Saturday, 21 May 2011

TRON Legacy - DVD Review

Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn in TRON Legacy

I love the first TRON film.  Sure, the effects aren't exactly impressive by today's standards and the acting was embarrassingly bad at times, but I still love it.   Back in 1982 the effects were mind-blowing of course, and as a young boy interested in the exciting new technology called computing I lapped it all up, seeing the movie several times.  Even now I still enjoy watching it now and then, although I have to admit that pure nostalgia definitely plays a part in my enjoyment of the film.

Fast forward 28 years and the sequel, TRON Legacy; computers are an everyday part of our lives, CGI is just as commonplace, and the basic idea which TRON introduced is now old-hat.  Would the sequel be able to put together a strong enough storyline, impressive enough effects and a good enough cast to be seen as a worthy successor to TRON?  I'm happy to say that in most respects, TRON Legacy is a great film - to my relief (and, I admit, slightly to my surprise).

The storyline takes up years after the events of the first film; Flynn (Jeff Bridges reprising his role) has mysteriously gone missing after many visits back into the virtual world; he leaves behind a son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) who could be Encom's chairman if he wanted, but instead has become a motorbike riding wild child with a penchant for mischief, disrupting board meetings and what seems to be a combination of gymnastics and martial arts.  Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), also a character from the first film (TRON being his alter-ego in the virtual world) is a lone voice in the boardroom, with Flynn's ideals of open-sourcing and freedom of information long gone, replaced by the profitable release of an expensive new operating system with virtually no genuinely new features every year.  A relative of Dillinger also sits on the board, though his character seems to be there purely as a name-dropping exercise from the first movie.

You just can't have TRON without light cycles!
Anyway, let's ignore the board meeting - it's one of the least interesting parts of the film.  Shortly afterwards Alan sees Sam about being paged by Flynn from his derelict arcade in town - with Flynn missing for years this is very odd, so off goes Sam to investigate.  One thing leads to another and he ends up being zapped into the virtual world.  Fortunately, he's good at playing games... like father, like son.

Sam meets Zuse, with Gem in the background.
This is, of course, where things start to become really interesting.  While the good and bad programs are still neatly delineated into blue and red for us, there are also other colours, more types of program, the programs have more defined personalities than in the first film, and there's even a new life form.  The concept of kissing, originally introduced to the digital world by Flynn, seems to have really caught on (if the scene in the bar is anything to go by).  Apart from one notable exception, the programs are not depicted as being digital counterparts to their real-world programmers.  The action sequences are handled well and there's occasional, well-placed use of humour to vary the pace.  The characters and plot are more than interesting enough to hold things together - especially in the digital world, which is where most of the film takes place.

The visuals are a veritable feast for the eyes - after all, if any film was ever going to lend itself perfectly to CGI, it's a game actually set inside the computer.  The music and sound effects are great, very suitable for the film and somehow echoing the original's soundtrack while at the same time being completely fresh and original.  I'd never heard of "Daft Punk", but as it turns out they were an inspired choice to do the soundtrack.

Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde (Quorra) make an attractive screen couple (even if they're not exactly a couple for most of the movie), and Jeff Bridges, a screen legend, doesn't do much wrong.  There is a CGI-aided younger version of himself which doesn't look quite right, but I didn't find it detracted too much from the movie.  The rest of the cast are up to the job and Michael Sheen (Castor / Zuse) gives an extraordinary performance.  The storyline is gripping right up to the finale.

It's near the end that I felt TRON Legacy let itself down a little.  With an eye clearly on sequels, there were some important questions left unanswered, and without (hopefully!) giving too much away, TRON's change of heart near the end didn't really seem to have much reason behind it.  What exactly happened to Flynn at the end is also left largely unanswered.  Despite the fact that I really enjoyed the vast majority of the film, the opening sequences in the real world didn't really convince me and the ending didn't quite pull it off either, so I'm rating it 4 stars rather than 5.

For once I did actually look at the DVD extras (having missed this at the cinema - after waiting two decades for them to make a sequel to TRON!! - the DVD of TRON Legacy is the only DVD I've ever pre-ordered before it's released).

The DVD extras are:

-          First look at TRON: Uprising, the Disney XD animated series - well, it's short and... that's about it.  Uninspiring but possibly nice if you're looking forward to that series.

-          Visualising TRON - a look at the special effects used in TRON and the general conceptualising of the digital world.  Interesting stuff.

-          Installing the cast - a nice look at how the cast were chosen and who they are. 

Being a fan of the original TRON movie isn't required to enjoy this one, although it probably helps a little and certain references are going to be missed by those who aren't familiar with the story.  Slight dissatisfaction with the ending aside, TRON Legacy is a hugely entertaining movie.

TRON the movie
TRON the book
TRON 2.0 PC game

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