Thursday, February 3, 2011

Movie Review: Tron Legacy (2010)

Those among us who are old enough would seem to have entered into some kind of mass self-deception about the original Tron, released to a yawning public in 1982. The computer-generated effects were flat, sterile, and fraught with optical-print errors, and the storyline managed to be abstruse and superficial at the same time. What the original Tron did have was a completely, enthrallingly original look. All of which begs the question of how a group of Disney filmmakers might go about selling us a highly evocative sequel, to a movie whose only attribute to begin with was its visual originality? Well, the short answer is: they would do it badly.

Garrett Hedlund is Sam Flynn, the rebellious twenty-something son of Jeff Bridges’ software developer Kevin Flynn, who when Sam was little abruptly disappeared. After some bizarrely unimportant preliminaries about corporate bad-guy-ism, Kevin’s erstwhile partner informs Sam of a page he received from a disconnected number. Sam traces the number to Kevin’s basement lab, and the room-sized, high-voltage laser pointed conspicuously at the chair in which Sam now sits. Presently Sam presses the wrong button—or is it the right one?—thence to find himself scanned into the program, captured by electronic sentries, and forced to compete in a series of gladiatorial competitions, known as the games.

There follow fifteen minutes of suspenseless, characterless whiz-bang nonsense, all of it fraught with roughly the same edgy anticipation it takes to open our milk duds and steal another peek at our phones. Having bested all comers, Sam is hauled before the grand and power-lusting Clu, an arch rival created by the elder Flynn in his own image and played by a computer-reverse-aged Bridges—though not, we notice immediately, reverse-aged to the point of the original picture. Tasked by Kevin with perfecting the game grid, it happens that Clu has interpreted this order as a war on all that is beautiful and non-sterile, planning in consequence to destroy both father and son, along the way to making his escape into a reality imperfect enough to have spent a hundred and seventy million bucks on a hunk of mostly 2-D gibberish like this one.

But before Clu can have his way with Sam, the younger Flynn is busted out by the beautiful Cora, played by Wilde, who whisks him away to meet daddy dearest at his laughably 2001-like mountaintop exile, itself invisible to Clu and his minions because of its location outside the limits of the program! Who knew that high-desert terrain existed at the periphery of computer code, or that computer-programmed vehicles could go there, provided they come equipped with big, knobby tires? For that matter, why is dad so apparently startled to see Sam, despite the fact that the newly cleaved portal to the outside world is plainly visible from his balcony?

At all events, with our trio of variously reluctant heroes at last united, we may be forgiven for presuming at least the brute-force coherency of an urgent call-to-action. What happens instead, is that everyone sits around talking. Cora catches Sam up on the tedious backstory while Kevin, separated from his son for decades, sits in the corner and meditates. Sam goes to his room, Cora ultimately joins him there, and they talk. Kevin snaps out of it in time for dinner, and then all three of them talk some more, Kevin unloading on Sam a bouillabaisse of Zen/Taoist nonsense more aptly suited to an NFL-lineman who’d misread the cliff-notes.

Okay, that last bit was unkind, but if the line, “Doing nothing’s underrated” works as an ethos in real-life—and it might not—I’d have at least thought we could all agree that it isn’t going to work for the middle hour of a movie. “What’s it like outside?” Kevin asks Sam, ten minutes after the last non-reviewer has left the building. “Rich gettin' richer, poor gettin' poorer,” is Sam’s suicide-temptingly adequate response. Wasn’t this supposed to be a Disney film? In 3D? Come to think of it, why am I still bothering with these stupid glasses?

By the time our un-involving characters find their way to what we already sense will be a flimsy and one-dimensional climax, the corny and undramatic gotcha feels less like a petty theft of ticket money and more like a mercy-killing. Well, you can almost literally hear people thinking. At least it’s over.

Still I’d be remiss if I did not point out the ease with which I managed to distract myself from the enduring of this heaving mess, by concentrating instead on the wall-to-wall gratuity of delicious young actresses clad in scandalously form-fitting lycra. Throughout our dreary cyber-triptick we are regularly and mercifully visited by Olivia Wilde or Beau Garrett, their outfits so tight that a bored audience can amuse itself guessing what they had for breakfast. Just why Disney is so consistently attached to projects involving so much racy sex-appeal is a topic that has been done to death already, but whatever the reason I’m sure there are far less hygienic ways for a fractious nine year-old boy to discover, on a rainy Saturday, that he is, without remorse, a heterosexual.

The Key Grip gives Tron:Legacy one bald head out of five. Mostly for the lycra.


Mzz Zot Lynn Szurgot said...

Actually laughed out loud. Loved your hate, hope to see more deliciously detailed rage and disappointment. You slash better than Wes Craven.

Dave O'Gorman said...

Thanks! Did you see my (text-only) review of *The Day the Earth Stood Still*? If you liked this, you'll LOVE that....