But Tron: Legacy is nothing if not a laundry list of opportunities ignored. Its biggest disappointment is how ordinary its fantasy world seems, or how like a vodka advertisement it often looks. Nothing afterward ever lives up to its one ingeniously disturbing sequence, after Sam has been digitized, arrested for vagrancy and condemned to the games. He's left in a vast chamber, where from the four walls emerge identically, fetishistically dressed females equipped with laser-tip fingers who first strip and then prep Sam for combat. The identically coiffed women -- two black, two white -- move in an unnatural, robotic choreography for no apparent reason, since the ritual isn't being transmitted anywhere, as far as I could tell. No other "programs" behave this way, and when we encounter one of them again, it's surprising that she doesn't live in her little alcove at the arena. The scene is obviously designed to be erotic on a superficially wholesome level -- the women are fully dressed -- but it also meets, however momentarily, our expectation of how strange this world should be.
"They stole my monolith, man! It really held the room together." Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges, right) abides.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
TRON: LEGACY (2010)
To be honest, I have stronger memories of the Tron video game than I do of the 1982 film that after 28 years -- is that some sort of record? -- generated a sequel. I remember seeing the original on the big screen, and I know I saw it at least once on video -- but apart from the then-innovative visuals and certain verbal tics like "End of Line," little about it made an impression on me. Many other people must have had a different experience, as I assume the sequel was made to satisfy Eighties nostalgia as well as to show off Disney's current bag of 3D and IMAX tricks. On that assumption, I shouldn't have been surprised to see the film burdened with so much of the "fathers and sons" bushwah, though for once I can complain that a movie doesn't push this theme hard enough. That's not -- I assure you -- because I find the usual intergenerational guff compelling. Too often "fathers and sons" seems like a gimmick designed to make a film seem meaningful. With Joseph Kosinski's Tron: Legacy, however, the filmmakers had the material for an ultimate "fathers and sons" story, but largely ignored it.
I can predict at least one scene in Tron Legacy: the XXX Parody.
For the most part, however, the programs are all too human, or all too cartoonish. One wonders what the original program function of Castor (Michael Sheen), a pale, flamboyant fixer whom Sam is sent to meet, could possibly have been. But I suppose the point of such personalities is to show how decentralized sentience has evolved in that lonely computer over the arcade. It's even evolved entire neo-aboriginal species from nothing. All this should serve to remind viewers to schedule their antivirus programs to run regularly. Look what might become of your computer after 30 years.
If this isn't a malicious file, what is? Michael Sheen (center) as Castor.
The Tron sequel is less interested in such eccentricities than it should be. Castor is really the way he is because that's the kind of character who always turns up in utterly generic adventure stories like this one. Look past the fancy graphics and it's the same story you've seen hundreds of times. An unlikely hero must recover the special artifact that opens the portal to redemption with the aid of a loyal band, not all of whom will be able to go through with him. There must be sacrifices and arguments about sacrifices, the eternal choice between personal loyalties and the mission. And it's about fathers and sons! That doesn't mean there isn't some spectacle to enjoy -- and it was probably more enjoyable on the really big screen. But Legacy isn't anything more than cinematic candy, and not the kind that's filling in any way. It's like a box of Runts: tasty enough in a tangy chemical way, but you wouldn't want to be stuck somewhere for two hours with only those to eat.