So I saw Tron Legacy the other day and I'm not sure what to think. The short version is I liked it enough, but it had plenty of faults. The long version, well, that's why you're reading, right?
To be honest, I'd never watched the original Tron. I remember being in one of my friends' houses growing up, seeing it on TV, and being immediately turned off by it; It looked weird, it was kinda boring, and the effects were funky. Needless to say, I had a very low opinion of this 'classic'.
Even with this Anti-Tron bias, I was really struck by the trailers for the new movie. The combination of the designs, the soundtrack, and the awe-inspiring visuals really did a number to my head. I was (strangely) totally stoked to see this new extravaganza, and more I was ready to watch the original too.
A quick aside: Did you know that the Tron DVD is no longer in print? You'd think a company as well versed in making a profit like Disney would make sure that there was at least a bare bones version of the original floating around somewhere so eager new fans could pick it up. Apparently, that's why I'm not in marketing. Luckily we were able to secure a copy via friends of friends. Anyway...
As it turns out, my five year old self was right, the first Tron is horrible. Don't get me wrong, I went into it with a crazy open mind, ready to be blown away. It's just... boring, weird looking, and confusing. Not confusing in a plot sense, but more in a 'world' sense.
The original Tron straight up baffled me. The main villain was kidnapping programs and making them play games, so they would.... what? Lose? Forget all his machinations? Get reprogrammed? Give him something to watch on lonely Sundays? And what would happen if a user wanted to use a program that was already hijacked? Would it be available? Would it have to be reinstalled?
The only thing I felt good about when the credits rolled on Tron was that the new one would only be a step up from it. But with the 'classic' in my mental rolodex, I was ready for the new one.
I'm really torn on Tron Legacy. It's certainly head and shoulders above it's predecessor, but it was still lacking something that would have made it the true classic it wants to be.
First, the good: Visually, the movie is stunning. Everything from the design to the action scenes are iconic, identifiable, and memorable. It's amazing to just look at and let it wash over you. The best part is they don't ruin it with a bunch of shitty hand-held camera nonsense; it's a very, serene, zen-like visual style.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the absolutely stellar soundtrack from Daft Punk. It's engrossing, driving, and emotional, probably one of the best soundtracks I've heard since... well, for a very LONG time. In fact, I've been jamming out to it all day, it's so good. I fully endorse this soundtrack and strongly suggest you all go out and make it your own. I promise you won't be disappointed.
Lastly, the characters were pretty great. Sure, they didn't do a whole lot, but they were likable and otherwise unintrusive on the greater plot. For the record, I think Garret Hedlund is everything Sam Worthington wishes he could be: Actiony, emotional, and charismatic. I wouldn't mind Hedlund getting a few more choice action roles from Mr. No-Personality, and I don't think I'm alone in that.
And now for the bad: the legacy of Tron. Or rather, the legacy of shaky storytelling.
While I wasn't as baffled by Tron Legacy, I still wasn't able to draw a strong emotional bead on the material. The major plot about saving some new lifeforms was kinda lost on me because it was so buried in technical jargon that I just accepted it and moved on before really processing. Which lead to a conceptual block on my part when it came to the emotional plot of fathers leaving their sons.
The weird part is, all the pieces are there. I could break down some of those scenes, rearrange them, and really make them resonate (I think). In the end it's so close to really hitting the mark, but it just sails right past it.
What I wanted was the same reaction I had when I walked out of KickAss. I wanted to be exhausted and exhilarated, I wanted to be pumped up and drained at the same time. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
As we walked out, discussing the movie, we were all disappointed that we didn't have that reaction. But even in that disappointment, we were hesitant to call it a bad movie. I can talk until I'm blue in the face about what's wrong about that movie, but there's something about it that's wonderful that won't allow me to go so far as to say it's bad.
The FutureWife (You gotta check that twitter feed, I'm telling you things happen over there) thinks it's because of the motorcycles, sweet action, and Olivia Wilde in black leather. I won't go as far to say that's not true, but there's something else in there that makes me want to like it.
So, kudos to Tron Legacy, the finest, and hopefully the last, movie in the Tron series.
Sweet Tron posters from Eric Tan, check out his blog for more awesome stuff!