Friday, March 30, 2012

Tron and Tron: Legacy

I tried to watch this movie on two separate occasions when I was younger but couldn't get past the first 20 minutes either time as I found it boring. Now that I'm older I wanted to give it another shot.

Tron has great special effects. Sure its a bit dated but the look still holds up pretty well for a 30 year old movie. The style is still pretty unique with neon and desaturated colors. The visuals are stunning despite the slow pacing so its similar to Star Trek: The Motion Picture in that respect. Syd Mead helped design both movies as well as others such as Blade Runner which came out the same year as Tron.

The scenes before Kevin Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges) goes into the computer are pretty boring with a bit too much exposition so I can see why I didn't get further into it when I was in high school. Of the early scenes I did like the match cut from the neon world of the computer to the lights on a helicopter. There is a similar shot near the end in which the real world city looks like the game world.

When it comes to the acting we have fun performances by David Warner (who plays all three villains: the human Dillinger, the program Sark and the Master Control Program), Jeff Bridges, and Bruce Boxleitner. Like Vincent Price, David Warner is one of those actors who was in a lot of films and even though many of them were bad, always took his roles seriously and made the movies watchable. Tron also features character actors Barnard Hughes (The Lost Boys) and Dan Shor (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure).

I was surprised that Tron had some religious undertones such as the programs fighting each other over their the belief of the users that created them. This leads to the dual roles for most of the actors as they programs appear as the real people who created them or work at the company. I thought this was clever and made it feel like a high-tech version of The Wizard of Oz in this way.

The story is predictable as we have rebels who try to stop bad guys who wants to take over the world. There is a new spin on it with the computer stuff but its still a typical man vs. machine story. A love story is added late and it feels forced in there. The music isn't very good as none of it is memorable or fits particularly well.

The film was disqualified from receiving an Academy Award nomination for special effects, because the Academy felt at the time that using computers was "cheating". Tron was nominated for costume design and sound but this is still a huge snub, especially these days with movies like Avatar taking home the visual effects awards. Tron and others movies such as The Last Starfighter were pioneers when it came to early CGI and films like Avatar wouldn't exist without them.

I liked Tron and I'm glad that I gave it another shot now that I am older. But when it comes to early 1980s movies about computers I still prefer WarGames!

I must say I am surprised Tron got a sequel 28 years later. I guess this is due to the movie's cult following as Tron was only mildly successful during its initial release. But even forgetting the passage of time the original pretty much wraps everything up in the end. Well, it's time to watch Tron: Legacy and see how they handled it!

Tron: Legacy
Tron: Legacy was made 28 years after the original and the story also takes place the same amount of time later. Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprise their roles (Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley respectively) from the first movie which is pretty cool.

The CGI used to make Bridges look younger was quite good. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and X-Men: The Last Stand both used similar techniques.

The score by Daft Punk fits better than the music for first movie did, but I was still expecting better from these guys. Like the original, we have great visual effects and solid acting by Jeff Bridges. For some reason Bridges is kinda like a Jedi this time. And I don't just means that he is more wise but even in the way he dresses and uses his powers. In a way he's a cyber-punk version of The Dude!

Our main character this time is Sam Flynn, the son of Bridges' character. Sam is played by Garrett Hedlund and while he's nothing special he isn't terrible. He's way better than Shia Labeouf in those Transformers movies!
I would have liked to have seen more of Tron the character. I mean these movies are named for him after all! I am guessing this is because Jeff Bridges is simply a bigger name than Bruce Boxleitner and I guess I should be glad he is here at all.

While the computer world looks great I miss the faces being in black and white. I guess that the faces were only in B&W in the original due to the limitations of the special effects at the time but it did create a striking and unique style.

There was one thing that took me out of the movie: the David Bowie guy pictured above. Michael Sheen plays a minor but important character who looks and act like 70s David Bowie. I don't understand this at all and even though I found his character funny it was still pretty distracting and out of left field.

What happened to the female character and program (Lora/Yori played by Cindy Morgan) from the first movie? She is never even mentioned which is kinda odd. To be fair she was somewhat superfluous in the original film. Still, they could've just said she married Alan Bradley or something if they couldn't get her for a cameo. Maybe they are saving her (and perhaps David Warner) for the sequel?! Just don't wait 28 more years this time!

Like the original Tron there are still some slow pacing and story issues. The villains in both movies want to take over the world! Why? Because they're bad guys! But to be fair it was interesting to use Clu (Kevin Flynn's alias/alter ego from the first movie) as the villain this time around.

Tron: Legacy differs from its predecessor in that there are action scenes before Sam Flynn entered the computer world. I guess this was done to show Sam was ready to these stunts later but it would've been a better contrast if we only got the action in the computer/game world. I wonder this is simply the result of the post-Matrix/Inception world we live in.

Although Tron:Legacy updates the material for a new generation I have some of the same complaints as I did the first (slow pacing and generic good vs. bad story). I liked it but a sequel was unnecessary even though it does follow up on characters and events from first movie. While I liked both Tron movies about the same (I prefer original) I don't think that for most people liking one means you will like the other as they both feel like products of their respective times. Considering they waited 28 years, it was amazing they actually made a pretty good sequel.

I don't know if there will be a Tron 3 but since the movie was a box office hit making over $400 million worldwide it wouldn't surprise me. Dillinger's son has a small role in this movie and is played by Cillian Murphy (Sunshine, Batman Begins, Inception) so if there is another one I think he will play a bigger role.


  1. I gotta say I like the original. Didn't watch it until I was well into my 20s. I think I would have found it boring at a younger age. The sequel I really enjoyed - yeah, it's mostly a retread but I thought it had a better storyline and the bit where Bridges bites the dust gave me a lump in my throat.

  2. I'm definitely glad I gave Tron another chance. Tron: Legacy was better than I expected and I'm looking forward to a third movie!