‘I’ve been waiting a long time for this’ mutters Clu, the digital re-incarnation of Jeff Bridges‘s Kevin Flynn, echoing the thoughts of thousands of Tron fans worldwide. 28 years ago the original Tron was wowing 80’s audiences with its ground-breaking use of visual technology. Nearly three decades on, its descendant is following in its footsteps.
After surviving the gladiatorial-like battles inside the MCP’s ‘grid’ (watch the original Tron for full back-story), Kevin Flynn goes on to head the huge computer company Encom, achieving fame and fortune after creating games based on his time inside the digital world. When he disappears he leaves behind an embittered son (Sam – Garrett Hedlund, a relatively fresh face to cinema screens), and a legacy shrouded in mystery. Tron: Legacy joins the now 27 year-old Sam Flynn who shirks away from the Encom empire his father left in his wake. When a message appears from nowhere luring him to the world that stole his father’s attention away, Sam finds himself transported into an unimaginable world where he must battle a digital replica of his father if he ever hopes to escape.
Fresh in the wake of Cameron’s visually inspiring Avatar, the hugely anticipated Tron: Legacy pushes the realms of the visual genre even further. After he finds his father’s office hidden behind a once thriving (and strangely untouched) arcade, Sam is zapped into a digital world unrecognisable and nigh-incomparable to the one in Tron. Reminiscent of the format of The Wizard of Oz, the film begins its course in 2D before plunging into a powerful 3D world that immediately envelopes its audience. The moment a red-rimmed recogniser hones into view the audience is introduced to an intimidatingly dark yet indesputibly beautiful vision of an utopian digital world gone haywire. Created by Flynn’s digital re-incarnation-gone-bad Clu, the breath-taking world of the grid is adorned with masterful gleaming skyscrapers and polished buildings. The hypnotic game scenes are undoubtedly the film’s highlights. When Sam finds himself facing ‘derezzing’ at the hands of foreboding opponents the technologies used in the creation of Tron: Legacy come into their own, with the lightcycle scenes being the most memorable of the film.
Having been in production for three years, its ingenious use of the increasingly popular motion capture technology (instrumental in producing films such as Avatar and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) not only allows its cast to fully integrate with the world of the grid but also means a youthful Jeff Bridges appears as Clu, inherently unaffected by ageing, throughout the film. Although at points it is obvious that Clu’s face has been digitally captured and imposed, its implementation is nonetheless applaudable as it allows the story to progress in ways that would never have been imaginable only a few years ago.
Tron: Legacy manages to maintain the 80’s vibe of the original whilst harnessing the very latest of technologies. The set designs and costumes, although highly modernised, all hark back to original Tron whilst the world of the grid itself offers a modernised vision of the dystopian worlds imagined in Blade Runner, Total Recall and, quite obviously, Tron itself. The overall sense of the film is heightened by its soundtrack composed by electronic music duo Daft Punk who seem to have been created for this purpose alone. Enhancing the visual experience by providing an awe-inspiring soundscape, Daft Punk’s score captures the very essence of the world of Tron effortlessly.
The characters who populate the world of the grid are overshadowed by the presence of Bridges, whose dude-esque nature, although diluted here by his deification as Kevin Flynn, is a show-stealer. The performances of the rest of the cast are nonetheless commendable with Michael Sheen starring as the eccentric and undoubtedly Bowie-inspired Castor whilst Bruce Boxleitner reprises his role as Alan Bradley. Even the minor inhabitants of the grid are memorable, with the tight-suited welcoming sirens making a notable impact.
Tron: Legacy highlights similar issues as to its predecessor (exploring the corruptibility of large companies (Encom’s Apple-esque grip on the technological world corrupting its employees)) whilst introducing new ones, largely through the role of the enigmatic Quorra (Olivia Wilde). As well as emphasizing the seductive nature of technology, the mere existence of her programme draws attention to some worrying aspects of technological advancements whilst underlying what Wilde terms as the ‘need to reconnect with the world’.
Despite its mesmerising use of digital technology, Tron: Legacy is by no means perfect and has already found its critics. With criticism largely being aimed at its script, Tron: Legacy faces the impossible challenge of pleasing fans of Tron as well as the totally new audience it will no doubt draw. Although the story may be more heavily geared at those who have seen the original, it is accessible to even the uninitiated, with Bridges himself saying audiences ‘don’t have to have seen the other one for this to make sense’. It must be remembered that both Tron and Tron: Legacy will never be films remembered solely for the merit of their scripts. One need only look to Avatar as an example of the power amazing visuals have in rectifying an otherwise mediocre film.
Although the script may not be to everybody’s tastes it is perhaps Sam Flynn that is the film’s biggest downfall. Part of the multi-millionaire danger-playboy elite that populate the blockbuster genre (the towering shots mimicking the now iconic Nolan Batman shots), Sam is sometimes bland in comparison to the vibrant world he discovers. The family reunion he enjoys with Bridge’s Flynn jars slightly with the awe-inspiring visual elements of the film, bringing the heady pace of the movie to a juddering halt. This may particularly grate on fans of the original as, after three decades of waiting, they weren’t particularly waiting for a family reunion between their beloved Flynn and a son who had yet to be conceived in the original. If you like a rounded conclusion before the credits roll then be warned; you may be sorely disappointed. The film leaves some questions unanswered whilst the appearance of the stig-like Tron himself is a little under-utilised and under-explained for those not au fait with the original.
Tron: Legacy in’t your average Disney film. Although Disney may have found its feet in the live-action arena (with Pirates of the Caribbean being one of the most successful franchises of all time) it moves in a completely different direction with Tron: Legacy. Child-friendly characters (Jack Sparrow) and scores reminiscent of its classic animations are replaced here with fatal gladiatorial games (albeit played with shining frisbees) and truly menacingly diabolical computer programmes all played out in glorious 3D.
In Tron: Legacy first time director Joseph Kosinski has created a sequel that has truly been worth the wait. For a generation Tron marked a new era in film and its baton has successfully been passed on to Tron: Legacy. The only question now is whether there will be another thirty year wait for part three…
|When Sam first enters the grid.|
|'You're messing with my zen'.|
|Daft Punk's 'Derezzed'.|
|Shooting took a mere 64 days. Due to its reliance on visual wizardry however post-production took 68 weeks.|
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