A Not-So-Lasting Legacy

Surprise Review!!!
I have been trying to watch this movie for about a month now and I finally found time to get to it.  It was fun, I enjoyed it, but it was pretty much exactly what I thought it was going to be — “GORGEOUS JUNK”.  With that, I enter the Grid of Tron: Legacy.

Put very simply, I came into this movie looking for two things:  SPECTACULAR visuals and Amazing score.  The plot I knew would suffer for these elements but I hoped that it might break out of the stereotype enough for me to enjoy it.  And honestly it did…just enough.

Let’s start with the good.  The visual style and colors were INCREDIBLE!!!  Honestly that is why we all watched this movie – because Joseph Kosinski figured out what the original Tron was about.  When Tron came out in 1982, it changed the world of animation.  Characters existing in a world of three-dimensions inside a computer, circuit coming to life, programs having personality.  In the beginning of the Technology boom, this was revolutionary!  People saw it then because they wanted a glimpse into the Glitzy world of the motherboard, and that’s why modern audiences went back to it.  Kosinski gives the best possible tribute in that sense to what the original Tron was.

In the same way, the producers choice to bring in Electronica legend Daft Punk for the score was brilliant.  Who better to bring the world of charges and programs to life than a group that naturally brings them to music?  Daft Punk masterfully crafted a beautiful and energizing score which drove most of the movie.  Their pounding percussion low sweeping violins and muted keyboard notes create the perfect environment for Quorra and the Flynn’s to zip around in.

And speaking of them, let’s move on to the bad stuff…

The "Clu-de" Abides

Yup.  Honestly it felt like this whole movie came out of some mold and had actors plugged into it sporadically.  The storyline was incredibly unoriginal, had so many terrible stereotypes, and ultimately lived up perfectly to the low expectations I came into it with.  Yes it was fun, but their was absolutely no focus on any of the good stuff in the film, which is really sad because it did have a lot of potential.

First and foremost, the acting was barely decent, though I blame most of that on the writing. The way I figure it, some fanboy of The Big Lebowski decided to try to write all of Jeff Bridges dialogue and that ended up looking exactly as goofy as it sounds.  He constantly goes from super-genius programer and survivalist to saying entirely bizarre things like “Bio-digital jazz man!”  And while I like that analogy, it wasn’t done for it’s own sake – it was done to remind us of Bridges former roles which is again just sad.  As for Garrett Hedlund, I felt he did the best job he could with such a terribly predictable and stock script.  Sam Flynn somehow being entirely fine with being beamed into the game world only seconds after it happened wasn’t believable at all because the writers didn’t set up enough that he knew that’s how it worked. From there he goes into “Typical Hero Mode” – overcoming obstacles and saving the day like he’s been doing it for years.

Now Olivia Wilde is an interesting story.  When it was announced that she and Beau Garrett were cast in the film, the internet exploded with the idea that Disney was trying to introduce sex appeal into the movie.  And to be honest they weren’t far off but there was an interesting negotiation here.  Yes, indeed, Wilde did serve as the sexy chick whom Sam falls for during the film, and some would say that she actually holds her own in the film.  However, the writers (and director) do nothing more in the end than blend the two types of female characters into one person – the “Xena” warrior chick and the naive and helpless princess. She kicks butt but then goes on and on with doe eyes about Jules Verne. Wilde does do a good job in both aspects but ultimately she just ends up reinforcing dominant and hegemonic stereotypes.

The one particularly interesting aspect of her (and the other women in the film, especially Gem) is that, for a character added for sex appeal, her…”womanness” is surprisingly downplayed.  All of the women in the film were entirely covered and the outfits didn’t do much to accentuate their feminine parts at all.  Is this a Disney-esque watering down of their visual sexuality or is it a move towards a positive portrayal of women?  I don’t know but it is interesting how minimal the traditionally held stimulating elements are and how much that relationship plays out in her eyes. Then again you don’t have to scroll far in an image search for “Tron: Legacy” to find this picture:

Sex Appeal or Not: Let me know what you think below

Just a few more negatives I promise and then I will pass judgement on this film.
First, while the CGI was a major highlight of the film it also had some incredibly bad moments as well….like everything with Clu.  I think the problem is that they didn’t get the aspect ratio of Head to Body correct, giving the viewer the odd sense that the two didn’t match up.  The best moments with him were when they animated his whole body – it looked like a video game character but at least it looked cohesive and singular.  And the worst bit was that the started on that same face!  80’s Flynn had that same terrible CGI face and it really through me off.  It seems like it would have made more sense to use makeup and digital effects to de-age the real Bridges (like Harry Potter or Benjamin Button) and then shift to a clearly animated version inside the computer world (think The Santa Clause 3 only done well).

Also, I felt the editing was a bit slow. Perhaps it is just that I am a film major and thus study story structure, but I felt that this film was following the traditional pattern very slowly.  It was hitting all of the right beats but it was taking forever to get there.  One example of the opposite (fast-cutting) is at the very end when we get all of 30 frames showing Sam flipping the breaker switch off.  Ultimately I felt they could have tightened the whole film up immensely by cutting out the junk like that shot and getting to the action faster.  Oh, and btw:  I was screaming at my TV at the end for them to “END ON THE STUPID POSE!!!” because it was so obviously going there.  Way to go, story team.  Way to go.

One final thing:  I mentioned earlier that they neglected to delve into the really good stuff of the film, and so I should probably explain what I mean.  The ISO subplot was absolutely fascinating and I wish the writers had seen that as much as Kevin Flynn seemed to.  The idea of a “race” of programs coming into existence from nothing is fascinating and as Flynn says:

For centuries we dreamed of gods, spirits, aliens, and intelligence beyond our own. I found them in here, like flowers in a wasteland. Profoundly naive; unimaginably wise. They were spectacular. Everything I’d hope to find in the system; control, order, perfection. None of it meant a thing. Been living in a hall of mirrors. The isos, shattered it, the possibilities of their root code, their digital DNA. Disease? History! Science, philosophy, every idea man has ever had about the Universe up for grabs. Biodigital jazz, man.

That is absolutely AMAZING!!!  Why didn’t they make the movie about this?  This is the most original and interesting part of the entire film and tit gets religated to an undeveloped subplot so that, instead, we could focus on the stupid and unoriginal stock plot!  And beyond that Tron, the character on whom the title is based, is relegated to a another predictable and undeveloped subplot.  Score two more for the writing staff!

The Next New Project -- Assassin's Creed: Jeff Bridges

I realize that I have been griping a lot about a movie that in the end I really liked.  Honestly I watched Tron: Legacy for the graphics and soundtrack and that certainly paid off in full.  It was gorgeous and stirring – arguably better than Avatar in those regards (at least I would argue that).  The plot was exactly as underdeveloped and predictable as I expected, so I really wasn’t let down at all. 🙂  It is what I said before — “Gorgeous Junk”, and that is exactly what I wanted it to be.

Overall Score:  8//10

Yup!  There you go!  I am glad both that I finally got around to seeing this film and that I am finally getting back to my regular posting schedule.  I still plan to get the Ramble about Theatre out this week as well as a Review of one of my Summer Film Challenge movies, so be looking for those here soon.  Also, shameless plug for someone else, I found this review of Tron: Legacy when I was writing mine and I really like they way they summed it all up. Give them a try and see what you think.

Let me know what you thought of the movie and whether or not you see Olivia Wilde as the Sex Appeal in the movie.  I think there is an interesting negotiation in this movie about the roles of women in films, and I am very interested in your thoughts on the matter.  Might lead to a post in the future if I actually get some responses. 🙂  Anyway, thanks for sticking around and come back soon for another rambling from yours truly.

Please Comment Below and Subscribe!

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Author: Tyler D. Welch

Filmmaker, Storyteller, Scholar

2 thoughts on “A Not-So-Lasting Legacy”

  1. For the record, I would totally play Assassin’s Creed if Jeff Bridges were the main character. Not if the character were in the likeness of Jeff Bridges, but if it were actually Jeff Bridges!

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