Shit SHIT! I best get this down quick before Sharpie finishes her breathless remarks about how although Tron: Legacy has a terrible plot it is still utterly brilliant. Christ, she types like the Devil Himself is guiding her fingers. Shit!
2010 has been a stellar year for movies, more or less, but it will be best known as the year of the Spectacle Film; movies which, like firework displays, look pretty but are essentially meaningless. Visual cantrips meant to pacify the critical functions of the viewer through a combination of shock and awe. Neatly rounding off the year we have Tron: Legacy, a film so insubstantial an automatic door wouldn’t register its presence.
I’m going to sound like some old, embittered docent in this review, sounding off about the death of plot and characterisation in cinema in favour of light and sound and extra dimensions that aren’t really there, as if the only films I ever watch are directed by vaguely ugly men smoking unfiltered Gauloises and quoting Sartré. I feel like Kevin McCarthy, gesticulating wildly ‘twixt a traffic jam, ‘Do not be fooled!’ I’m howling, ‘3D is a sham! You may love it now but once the next big thing comes along it shall go the way of smell-o-vision! Never forget Jaws 3-D! Where is Dennis Quaid now!?’
Oh right, a review. Tron: Legacy is the sequel to 1982’s Tron, a film I saw and loved when I was about 10. I can’t really remember the intricacies of that films plot which is a shame because Legacy gives absolutely no indication at all of what fucking happened. The film follows Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) the son of a CEO and computer-whiz who disappeared mysteriously during his childhood. Sam is supposed to be gnarly and subversive and like, totally breaks the rules, so naturally he sports a brand-new leather jacket, a vintage motorcycle and a flagrant disregard for the plight of the honest working-Joe. Think Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot and you’ll know what I mean. As Sharpie says he is good-looking as well, which doesn’t help my self-esteem, fuck him and his perfect teeth. Anyway, Flynn finds himself entering The Grid, a computer program which should be familiar to anyone who watched VR Rangers as a kid or, well, the last Tron film. There he meets up with Daddy, has to battle someone who looks like Daddy, gets down to some funky beats in the worlds shittest club and falls in love with a woman made up of ones and zeroes. Oh yeah, and Daddy is played by Jeff Bridges.
I’m quite pleased that Jeff Bridges might just be competing with Tom Hanks as the planets favourite actor. The man could give a good performance in his sleep, which is lucky as he practically sleep-walks through the film, making sub-par Dudeisms like your dad might if he were trying to infiltrate a jazz club in the 30’s. When Bridges isn’t being hip to the uttermost jive he is spouting science-fiction jargon so soft it makes Back to the Future sound like it was written by Isaac Asimov. Bridges also plays the antagonist CLU, a computer program hell-bent on getting in the real world to ‘perfect’ it, how he (it?) plans on doing this is never fully explained. As CLU, Bridges performs with an unconvincing CGI mask meant to shave off twenty years, which works fine in the virtual reality of The Grid but looks laughable in the real world. Rounding off the cast we have Olivia Wilde playing The Pretty Girl, because there always has to be one in these kinds of things, and she’s actually alright, bringing charm and humour to a miserably underwritten role. Lastly we have Michael Sheen, attempting to out-act absolutely everything, including the scenery, which is difficult considering how fucking bright the scenery is.
You may have noticed that my principle issue with the film is the writing. The plot attempts to be complex but is ultimately just confusing, finally deciding to jettison all sense of coherence by the final reel. The dialogue is bland and clichéd, (does anybody ever actually say ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me!’ to themselves when faced by something that obviously isn’t kidding them?) and relies too heavily on meaningless technobabble (‘My God, if the Mu-RF doesn’t restabilise, the Index Algorithms could gestate quadratically within the system splicer!’ ‘But, but what does it mean Dr, Francisco?’ ‘Why it means that we would become… obsolete.’). There are about a dozen other reasons I disliked the movie, but Sharpie has just told me not to write another essay and threatened me with actual physical violence. So, with no further ado, let me present (in a very short paragraph) The Good Bits!
Well, it looks pretty, for about half an hour, before you become bored of the same background. I don’t think the makers realised that the original Tron only looked the way it did because of technological limitations. Erm, the music provided by Daft Punk is excellent (see Sharpie’s review of the soundtrack). The special effects are obviously very accomplished but don’t really serve any purpose, the same goes with the 3D visuals.. er, yeah. Cillian Murphy is in it for about seven seconds. That’s it, I’m spent.
But fuck it, just because I didn’t like it doesn’t make it a bad film. It is produced by Disney after all (oh Christ, I forgot to mention the product placement, hats off to Coors beer and the Apple Ipad, amongst others) and it is meant for kids. It’s a fun movie and full of action and the like and one probably shouldn’t put too much thought into the plot, I certainly never did when I saw the original. Youth is for the young, and I think I’m best off left muttering in my hovel, watching my miserable wintery films about death and doom, on a very small black and white TV screen, on VHS, in 2D.