Tron Legacy – The Disappointment

In my last post I wrote a little bit about my IMAX 3D experience and Tron: Legacy.  I purposefully did not say much about the film because I did not want to confuse what I thought about the presentation with what I thought about the film.  So, what did I think of the film?  Overall I was disappointed.

Once you get past all the computer generated effects and the amazing music, there just isn’t much left.  I won’t take up a lot of space with a synopsis of the film.  The way I see it, if you are reading my review on this site then you pretty much already know what happened in the original Tron and what is going on in the sequel.  The main problem with the sequel for me was that nothing seemed to fit the world that was previously laid out in the first film.  In Tron we see a resourceful Kevin Flynn who has no trouble breaking in to a highly secure facility.  Once in the computer, Flynn is able to get old, broken down programs (think the Recognizer) functioning again as well as accomplish a myriad of other seemingly impossible tasks.  In Tron: Legacy, Kevin Flynn has basically given up.  His way out of the computer world shuts down so he decides to go into hiding for nearly two decades.  This isn’t the Kevin Flynn I remember.  His program, Clu, is able to get a message out to the real world but Flynn can’t make contact with anyone?  Not only that but he doesn’t try to stop his creation?  The character doesn’t make a lot of sense. 

I also had problems with the supposed computer world.  At least in the first Tron there were some analogs to how real computer systems work.  Sure it was kind of silly, but they were there.  In Legacy the audience hardly knows the action is taking place in a computer.  It is more like some random fantasy world.  There is one scene that early on that really took me out of the film.  It was the light cycle sequence.  Why does a computer game need computer program spectators?  Thousands of spectators?  What is that supposed to mean?  Are all the programs, scripts, and chunks of code that are not being used at that very moment watching the game?  It was just weird to me. 

Anyway, the film as a narrative is pretty poor.  Maybe in 2010 we have seen too many “in the computer” films.  Films like The Matrix have made computer generated alternate realities mainstream.  I wonder if the idea is just so run of the mill today that a film like Tron: Legacy just doesn’t resonate.  Then again, maybe we just don’t enjoy movies with really bad stories.  No, that can’t be it.  Films like Armageddon and Transformers 2 seem to be successful in spite of their horrible stories.  Really I think the story is just so bland that the film doesn’t inspire that sense of wonder that Tron originally did.

The film however, does have some redeeming value.  I absolutely loved the soundtrack.  I was not familiar with Daft Punk before the film so I didn’t have any preconceived notion of what the film might sound like.  I also don’t generally find anything to like with electronic music but I loved this score.  It really sets a tone and mode that is unlike anything else in film today.  I found myself listening to the score instead of watching the film on many occasions.  I don’t know how they pick Oscar worthy soundtracks but this score really deserves some kind of award.

The other plus is the film looks great.  The update of the digital realm look really worked for me.  I wasn’t as happy with the digital Jeff Bridges but it really wasn’t that big of a deal.  He doesn’t look real but the technique seems to be coming along.  Otherwise I think the look of the film is stunning.  Since I haven’t seen it in any format other than IMAX I have to wonder if that presentation medium had an effect.  Still the computer world was interesting to look at.  My only complaint is that we spent more time at Flynn’s mountain hideaway and not enough time in the “city”.  If you enjoy eye and ear candy the film is certainly worth your time.

In the end the film is like a Jolly Rancher.  It is great when you put it in your mouth and all the sweetness flows over your taste buds but in 15 minutes you kind of forget it was there.  I had a lot of fun watching the film but after it ended I felt a little let down.  So that is why I liken it to a piece of candy.  Candy never lives up to what you want it to be but it is always enjoyable while you are eating it.  Tron: Legacy is like that.  It is like a piece of candy only it is the most fabulous piece of candy you have ever had.  If you are a Tron fan or want to have a visual and audio experience then go see the film but ONLY in IMAX 3D.  I just don’t think it will be as good in standard 2D or run of the mill 3D.  Outside of that, I don’t think the film will appeal to the average movie goer and that is why I am a little sad.  I keep waiting for that really good Sci-Fi property to get off the ground but they just keep failing.  Like Charlie Brown and the football, I keep thinking “this time is IT!” but then I find myself flat on my back wondering how I got there.  Here’s hoping for good things from Cowboys and Aliens.     

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