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Tron Legacy in 3D

I really wanted to like Tron Legacy. I was willing to cut it a lot of slack.

Unfortunately, it did absolutely nothing for me. I read a snarky review a while back in which the "reviewer" (perhaps "opiner" would be more apt as there was nothing in the piece to indicate that the author had actually seen Tron Legacy) claimed that there was no reason for this movie to exist. Now, having seen it, I will admit that I agree with him.

Everything about the film except for the music and the sound was half-assed. The Daft Punk soundtrack was easily the strongest element in the movie, and the sound sucked ass. There were times when the dialog was so muffled and electronically garbled that I only knew what the characters were saying because I'd heard the line in a trailer. Then the sound would pop into some new mode and suddenly the dialog would be crystal clear but ear splitting in volume.

The updated light cycle battle was pleasing to my eye, but everything else was phoned in, half-baked, and simply on screen to take up time. So, they didn't have any ideas about how to make the themes of the original Tron, a film made when not one person in a thousand in the US had an email address, relavent to the contemporary world. No problem, I was willing to put up with a bit of "dialog goes here" writing in order to get to the special effects set peices, but there was an inordinate amount of pointless dialog, and when the special effects pieces finally arrived, they didn't do a thing for me. If you've seen any trailer for the film, then you've seen everything it has to offer in terms of dazzling visuals. The stuff I found most visually gratifying was some of the acrobatic fight scene stunt work, but that accounts for, at most, 10 seconds worth of screen time.

In the early 80s, computer generated imagery could not create anything approaching trump l'oeil environments. The planet making "Genesis Effect" animation from Star Trek II looks pretty cheesy now, but in the 80s, it was so cutting-edge impressive that they showed it again in the next two Star Trek movies. Tron Legacy could have used the expanded CGI palate to explore issues of hyper-reality. They could have made 'the Grid' feel more real than the 'real world' such that going back to meat space would be like going back to the bogus reality of Plato's cave after having been to the surface and feeling the sun on one's face. But no. The digital world was all shiny, smooth and mostly monochrome.

Moebius designs for original TronAnd there was no reason for this film to have been in 3D. Most of the 'real world' scenes were shot in 2D, so they could have used the 3D effect to suggest that the virtual world opened up new dimensions of experience and possibility, but no. They threw some 3D into the real world scenes at the begining. Just enough to spoil the 21st Century Wizard of Oz effect with which they (inadvertently?) flirted.

Remember the costumes from the original film? Legendary French comic artist Moebius contributed to the designs, and while they didn't translate to the final, on-screen image all that gracefully, at least they started from a place of imaginitive vitality. The costumes in the new film could not have been more generic.

The new Tron seems particulary confused with respect to how sexy it wanted to be. If you've seen a trailer or a commercial, then you've seen actress Beau Garrett as Gem, the blonde doll in white, advising the film's hero to survive. Garrett was obviously cast for her sexy shape and vibe, and it seems that director, Joseph Kosinski, instructed her to drip sex, but sometimes she walks with mechanical stiffness, and other times she walks with an exaggerated 'fuck me' hip waggle. In one shot, she is standing half-way up a flight of stairs behind two other characters so that her crotch is right in the middle of the screen between the profiled faces of the two speaking characters. The patterns on her leotard indicate the locations of the outside swell of her breasts, her clevage, and her genitals, but the suit manages to obscure the actual shape of her body, leaving her with all the anatomical nuance of a Barbie doll.

And then there's Olivia Wilde's character, Quorra. She's the last surviving Isomorphic Algorithm or ISO; a spontaneously emergent  form of Grid life. She's an action hero and a kind of innocent, so the filmmakers seemed to take care not to present her as an object of overt sexual desire. She's wearing a black body stocking like most of the other Grid denizens, but they've draped her butt with an asymetrical tunic tale. Her costume leaves a portion of her shoulders bare, but that's required by the plot so the villian can later see her ISO tattoo. Okay, so she's a Tomboy. No problem. So why is she wearing high heels?

This is a film designed by committe with no vision and no reason for existing except as a video game tie-in. If you saw it and liked it, more power to you. I really tried.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 3rd, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC)
Pretty much all movies suck. There are a handful of great films in a year and they for the most part come from indie studios. Hollywood's remake and rehash train is going nowhere fast. Apparently, this doesn't really bother moviegoers, as this industry consistently posts record profits. I personally peer-to-peer most movies unless I absolutely know I'm going to want to watch a film many times. This rarely happens. There is not a chance in hell that I'll pay upwards of $10 to see some ridiculous drek in the theater.

The last film I saw in the theater was Avatar, which I went to mainly for the 3d eye candy, which was very cool. The story however was a shallow man vs. nature allegory with 2d characters. Not really all that great.

I love sci fi and hate action films, why must SF always just be a shiny backdrop for bash and crash? Fuck!

Good acting and writing is much more cost effective for producing quality than SFX, when will Hollywood understand this?
Jan. 3rd, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
The last sci-fi movie I liked for the story was Surrogates.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen Surrogates, but from what I know of the plot, it seems to borrow heavily from David Brin's Kiln People. Apparently David Brin thinks so as well.


I saw Repo Men on DVD earlier this year and found it surprisingly engaging. I'm looking forward to seeing Sleep Dealer.

Jan. 4th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
Agreed. At least the first "Tron" has the distinction of having compressed ten years worth of CGI research and development into the year or so of its production budget. If this film represents its "legacy", it would seem we haven't moved very far. The CG-regressed version of Jeff Bridges in the flashback, talking to his young son on the night he vanishes, set the tone of miscalculation for me. Yeah, they shot him from the back and in low light throughout most of the scene, but the stiffness of the CG double was instantly apparent. There was no point to it. It wasn't as if he'd just escaped from Tron-world. They just couldn't resist prematurely sharing the effect with us.

But really, the original was full of the same dumb ideas that got stuffed into this one. (Lisberger didn't write or direct this time around, but I certainly sensed his presence as a producer.) What do "programs" (or routines or algorithms or whatever the hell they are) eat? Why do they go to bars to hang out, and what are they drinking while they're there? Why do they gather in stadiums to watch other programs compete in frisbee contests or motorcycle races? What sort of computation is going on on the real computers running this stuff while their components are off lounging in virtual nightclubs?

It's as if "Neuromancer", "Snow Crash", or the Matrix films never existed. If the filmmakers had bothered to embrace the 80s silliness, or at least thrown a wink in that general direction, it might have worked. Instead, we got daddy issues, long patches of leaden exposition, and lugubrious pacing that only quickened for a car chase or a bike race or two, along with a production design that looked like a special all-blacklight edition of Dwell magazine.

I was checking my watch throughout the last half hour, and emerged from the theater, tossing my 3D glasses into the recycling bin, grateful for the existence of the real if somewhat dingy, dystopic and chaotic landscape of Los Angeles.
Jan. 5th, 2011 06:49 am (UTC)
i have given up. entirely.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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