smoothly.  Interestingly, some filming was apparently done in Vancouver, as there is an extremely recognizable shot of the Lions Gate Bridge at the end of the film - locals will enjoy the view of West and North Van, although it certainly does shatter the illusion somewhat.  The only real complaint I have about the visuals is that it at times feels as though scenes have been added simply because someone said "Hey, you know what would look really cool?".  Unlike Avatar, not all of Tron was filmed in 3D - only some sequences.  However, I didn't find the switching back and forth detracted from the film - rather I can appreciate the director's insights that certain scenes simply are better when kept 2D.  As an added bonus the audience didn't even need to put their 3D glasses on and off - they got to stay on the whole time.

As for the weaknesses...  Well, the dialogue, quite honestly, was seriously lacking.  It felt formulaic and forced, which no talent (or lack thereof) on the part of the actors could really help.  Besides that, the plot seemed to have significant holes in it, even though I took the extra effort to watch the original Tron before seeing Tron: Legacy.  I'll add that the original Tron is quite entertaining, although more because the state-of-the-art graphics in the original are reminiscent of that first ping-pong video game from the early 80s.  I found Jeff Bridges' character's manner of speaking a little bizarre, although in the bigger picture, appropriate.  I'll say no more in the interest of not ruining the movie.

Overall, Tron: Legacy was worth seeing.  Tron: Legacy for the most part retained the stand-out idea that Tron presented back in the 80s: the concept of the internet as "a digital frontier".  The Tron films dedicate themselves to the view of the internet as a mysterious thing with infinite possibilities, capable of solving all the world's problems and doing just about anything, but also retaining a vague threat, similar to that of AI.  The stories are filled with a sense of wonder that more recent generations (including my own) don't have, since we've grown up and therefore taken for granted the internet and its (limited) capabilities.

If you're going to go see Tron, prepare yourself for a mildly nostalgic, audio-and-visually focused film that's a little lacking in the backbone department.  I'll add that watching Garrett Hedlund strut around in a black spandex bodysuit for most of the movie made it especially worth seeing.

Not complaining.