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Sunday, December 19, 2010  

M. Ovie Reviews: Tron: Legacy

I've already riffed on Twitter about how long it takes Jeff Bridges to get a sequel made. Texasville, the sequel to the obviously mistitled The Last Picture Show took nearly two decades to come out. Now he's in Tron: Legacy, a sequel to a movie that was released 28(!) years ago. To put that into perspective, imagine having seen Star Wars for the first time in a double feature with a sequel to a movie made in 1949. I saw Tron: Legacy with my oldest friend, whom I had not yet met when the original came out. Now the upcoming decades will hopefully be littered with more overdue Jeff Bridges sequels like The Fabulous Baker Men, Neutronstarman, D-Biscuit, L-PAX, Tucker: The Man Wakes Up, and Bigger Lebowski: The Abiding.

So anyway, there may be other movies where a 61-year-old actor plays scenes with his 33-year-old self, but none immediately come to mind, and certainly none I saw this weekend.

I have to say, I think it's a little ballsy to make a sequel to Tron at all. Back in 1982, hardly anybody knew anything about computers in the first place, so setting an adventure story in a virtual computer world populated by "programs" who look like people with strips of neon on their clothes was something screenwriters could get away with. Dude gets zapped into a computer and meets the program alter-egos of the friends who wrote them? Why not, we didn't know any better. And it's not like anyone ever writes more than one program anyway.

Now, in 2010, a lot of people are a lot more computer-savvy. It must have been tempting to update the Tron-iverse to something that makes sense to modern viewers, but no, it stuck with the 1982 concept. I thought that the Internet alone would have changed the landscape of The Grid beyond recognition (no pun intended, and possibly no pun achieved), but if anything, it's more nonsensical than ever, with programs that still wear discs on their backs and have lots of spare time to witness gladiatorial arena games and go to clubs hosted by another program who goes to a ridiculous amount of trouble to be David Bowie. I'll be the first to admit I have no idea what goes on inside my computer, but I'm pretty sure it's not that. If anything, I imagine a Grid populated by a rogue's gallery of .exe and .dll files, with old recaps and blog entries wandering the alleys leaving a trail of snark, and wide thoroughfares where the sky is blotted out by corpulent Microsoft applications that keep offering unwanted advice and falling down all the time.

I do have to give credit for the movie featuring one computer-generated character that actually looks like one. That would be the ageless, evil doppelganger of Jeff Bridges' Kevin Flynn, a program named Clu (because, sure, that's what people named programs in 1982). I'm pretty sure his face is just supposed to look human, like those of all the other programs in the movie, but it's obvious he comes from the part of The Grid that we now know as the Uncanny Valley. He's a notch above the creepy-ass animated creations in recent Robert Zemeckis movies in both execution and subtlety, but you can't not notice that his face is just wrong somehow. The meat on his face has no weight; there's no air pushing his free-floating lips out when he talks. And he talks a lot.

Ultimately, what's wrong with Clu is what's wrong with the movie: the more talking, the weaker it gets. Things are fine during the action sequences, when laser-Frisbees are flying at people and light-vehicles are zooming around after each other, and it's FUCKING LOUD, but every time someone explains something about how this world works it's all a bunch of Matrix: Revolutions gobbledygook that makes it impossible to get invested. If anything, the Dueling Daddy Issues were a more interesting subplot.

But I guess it succeeds in bringing back what worked from the original (video games come to life, flights across the wastelands, an autocratic ruler brought low, and "That is a big door") while tossing in enough modern action-movie crap to interest the kids whose dads drag them to it. Plus now those dads can say, "Next time you want to complain about me missing one of your soccer games, just be glad I'm not permanently trapped in a virtual computer world doing a reprise of that guru-in-exile thing I perfected in Surf's Up." Which is more than a lot of movies can do.

posted by M. Giant 9:19 PM 0 comments


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