Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tron:Legacy is The Most Confounding Film I've Experienced in 2010

Late to the party as always, I've finally got something to say about Tron:Legacy. Let's just put it this way; I did not Heart it. However I didn't not Heart it entirely either. We're gonna break this down mathematic-like, with lists and statistics. Actually it isn't even gonna be that thorough. There are three categories everything eventually falls under - The Good, The Bad and The Meh. It is with these criteria that we will be talking about this season's most expensive, heavily marketed sequel to a flop that damn near set back the evolution of cinema. Ladies and gentlemen, The Good, The Bad and The Meh of Tron: Legacy.

The Good - Now, in the spirit of remaining optimistic I need to start with The Good. (Plus, it keeps with the whole title thing, which is a riff on an old western most people haven't even seen, yet they constantly, knowingly reference the title. Aren't I clever?) Many of my peers (I can't call 'em colleagues. I can barely call them peers.) like Devin at BD and the good folks over at CHUD have seemingly made it their mission to pop this film's balloon as big and as loud as they possibly can. Many of them haven't taken the time to talk about a positive, as if none were to be found in the flick. In reality, if nothing else, T:L is a well-crafted, technically thrilling film with plenty of smart filmatism on display. It looks great, sounds great and is well edited to the point you can follow eveything on screen in a coherent manner, a lost art in many action films of late. Another is that they never once drop their aesthetic choices or the manner with which they've presented this universe. While it may be an empty-headed film (see The Bad below) at least they go whole hog with their style and attitude. It may be a little too serious, downright glib at times, but it's a tone and they stick to it. I was captivated the whole way, at least on this level. A nice little surprise can also be found in the performance of Olivia Wilde. Now this one may come as a shock since everybody else is singling her out as absolutely dreadful. I wasn't even expecting all that much. She has never been a personality or a beauty I've cared much for. But she was 100% right for the part and I'd take half of the warmth she put on display over so many of the ice queens that usually become the focus of fanboy lust.

The Bad - Oh man, what a terrible script. Look, even Tron the OG had a pretty bad script. More than anything that film was loaded with more ideas than real story structure or heart, with some simple sci-fi/fantasy padding to get some of those ideas across. I say that as a fan of the first film. But this script is even more dunderheaded. The complaints to be levied against it are legion, most of which you could find in any other review. My biggest complaint though is one I have to echo about many other recent films of this ilk. It is too damn long. It is especially too long when you realize how simple and a to b the plot and conceits are. Trimming the fat from a lot of the beginning of the third act would have helped, as would some of the domestic scenes after Sam is introduced to his Dad inside the Grid. I could have had an easier time swallowing the script if it had been shorter and tighter. Brain dead is fine when it is over with rather quickly, but when it goes on forever *ahem*Pirates 3*cough*Transformers 2* then we have a bigger problem on our hands.

The Meh - Garrett Hedlund is not the personality vaccuum many people have accused him of being, but he isn't strong enough of a lead to overpower the poorly written character he is given to work with. He is easy on the eyes, that much I can attest to. My gay brother couldn't stop ogling him. But he isn't the only one who is incapable of besting this script. Jeff Bridges has two modes in this, both very familiar to anybody who has followed his career since day one. As CLU, the cloned program who has taken over the Grid (and who is CGI'd to look just like Jeff Bridges circa 1989), Bridges is in cocky, surefire mode, much like the young Bridges of old. Think Tron-era Kevin Flynn, mixed with a dash of the sinister Bridges to be found in Iron Man. As for old man Kevin Flynn, the creator trapped in a universe of his own making, all you really need to know is that this is The Dude, period. Again, maybe a splash of the even hippier character from The Men Who Stare at Goats is on display, but in general this is the Bridges that has become, for many, The Dude. In short, the script was probably even worse to a seasonded pro like Bridges and he figured the easy way to do this flick was to coast on two personalities he has already established. That and, I'm sure, a fat paycheck didn't hurt.


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