Tuesday, December 21, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: TRON LEGACY (no spoilers, well not that many)

Directed by Joe Kosinski (Walt Disney Pictures)

This TRON........
Not this Tron........
On my way out of town I went to the AMC 34th Street Theater in New York this past Friday with my pal Ojaay to see the hotly anticipated Disney film TRON: LEGACY. Although I tend to be down on remakes and 3-D technology I was thrilled to see this film in 3-D IMAX. I won't ruin the movie for those of you still waiting to see it by giving up too much info. A sequel to 1982's TRON written and directed by Joe Lisberger (who co-produced the new movie) TRON: LEGACY continues the story of video game designer/alternate digital reality creator Kevin Flynn. Although there are a few nice nods to the original in the new movie- you do not have to be familiar with the original to enjoy it or understand the story.

Ojaay and I await the film in our seats.

In the first film Flynn who is a rising star programmer at corporate computer giant ENCOM (sort of a combination of KONAMI, GOOGLE & MICROSOFT) makes some  amazing discoveries. After having someone else take credit for his work and getting ousted, Flynn tries to hack into the mainframe where his life is digitized and rendered into the “world of the grid”. The grid is a world inside the mainframe where artificial intelligence controls nearly everything while there are battles at stake between actual “programs” sentient human forms and “users” who are their real human counterparts operating in the system. Although the technology was terribly limited at the time (1982) and the look of the film was primitive by today’s cgi standards it was a triumph as the first mixed live action/computer animated movie. Although low budget and early tech impaired the visuals somewhat, the story has fascinated sci-fi fans for nearly twenty years. Including me. I was very excited to see the sequel come out. I saw the original TRON film at the old Allerton Avenue Movie Theater in The Bronx and I dragged my poor mother to take me. She couldn't have cared less for sci-fi and I think after that she rarely took me to movies and I went by myself a lot after TRON.

Check out this cool pic of the old Allerton Ave. movie house! Good times-
TRON: LEGACY opens up with a recap of the history of the franchise. Ergo, that's why you don't need to know more of the story than I have given you. We see Kevin Flynn as played by Jeff Bridges tucking his son Sam in one night talking about the world of the grid and promises to show it to him someday. Then he leaves for work on his motorcycle. The next day he disappears just as he is on the verge of a major breakthrough (harkening back to the events of the first film). He is never seen again according to news reports and ENCOM reorganizes without him after a major stock crash, similar to the real life events of the video game industry crash of 1983. Young Sam is left in the care of his grandparents, but never recovers emotionally from the loss of his dad.

Flash forward to today and we see grownup Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) who is a wealthy aire to his father's vast fortune left to him when he vanished. Sam could be a major player in ENCOM like his father was supposed to be, but he shuns that life although he is clearly a brilliant computer whiz. He lives off the radar of most people with a lot of expensive toys and a cute puggle. Sam is visited by Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), reprising his role from the first film as Kevin Flynn's confidant and partner. Alan is still on the ENCOM board, but doesn't like the way they do things. Alan gives Sam his pager (!) tells him to go to his father's old arcade and to his office. Sam winds up in the office and finds his father's old private lab with his research. Sam ends up transported to the world of the grid and once he gets his bearings he attempts to answer the riddle of his father. Similar to the first film the world is predicated on battle games for survival and there is a claustrophobic feeling of desperation in the film similar to the first MATRIX movie. Once again the common theme of a lot of sci-fi being that the technology that frees us also puts us in peril. 

The original name for the sequel was TRON 2 or TR2N. 

Bridges turns in a brilliant performance (with a slight nod to the THE BIG LEBOWSKI) as the user Flynn as well as his creation the renegade program Clu. His scenes with himself in both roles were amazing and had me reflecting on how he has reinvented his career in the last few years. So very proud of him. Boxleitner as Bradly/Tron is solid in limited screen time and Hedlund gives a strong performance as does Olivia Wilde as the beautiful and mysterious Quorra. Micheal Sheen is brilliantly delicious as Castor and Cillian Murphy is quite funny an uncredited role as the son of Edward Dillinger, a main character in the first movie.

DaftPunk played DJ's in the movie.

Visually the film is exceptional and the 3-D (which again, not a big fan of) was really well done. The special effects and the actual blocking of actors seamlessly works together like most modern films, but still maintains the cold feel of the world of the grid. Some of the action scenes are tremendous and have all the bells and whistles you expect from a flick of this caliber. I also have to give props to Daft Punk for the amazing soundtrack which evokes the original TRON soundtrack by Wendy Carlos, a favorite of mine. Overall the film was very enjoyable and I am looking forward to future sequels and the TV series that is due next year.

To follow the story a little deeper before going to the movies check out http://www.flynnlives.com/

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