Movie Review: Tron Legacy

I'm not sure what it is, but there just haven't been any movies this year that have enticed my fandom. My only movie reviews this year were for Kick-Ass and Clash of the Titans; the former being passably meh and the latter being inexcusably atrocious. I've pretty much centered my cinematic happiness for this entire year around Tron Legacy. Let's see if it's good enough to supply a full year's worth of geeking-out.

I should note that I'm a big fan of the original movie. Obviously the impressive and colorful vector graphics have a lot to do with that. But as a kid, I was fascinated by the mysterious hidden world inside computers. What were programs really like inside the computer? Did they exist in some sort of physical fashion in there? Was there really another virtual dimension inside the computer to explore?

As I learned more about computers, that mystery diminished. Programs became nothing more than a series of commands; the environment in which they existed was really just circuitry that stored and transmitted ones and zeroes. But as technology advanced, those ones and zeroes became capable of building legitimate virtual environments like Second Life. Maybe the world of Tron is becoming a reality after all.

Enough tangents, let's check out this movie.

Greetings, Programs!

I'll try to explain the storyline without spoiling the plot too much. The movie opens with Kevin Flynn at his son Sam's bedsite. Kevin explains that he's working on a secretive project that he says will change all of humanity. But Kevin mysteriously disappears, leaving Sam alone with his grandparents. Sam grows up as the primary stockholder of Flynn's company Encom but he's unwilling to take over the responsibility of managing the company. One day, Alan (who is now an Encom board member) receives a page from a phone number in Flynn's decrepit arcade (the same arcade you see in the original movie). Sam goes to investigate and stumbles upon Flynn's old computer... along with the digitizing ray. He's beamed into the Grid on Kevin's computer system. Kevin has been trapped on the Grid all these years hiding from his program, Clu, who has turned despotic. Sam has to battle Clu on the Game Grid and escape to find out what happened to his father.

Prepare to transport to the Lightcycle Grid.

After seeing some of the action figures and movie stills, I was afraid Tron Legacy might be visually boring because almost everyone is wearing a black jumpsuit and interacting in a dark indistinct environment. Fortunately, that was not the case. The jumpsuits had cool lighting effects that made the characters glow on screen (executed much more consistently than the original movie, as can be expected), and the Grid environment was spectacularly designed. I can't wait to see this on Blu-ray so I can pause and check out every aspect of the Grid in HD.

It was fun to see some of my favorite vehicles upgraded in the new Grid. The Recognizers, Lightcycles, and Command Ship are all given cool new looks. And new vehicles like the Light Jet and Light Runner expand the Tron arsenal.

Clu was played by Jeff Bridges, altered to look younger by that often-creepy de-aging CGI effect. The de-aged look was pretty good but it still wasn't quite right. Clu looked a little too animatronic. But the slight weirdness unintentionally worked within the virtual environment and gave Clu a bit of an artificial appearance.

I feel a presence. Another warrior is on the mesa.

The game scenes were awesome, with the Lightcycle game being the highlight of the movie. The Lightcycles curved in and out of multiple levels, adding new dimensions to the familiar Lightcycle game. I wasn't sure if I would like the concept of curving Lightcycle ribbons, but they ended up being dynamic and fun. The Light Jet scene was similarly awesome.

The fighting action was much more exciting than that from the 1982 Tron. Programs are no longer restricted to simply taking a couple of steps and tossing their frisbee-like identity discs. In Legacy, they flipped and contorted their bodies, dodging the enemy's discs while hurling their own. Pretty cool stuff.

On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy.

That's not to say that the movie doesn't have its problems. First and foremost is the fact that there just isn't enough Tron in the movie. He's who the movie is named after and he needed to do something to warrant his name in the title. For example: (Spoiler)Tron should have been the one who sent the page to Sam. He could have an unnoticed sub-routine that ran in the event of an emergency, sending that page. That would make him the one who set the action in motion and ultimately the driving force of the movie.(End Spoiler) Also, the vintage white Lightcycle that likely caught your eye on the toy shelves got no props. It wasn't featured in any cool action scenes, even though it was touted as "the fastest cycle on the Grid".

You're entering a big error, Flynn.

I debated whether or not to see the movie in 3D. I knew how disappointed I was by both Avatar and Clash of the Titans, but I couldn't shake the feeling that Tron Legacy might have been the movie that finally sold me on 3D. So I opted for the 3D showing.

Unfortunately, there wasn't an MCP around to inform me of my error. Once again, the 3D effects were not particularly impressive. Sure, the 3D-ness was effective in creating a depth-of-field and there were a few "wow" pop outs as stuff shot towards the audience, but for the most part it wasn't particularly noticeable or engaging. It was certainly better than the absolutely useless 3D effects of Clash of the Titans. Avatar had some better shots, but others that were entirely dysfunctional and ripped me out of my suspension of disbelief. Legacy's 3D wasn't quite as impressive as the best Avatar shots, but it was also more consistent in that there weren't any scenes that crashed and burned. Still, none of it was all that impressive. Not to mention the fact that my 3D glasses were warped, leading to a glare that was distracting and annoying (it wasn't just my glasses, my friend Jason's were warped as well).

As a side note, before I left to see the movie, my mom gave me some wet wipes to sterilize the 3D glasses because she read online that movie theaters often didn't properly clean them (this article is one such example). I didn't think anything of it so I left the wipes in the car. Moms are always fussy like that anyway. "Wear a jacket, you'll get cold! Don't eat the cookie dough, you'll get sick!" But it turns out that mom was dead on this time. The 3D glasses were absolutely filthy, caked with fingerprints and dried water marks. Those water marks could have been anything: maybe they were something relatively benign, like soda drops; maybe they were something more hideous, like sneeze remnants. Regardless, it was evident that these glasses had never been cleaned and were most likely a wonderland of infectious agents. I thought about taking them up to the counter to get a replacement set, but Jason's were in the same condition (which means it was likely they all were in a dilapidated condition) and the movie was almost starting. The theater encouraged us to recycle the glasses after the movie, but I decided to throw them away instead. The cycle of contamination ended with me.

To summarize, the lackluster 3D effects didn't warrant the 50% increase in ticket price. And it definitely wasn't worth the exposure to whatever pathogens were floating around on those disgusting glasses.

End of line.

Fortunately, Tron Legacy saves my year from total cinematic apathy. The special effects were awesome, the action was dynamic, and the ship and character designs make me want to blow a bunch of money at the Tron display at Toys 'R' Us. This will probably be the last movie I see in 3D, though. Between it and Avatar, I think I've seen everything that 3D technology is capable of, and I'm not impressed. Not to mention the fact that many theaters are either incapable or unwilling to clean the glasses adequately. But that's beside the point; Tron Legacy is a movie worthy of my geekdom... in 2D, at least.

DISCLAIMER: All items reviewed on Dork Dimension were purchased by the reviewer unless otherwise noted. The opinions expressed on Dork Dimension are solely those of the author and are presented for entertainment purposes only.