As the first post for 2011, a film review isn’t a bad way to kick things off. By now I would expect that a fair number of you have already seen this film (and if you haven’t – the end of this review will tell you do so immediately), so I’m happy to put my thoughts down.
Similarly to The Social Network, I was quite lucky to see this film quite a bit before general release; having been able to attend both the London and LA Premieres as well as attend a special private screening (with an introduction from the director and co-producer) a short while thereafter. Three times I’ve seen it now and, if you asked me if I wanted to see it again – I’d say yes.
Here’s why –
Tron: Legacy is not an action film.
Tron: Legacy is (probably) not the film you’re expecting it to be.
Tron: Legacy is not the next Matrix (or Avatar for that matter).
Tron: Legacy is in fact a beautiful piece of work that has the potential to be criminally overlooked as its reviewers label it too simple and too over-reliant on flash special effects/under-used 3D. This is wrong. Very wrong indeed.
The allegory of celebrating life and creation over that of man-made technology and machines has never been more clear and telling. The Father/Son/Clu three-way relationship that is placed at the heart of the piece is, when it finally plays its hand, probably one of the most powerful moments in the entire film.
Believe everything you read and you’ll go in thinking that the story is in fact the weakest part of the whole; “Sam goes into the Grid to find his Dad. 3D awesomeness ensues. Light cycles etc… Finale, the end.” is quite possibly the laziest way to look at this work. The second time I saw it, not only did I end up picking up several parts that I missed the first time ’round – Clu/Flynn’s similar sounding rousing speeches to the crowds being one example (and this happened again on the third viewing too), but I also came away with a much deeper understanding of the film’s key message; the creation of life is the most beautiful and imperfect forms of perfection that man can ever strive for. Ignore it at your peril.
See it. Look harder at what the film’s trying to tell you and let it flow through you.
What else can I cover off here?
The cast are great; Olivia Wilde in particular shines as she casts a sense of wonder and amazement across all that she surveys with a strength and beauty that I haven’t seen in anyone since Samantha Morton’s killer turn as Minority Report’s life-deprived pre-cog, Agatha. Michael Sheen, channelling Ziggy Stardust, only really shines when he’s forced to tone down the camp delivery (later scenes scenes with Clu proving better than his openers with Daft Punk) and show the face behind the mask.
Garrett Hedlund is believable as Flynn Jnr – his father’s drawl pouring out gently as if his own, lending nicely to the DNA of both the film’s history as well as that of his own make up. There’s also a sweet cameo from Cillian Murphy (potential for more in future instalments?) hanging out as Dillinger Jnr and of course, finally, there’s Jeff.
He’s almost perfect and probably, unlike Michael Sheen, at his best in his earlier scenes where he’s tasked with conveying this gifted, lost soul who’s been trapped on the grid, away form his family, his life – coming to terms with his fate, for all these years. It’s steeped in pathos and reeks of an actor at the top of his game, delivering loss, pain and sorrow in mere glances to his surroundings.
What definitely didn’t work for me was the the rather large nod to His Dudeness, The Big Lebowksi.
When Flynn says to his Son “You’re messin’ with my Zen thing man.” it comes across as both clunky and entirely unnecessary. I don’t know why or how the director left it in, it drops you back into the real world of ‘Oh, I’m watching Jeff Bridges here. He’s The Dude remember?’ and totally out of sync with the rest of the film. I would probably say that that is my only gripe with the entire picture actually. I mean, even Jeff’s other turn as a CGI’d ageless version of himself, Clu, is better than this knowing wink; rubbery chin aside (in places), Clu proves to be breathtaking and, in certain areas, mind-blowing. The Dude is not welcome here.
So what about the 3D then? Is it worth paying that little bit extra to see it in this format? I’ve spoken with a couple of folk about this issue and I guess it depends on what it is you go in expecting. 3D in the traditional sense is that you go in, throw on your plastic specs and then, for the rest of the movie, things are thrown out of the screen – into your eyes – with enough vigour to make you start moving your hands around in front of your face (just in case you can actually touch them).
Modern day 3D not so much. 3D today is a lot about depth and making you believe that you’re actually in the picture you’re experiencing. Avatar achieved this (so much so that, post-Pandora, many Avatar viewers experienced depression after discovering that the world they experienced was in fact only fictitious and was not actually a viable choice for their next holiday adventure) and Tron: Legacy does the same – with the 3D effect adding a sharp and enticing sheen to an already futuristic vision. To my mind at least, it works.
Finally, one simply cannot put pen to paper when talking about Tron: Legacy without mentioning the frickin’ awesome soundtrack.
Yes I moaned that Daft Punk’s appearance in the film is slightly fudged and, under Michael Sheen’s stewardship, seemed shoehorned at best. But that’s just talking about their appearance. If you look past that, that car crash of a cameo, and look for their presence in the film then – from the moment the lights go down – the soundtrack hits you like a cricket bat to the face.
It is nothing short of superb. 2010 was an awesome year for OSTs with Scott Pilgrim and The Social Network putting forward awesome contributions but, for sheer electrifying amazement, Tron: Legacy nabs the number one spot. If you use Spotify, then listen to it right now. If not, then go buy it/download it… It is nothing short of awesome.
In closing, Tron: Legacy is a beautiful, beautiful film. If you’re going to see it, see it big and see it loud (the IMAX offers probably the best experience in this case).
Until next time.