Review by Sam LeGassick
Before starting to delve into The Grid and it’s inhabitants, I have to start by saying I’ve always been a huge Tron fan. As a kid, I would often pick up Tron again and again to watch over and over and has always had a special place in my heart, so when the initial concept footage for Tron 2 was released, you could imagine my excitement. Since then, I’ve been cautious not to get too over-excited. Sure the trailers look incredible, Daft Punk (whom I adore) were signed on to do the music, Jeff Bridges was going to do it, it was going to be 3D and also in IMAX. I had to bestill my beating heart that every time I get over-excited about a film, it very often disappoints and I didn’t want that to happen here. Not to Tron. Please.
As readers know, I didn’t rate the game very highly but Daft Punk’s score got top marks (both reviews can be found on the right hand side or on Youtube’s ‘thewildboretv’ channel) and once the film was released it got some very mixed reviews but I tried my best to keep out of it until I’d seen the final product myself, which was in centre seats at Waterloo’s IMAX by the way.
If you don’t know already, Tron Legacy takes place after the events of Tron (but not Tron 2.0 – the PC game for those non-geeks) where Kevin Flynn is taking advantage of being able to enter digital space by playing God and creating his own world. However, random beings, pieces of code or whatever they are, called ISO’s have turned up and inside them could be the answers to the Universe, apparently. However, Flynn’s ‘supervisor’ program Clu has a lot of ideas above his station and believes the ISO’s to be imperfections and thus destroys them in The Purge (events of Tron Evolution). Kevin Flynn is banished and is hiding out with the beautiful Olivia Wilde (Quorra). Meanwhile, Sam Flynn, heir to his father’s company, is busy causing havoc and being a rebel in the real world until he enters The Grid where luckily all his extreme sports hobbies come in good use.
Firstly the visuals are probably the best I’ve seen in anything, ever. It looks cool and is absolutely incredible to witness. The first time we see the Tron world, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. In this respect, the 3D-ness (is there a word for it?) works perfectly and it’s the best use of 3D effects I’ve seen yet, and yes that’s including Avatar. However, there is one massive flaw and I’ve seen it crop up time and time again in reviews – and that’s the young Jeff Bridges as Clu. It simply doesn’t work. It looks like Tom Hanks from The Polar Express or something, it is clearly animated and really stands out as he stands next to real people. It’s a shame that technology has come leaps and bounds but actors don’t have to worry, because recreating actual people won’t be an issue for a while. It’s a shame because it takes away from the rather dramatic scenes rather than adding to it.
The script is slightly flawed and they try to push in some key lines inbetween the set pieces but it’s mainly because the pace is so incredibly fast. From disc wars to light cycle races to hand to hand combat the action is relentless and slows down in the right places to put it into context. If anything it’s too textbook. Ever since Disney began, their writers were apparently handed out a guide to The Hero’s Journey, a simple guide to Joseph Cambell’s ‘Hero Of A Thousand Faces’, and it’s essentially a template to creating an engaging storyline and one that can be traced as far back as Greek mythology and beyond. I know of it because I did a whole blooming thing on it in University.
But Tron Legacy follows it point by point without missing a step which means that it might be simple but yet it’s a familiar story, much like Star Wars or The Matrix but they had more depth. In fact, what Tron Legacy is missing, which is key, is the sense that it’s part of a bigger thing and it feels way too self-contained without much knowledge of the actual geography of the place. To some this might seem indifferent, but subconsciously it works to give you a sense of realism and interaction. An example I often use is Alien, you often feel like you know the layout of the ship and it’s a highly successful way of allowing your imagination fully integrate with the film by creating, arguably, boundaries. It’s not saying you have to know where everything is, just that you realise that it’s a part of the bigger picture.
Unfortunately, there’s not enough sense of what goes on inside The Grid and you’re a bit confused as to where everything is. Why would they put the games arena right at the edge of the Outlands for instance? It sounds like nit-picking but I feel subconsciously people pick these things up, which is often why people find it hard to summarise why they did or didn’t like a film. Pop psychology there folks or perhaps just slightly patronising.
You could argue that the whole point of The Grid in digital space is that it is infinite and these are programs, not living people, but I wanted there to be a bit more time in the ‘city’ part of the Tron Legacy world. What do these programs get up to? Do they couple off? Is it a working society? Why do they have to eat? Where is the food coming from? People can take it at face value but these are questions I found myself wanting to know the answers to after I left. Not in a geeky way of knowing every detail, more a way of wanting to understand the world more.
What’s great about this storyline though is that a huge amount of history, myths and religion can be compared to it. Everything from the Nazi’s, Cain and Abel, Darwinism, The New Testament, The Big Bang, Pat Pong, the Romans etc. could be related to this film and, in a way, the film itself is post-post-modern. A digital world within a digital world within the real world, where does the line end? You could read all sorts into it, that perhaps it is Flynn’s purgatory, that it was Sam’s dream, that it’s the afterlife or perhaps it’s just a simple story of a son searching for his father’s love. Either way, it’s not as superficial as most action films and, although it’s not perfect, it’s a great attempt to satisfy newcomers and fanboys alike.
The characters work quite nicely, Cillian Murphy makes a brief appearance (and one that will most definitely turn up in a sequel) as Ed Dillinger’s son, the main villain in the 1982 Tron film, but it’s a great glimpse into what will most certainly be a great sequel to come. Garrett Hedlund is remarkably perfect for Sam Flynn’s role, it’s never too cocky nor too naive, but does play up to the all-American rebel that tends to be popping up a lot (see Chris Pine in Star Trek as an example). It also made me laugh that his name is Sam and when asked how old he is, he states “27” – “Cor! Just like me! It’s like I’m in the bloody film!” – I didn’t say that, but I felt like saying it.
Jeff Bridges, I thought, did a great job as well. I had already read that people thought he was too much like The Dude and it had put some people off, however I honestly think it’s only because he uses phrases such as ‘man’ and ‘zen’, which is a bit like not being able to see the forest for all the trees. People accustomed to the first film will know that Flynn was all about being laid-back and cool, it was pretty much what steered the first film, he had to be forced into action and indeed forced to mature which was the whole point of his journey in Tron. What people also forget is that he would have been a hippy child of the Seventies and seeing as he is trapped in The Grid for twenty odd years, he would not have been privy to cultural movements and therefore it might seem cheesy, but in fact works perfectly for the narrative. I was scared that Bridges would play his role too jolly, too happy-go-lucky like the original Flynn but fortunately, he has a lot more gravitas, probably not as much as I originally hoped (I wanted him to be a dark, angry, almost evil character – something to come perhaps?) but he is still clearly quite disturbed. His black and white grainy dreams looking more like a sketch, as if his dreams of the past are almost like out-of-date technology, which finally come back to colour as he is brought almost ‘back to life’ in a sense by the return of his son. People might think the journey is about Sam, but I’d argue it might be more about Kevin.
Bridges also plays Clu, who is very child-like and lashes out when he doesn’t get his way. Just like in the first film, Kevin Flynn must conquer his immaturity, his fear, his naivety in order to continue, all of which is summed up in Clu. The real stand-out performance for me, for more than one reason is Olivia Wilde as Quorra, her wide-eyed innocence is as effective as her strength in such a powerful feminine role – she is clearly very sexual (the best leather-clad female on-screen since Pfiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns) but it doesn’t define her. Fellow House fans will already know that she is one of the most gorgeous women about at the moment and she certainly proves it here. Her cat-like appearance (and I bloody love cats) helps in her feline performance but she is more than just a love interest, which is respectable these days by itself. She will be on FHM’s list next year if she isn’t already. Is she?
Martin Sheen as a strange David Bowie character mixes up the seriousness with a bit of zaniness but the whole scene feels rather forced and I felt the club could have been a bit more impressive, even if it does have Daft Punk in it. The rest of the cast do look slightly like extras in a Tron version of The Warriors, or perhaps Emo-Rockers but for all the manliner, it does kind of work.
The whole world feels dark, gloomy, a constant storm hanging overhead, and slightly depressing, but in a good way, it’s better than an iPod white future and Daft Punk’s music over the top creates an amazing French soundscape that works perfectly into the film. It’s further proof that as amazing as certain composers are, sometimes it’s good to hand out work to more popular, respected musicians instead of a James Bond-esque title song that artists usually get dumped with. The film also has some light comic relief to stop people thinking it takes itself so seriously, it is after all a Disney film. But advert director Joseph Kosinki has done an incredible job and other gamers out there will recognise his work in the Gears Of War and Halo 3 adverts that did so well.
Watching this film in 3D and especially in IMAX was a treat for the eyes, but it wasn’t a perfect spectacle, however it was perfect for me. Okay so it might be a little too close to Star Wars, the Jedi, Storm Troopers, Death Star and all that, but at least it knows it (you’ll know what I mean when you see it). It’s incredible to watch but is flawed in a few areas which means that speaking objectively I will have to mark it as such. But as a fanboy I’d definitely give a 10/10. May there be many more Tron’s to come! I bloody loved it.