Thursday, December 23, 2010

TRON review and update

My internet has been pretty sketchy since getting home, so I'm blaming my lack of a Black Swan review on that. Suffice to say, I really loved it and I highly recommend it. 5/5 stars.

I'd also love to do a comprehensive round up of year-end lists, but we shall see if I get the chance.

So: onto TRON.

To preface my review, I need to say that I've never seen the original Tron. Perhaps those who have would enjoy the film more.

Overall, I'm glad I saw it on the big screen (we opted for IMAX 3-d), but the film had a lot of problems. Like, a LOT of problems. Here are my thoughts:

The good:
-Unexpected Cillian Murphy is unexpected.
-The score is fantastic. I really, really loved it and it was probably the best part of the film. Now, I don't know that I'd pick it over The Social Network, but.... maybe.
-I adore Michael Sheen. His Ziggy Stardust was easily the most entertaining character of the entire film. He had more energy in his performance than everyone else combined.
-I also really liked seeing James Frain, but possibly because every time he came on screen, I thought of this.
-The 3-D was the best that I've seen. There was no weird after-image, no headache. It worked beautifully.
-The production design. It's so shiny!

The bad:
-The plot points weren't just foreshadowed, they were lit up in GIANT NEON SIGNS.
-Seriously, the entire thing was SO predictable. I get that they were on the hook for $250 million, so I guess they decided to make the plot comprehensible to the lowest common denominator of American audiences in the hopes of making the money back. Too bad it ended up coming out after Inception.
-Clu worked occasionally, since he was supposed to be a computer program. But next to real actors and depending on how good the animation was, he often didn't. And every flashback to young Kevin Flynn did not work.

The ugly:
This is really two things, which both stem from one massive error; the techno babble and the second half of the film. The mistake is this: making this film a sequel.

Let me explain. I did not understand what the hell the characters were on about for most of the film. In fact, I really, REALLY would have rather seen this as a silent film. I think it would have worked better. Now, possibly this comes from my not having seen the original movie, but that describes a lot of the potential audience for this one, since the original TRON isn't accessible.

And since I didn't get a lot of the techno babble, the stakes never seemed very high to me. The early disc battle and light cycle races? Awesome. Predictable, sure, but visually cool and fun, and I got that Sam was playing to survive. Programs being reassembled into army programs to escape and slaughtering - I don't know nanotrons or something? I just don't care. Furthermore, I just didn't get the programs. We see them at a club at one point, but I don't really get what they go around doing. Why were some of them picked up early on? Why was one drinking in an alley? What is life on the grid like? We're given this whole world that then never gets explored, so how am I supposed to care about it?

Furthermore - Sam, who was seemingly our protagonist in the first half of the film, is given almost nothing to do after he leaves Castor's club. That was the point at which the film stopped working for me. The writers seem so excited to have had Jeff Bridges, that they focus on him, and the emotional empathy the audience had built up for Sam is sort of left hanging. He really needed to have a larger part towards the end. I don't know what Kevin was like in the first film, so I don't really care if he gets out of the grid or not. Or perhaps I didn't care since I knew EXACTLY WHAT WOULD HAPPEN about an hour and a half before it finally did.

Really, I wish they had taken the idea of Tron - the cool visuals and whatnot - and made an original film. The script may have been less predictable, they wouldn't have been constrained by the logic of the first film, and we would have been given the opportunity to focus on Sam and Quorra. We could have explored the grid through Sam's eyes as he tries to get back to the portal or something. You could even let Kevin pop up in a cameo, just don't end up focusing the film on him. I'd rather go watch the Big Lebowski.

So - should you see it? It depends on your thoughts on Avatar. It's basically the same. Amazing to see visually, but the story sucks. The first hour is fun. And if the spectacle is worth $20 to you, go see it. Unlike the Spiderman musical, no one's going to get hurt.

2/5 stars.

Update: in talking it over with a friend, he reminded me of a couple of things. 1 - Tron's change to bad and back again was given serious short shrift. What happened with him exactly? and 2 - I really hoped Cillian's cameo was to set him up as a villain in a future sequel. A sequel with a more original and interesting plot.

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