Back and Forth – TRON Legacy 3D IMAX

by January 11th, 2011 - Culture » Film and TV »

It is fair to say that my expectations for TRON: Legacy were not only high, but also highly…highly unrealistic. While visions of sugar plums dance in most people’s heads, the candied traffic in mine was mostly dominated by X-rated day-glo digital orgies where the beautiful screensaver innards of TRON hummed so forcefully with a fine mix of philosophy and simple sensory stimulation that both programs and users were left without choice, but to fuck until they derezzed.

Alas…I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will most always imagine better things than I am in the end presented with…

That revelation along with the obvious wet-blanket of it being a Disney movie, presented me a soft pillow to lay my head for my crashing expectations.

However, the damn thing was still damn fine in many ways, a beautiful world with a fantastic score, this mix still somewhat soured by a steam-roller pace and a few dangling digital ends…

Unable to find a 3D IMAX theater equipped with mechanical bull/subwoofer seating, I settled my mind and body into a most common bucket. Groans sprang up from the audience as they were informed there were scenes in the movie NOT shot in 3D. Afterwards, there were some who somewhat jokingly grumbled about getting their money back. However, I actually appreciated the decision to leave scenes in the real world in 2D to make even more striking the transition to the world of TRON being in 3D. Do these same people complain after purchasing a candybar that the wrapper was not also completely composed of sugar rot? Rubes! Yokels!

It would have been nice to have seen the original TRON before this IMAX dazzle in order to stir the nostalgia and better connect the dots from the original to its sequel. However, Disney, in their infinite wisdom – a deteriorating sarcasm – pulled all the old copies from the rental stores, leaving thieves to raid library collections and sell them at extravigant prices online. When I first realized that TRON was no longer available, I thought Disney had lost their mind. But there is actually some fine method to the madness. While it sucks for a nostalgia starved customer such as myself, I would still be a customer. However, if potential, but as yet unsold customers were to prime themselves for the state of the art effects promised by TRON: Legacy with the decidedly dated world of the original TRON, they may have been turned off. Instead of using the only here and there cult nostalgia of the original as a selling point for the new release, they’ll use the sex appeal of the new item to fuel a market for the original’s re-release on Blu-Ray alongside its sequel.

Shitty for me…but smart stuff…

However, it is not just for the nostalgia that this missing link is unfortunate. The impact, importance and details of the original narrative are sorely glossed over by the film as its finger snapping pace leaves no time to dwell and causes most of the glitches in the system, certainly glossing over and corrupting the fate, transformation and redemption of the quasi-titular character, Tron.

For those not keeping track at home, the story goes roughly thusly…

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a computer genius working for a company called ENCOM who gets trapped in his own video game, TRON, to be eliminated by the virtual representations of his real-world greedy, scheming, cut-throat competitors. But with the aid of a program named Tron (Bruce Boxleitner), they blow up the bad guys and Flynn eventually takes his place as head of the company as a Steve Jobsian or more Googleish icon bent on the transformational capabilities of technology, less and less beholden to a pure profit-motive.

TRON: Legacy opens with Kevin Flynn telling these epic tales as bedtime stories to his young son, Sam, promising to take him there some day, but he doesn’t get the chance as Kevin Flynn mysteriously disappears. Years later, Sam, now a young adult (Garrett Hedlund), drifting and taking little interest in his role as controlling shareholder of ENCOM is alerted by a mysterious page that originated from his Dad’s old office at the arcade. He investigates…a laser shoots him…and all of a sudden he’s wearing neat looking clothes and throwing deadly, digital frisbees at people…

To a great degree, I actually appreciate the pacing, preferring it to the slogging bog of disinteresting “character development” in The Lord of The Rings, for example, where characters just seemed to sit around petting each other and looking at their watch waiting for the 15 minutes of random conversation to end to so that 15 minutes of random battles could take place. JUST THROW THE FUCKING RING IN THE MOUNTAIN SO I CAN GO HOME!

There were times in TRON: Legacy, however, where I would have liked to see a character stumble alone in this odd world for a time, or a few more scenes where the lens focuses only on the beauty and mystery of the wild landscape.

But the world of TRON has grown less wild it seems. No longer merely the abstract edges of a neon world, things have taken shape and resemble more and more our own world. There is a visually beautiful scene when Ken Flynn and son Sam are having a meal with Quorra (Olivia Wilde) in a beautifully elaborate room, complete with an IKEA dinette set and sofa, a library of books, and a roasted pig on the table. It is beautiful, reminding me of Dave’s final meal at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but here it feels like too-real eye candy not in keeping with the abstract nature of the world.

Another failure of the pacing is the short time we spend at Castor’s (Michael Sheen) End of Line Club, an environment that should have felt the same depth as the Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. There is a great cameo by Daft Punk, composers of the film’s score, but the rest of the patrons here fell dully or were only superficially investigated, giving up on the best chance to breath some life into the world outside of the Flynns. And too quickly, it’s gone…

But the sound does not leave you. Daft Punk may have only been on the screen for a few minutes at most, but they are present throughout the entire movie with a very surprising score. Fans of both TRON and Daft Punk were excited to hear they would provide the soundtrack for the movie, but I imagine most, including myself, were just expecting a string TRON inspired techno-disco dance-floor hits. These can be found in such tracks as “End of Line” and certainly “Derezzed”, but the soundtrack is very, very much a score, beautifully fusing their own talents with the proper nostalgia for the original film’s soundscapes resulting in a very unique, yet classically salted retro artwork reminding me of some of the epic fantasy/sci-fi scores from the ’80s.

The music is indeed the glue that holds this ship together and allows it to breath, but to be fair, the film does stand to attention on its own, it just doesn’t fill the infinite void of fan-boy desire, fulfilling what it might have been.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the main conflict of the film…which is so often a simple, easy white-hat/black-hat good vs. evil. And that could have so easily been the same dull road they took in TRON: Legacy, but instead…a wrinkle.

Kevin Flynn had been obsessed with creating the “perfect” system…the “perfect” world…and so created a duplicate of himself, Clu, to carry out a “perfection” that eventually required the genocide of an unplanned species and turning Clu against his now horrified and repentant creator who only later realizes that no one can know perfection, the movie ending with a zen, walk-away reflection rather the good King slaughtering the bad and returning to his throne.

You don’t see that too much.

So score one for TRON: Legacy…and hope the thing lives to delve a little deeper sometime in the next two decades…as it seems it might with rumors of a possible trilogy and pre-production already beginning on an animated television series.

Surely, these won’t fulfill my X desires, but perhaps I’ll just have to open my own nightclub somewhere in the High Desert…admitting only myself and several day-glo coyotes

And I’ll stop calling you, Shirley

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