Yesterday, I saw a movie. Can you guess which?
Yes, I saw Tron: Legacy. Was it as good as I had hoped, or as disappointing as I had feared? Let’s find out.
The plot: fairly standard. In fact it seemed to be made of off the shelf parts. Take a missing parent, a homeward journey, a Pygmalion Effect, a Frankenstein Complex, a Well Intentioned Extremist and a Genocidal Overlord. Combine in a two quart casserole and bake at 350° for two hours, seven minutes. Voila!
This is not to say that the original Tron was all about the story. Quite the opposite, it was about the concept. The concept behind the original movie was to make an animated feature, but something new: backlit art animation. (Think of the far-out sparkly neon-like artwork on classic rock albums, only moving.) What was finally produced was a combination of backlighting, a novel photographic process, and, yes, even the primitive computer graphics of the time.
And I think that’s what I liked about Tron, that it was experimental, but also that in doing so, it managed to set a particular mood. There were so many fantastic elements that the viewer felt as though he were exploring a vast and thoroughly alien land. Sure there were people covered in glowing patterns, there were huge, chunky airships levitating over the land. But there were also brief glimpses of things that were never really explained: grid bugs, talking bits, the guy shaped like a light bulb.
Tron: Legacy has kept the iconic light cycles, recognizers, and air ships, and redrawn them in a modern style. The random glimpses to the side aren’t as apparent. In fact, I can hardly think of any.
Tron: Legacy has its own visual style, retaining the signature glowing patterns, but simplifying them. Everything is made to look as though it is made of glass, with characters even shattering into piles of glassy pixels when defeated. The look is not entirely original. When I first saw a Tron: Legacy display at the San Diego Comic-Con, my first reaction was that it looked like a shaver commercial. (To be fair, I’m sure there were those whose first reaction to Tron was that it looked like a rock album cover come to life.) It doesn’t really say cyberspace to me.
This is not to say I don’t appreciate the visual style. It is modern in appearance and beautifully executed. I rather wish it could have had its own, original movie to star in. Some new breed of Sci-Fi that would make Star Wars look old fashioned. Instead, its fate is to be relentlessly compared to its predecessor by everybody on the Internet, myself included.
There are a few other things that bother me about Tron: Legacy.
The titular character, Tron, is hardly anywhere to be seen in the movie, unless you look closely at each character’s markings. There were a few things in the setting that didn’t really make sense to exist in a virtual world: the idea of clothing, beds and the idea of sleep, food and the idea of meals, and the dance club. However, I suppose this sort of thing can be explained away by the world having been shaped by Flynn the elder, who could have inserted things that were familiar to himself. And, of course, there is the very final scene, which bothers me for some vague reason.
In all not a terrible movie, by any means. I’ve seen much worse. Much, much worse. By the same token, I’ve seen better. In the end, I give Tron: Legacy a solid, middle-of-the-road, three stars out of five.