Friday, December 3, 2010

The Legacy of TRON

There's a lot of film critics that I read, some because I almost always disagree with them, some because I just find their writing fantastic, and some because I find their taste and viewpoints to be extremely similar to mine. Of the latter, Drew McWeeny at is the one I read most often. I think, as a screenwriter, he understands the language of film, and the needs of storytelling, in a very immediate way.

With that said, this is really depressing. It's not going to stop me from seeing TRON: Legacy, but my expectations are well tempered.

One of the things that I like about that review is that he spends time talking about the original film. There are a lot of movies out there who's reputation needs to be tempered against the nostalgia the fanbase has for the film. There may be no film that exemplifies this more than the original TRON.

TRON is a visual marvel, and I definitely still enjoy it on that level. It's gorgeous in it's design and execution, and the primitive CGI effects are perfect for the circa-1982 computer world that's being explored. To this day, I can put that DVD on, and just wallow in a fully realized, totally alien environment.

Now, outside of that, TRON is a pretty crappy movie. It's inert in pretty much every sense, with a couple of fairly well executed setpieces. It's also a horrendous example of effects work, and marketing, driving a story.

Classic example; why the shot of the net bugs when they look over the side of the solar sailer? It's about 30 seconds of footage, if that, and the dialogue indicates the bugs are some sort of threat. However, what the bugs actually do is...nothing. They pop up, skitter around, and disappear from the film. Of course, they DO pop up again in the absolutely classic video game. It's like somebody said, "hey we have this animation of these bug things, can we stick that in there? I know it makes not really one iota of sense, but can we?"

I also see why the video game people would absolutely latch onto it, because, outside of the two action beats that do work in the film, which would be the ring game and the lightcycles, there's really nothing to use as a threat. Well, there are the recognizers, which are another lovely bit of design, and they do make the game. I always seem to forget the tank level.

I always wonder when somebody tells me they "love" TRON, if they are really mixing up the memories of the game with the movie. As a kid, the game was astonishing, and the movie bored the crap out of me. I was eleven, and the film didn't even really get me as an environment, a place where I'd want to have other adventures, above and beyond the movie. That was a feeling I got from a lot of really great films, obvious ones like Star Wars, or the Indiana Jones series, but also really crappy, ass end films like Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn.

Yeah, I said it. Anytime I hear somebody complaining about the "crappy" new 3-D, I just sorta drop, "Metalstorm." I played a lot, imagining running from Night Court's "Bull." (picture on your right) Outside of, occasionally, thinking my bike was a lightcycle, I can't remember ever "playing" TRON, except the game.

Now, as an adult, I can see so much opportunity and depth in the world that director and screenwriter Steve Lisberger whipped up. Especially now with the internet being such a force in the world. The concept the TRON team came up with is so much vaster than their execution of it, and, being based on real-world tech, the concept can be used in so many interesting ways. It's a concept that, right off the bat, suggests so many way to really be ABOUT something, rather than just a empty popcorn movie experience.

Not to say that TRON doesn't hit on a few things that live up to the concept. The Master Control Program (MCP - on your left) is a fascinating creation. It's a program, just like every other entity we meet inside the computer world. The unspoken rule is that these programs look exactly like the user (i.e. us) who programmed them. CLU looks like Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), TRON looks like Alan Bradley(Bruce Boxleitner), SARK looks like Ed Dillinger (David Warner). Yet, the MCP, which was programmed by Dillinger, looks nothing like his user. He's evolved and taken on the tasks of other programs, and "physically" changed within the computer world. Not only that, but the MCP has, apparently, become sentient. We see a scene where the MCP speaks to Dillinger in the latter's real-world office, and the program is threatening, and ordering around, his creator. It's a, frankly, terrifying concept that could add a lot to the movie, but it just sails past, a wasted opportunity.

You could kinda say that about the whole film.

Which is why I had high hopes for this sequel, TRON: Legacy. It's truly a situation where it wouldn't take much for the continuation to outdo the original. Plus, with almost thirty years of computer evolution, and knowledge of the ever-increasing role of computers in our lives, it seems almost elementary to come up with an exciting, innovative plot line.

So, again, Drew's negative review is a disappointment, even if he does give the new film props in the exact same areas where the original shined. I guess in some ways, that may make it a perfect sequel. Harry Knowles, over at Ain't It Cool News has chimed in with his own opinion. (Looks like the site is imploding right now, so I can't provide a link, mea culpa.) Of course, Harry is absolutely notorious for allowing nostalgia and excitement to overwhelm rational thought. When he gets this wrapped up in something, I know his opinion can't be trusted.

At least he kept away from the sexual metaphors, this time.

So, yeah, I'll be seeing TRON: Legacy as soon as I possibly can, without a doubt. Biggest screen in the theater with the most bells and whistles I can find, too. IF I'm set for a mainly visual experience, I'm going to ride that in the best way possible. It's definitely something I want to form my own opinion on. However, I trust Mister McWeeny enough to be on guard about my expectations.

1 comment:

  1. I'm just not crazy about the costume design I've seen so far. In the original, it truly looked as if they were made up of circuits. Now it just looks like they're humans wearing suits that glow a little. Boooo.