Monday, 6 December 2010

Tron: Legacy review

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Old-school geeks the world over will soon be put out of their misery and discover whether the Tron sequel will be able to reclaim computer game chic from the legions brought up with the likes of Call Of Duty, GTA and cinematic CGI spectacles such as Avatar, and put it back into the hands of those of us who weren't cool enough to sniff glue and instead had to make do with sitting in a bedroom waiting an hour for Daley Thompson's Decathlon to load, and whose only claim to supremacy would come when we were able to enter those three magic letters in an arcade game's sacred hall of fame. 
PCCP sent Anthony Crossby along to see how Disney's Christmas gift to nerds stacks up...

Disney have returned to the digital grid and the adventures of Kevin Flynn in their new blockbuster Tron: Legacy. The original Tron was a huge risk when it was released in 1982. Built around the then-emerging computer generated effects, it attempted to mix the new method of special effects with real action to create a unique sci-fi adventure. Costing a reputed $17 million dollars to make, Tron was seen as a box office failure and a risky venture which ultimately didn’t pay off. What it did do however was open the door to the possibilities this new technology could bring.

Twenty eight years later we return to the adventures of programmer Keith Flynn (Jeff Bridges), and once again it is a risky move. Disney are trying to capitalise on the cult status Tron has garnered over the years by making it their big Xmas blockbuster. Is there a big enough box office pull for a sequel to a film that, though influential, was hardly a break through hit? More importantly, is it any good?

After taking over ENCOM at the end of the last movie, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has been busy at work, creating a whole new digital world on his personal server. Flynn believes that he has made breakthroughs which will aide and improve humanity, and after declaring this to his young son Sam, he promptly disappears. Without the guidance of Flynn over the next 20 years, his company ENCOM turns from an idealistic computer company into a profit-guzzling corporation.

Like all fatherless sons in movieland, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) has grown into a thrill-seeking, responsibility-shunning adult. He base-jumps of buildings, rides fast motorbikes and sabotages ENCOM’s latest attempt to make more money. After a distress call from Kevin received by his fathers old buddy, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner reviving his character from the original film), Sam discovers his father is in the digital Grid.

Sam follows his fathers and is thrown into the computer world through the portal his father used. He soon discovers that his father created this new world with the help of TRON and his own programme doppelganger CLU. CLU soon rebels against his creators’ vision and becomes the all powerful ruler of the Grid, intending to use the portal to invade and take over the real world as well as the Grid. Distraught by CLU’s treachery, Kevin has been hiding away from his nemesis, holding the key to the portal, which CLU needs to fulfil his plan. Rescued by Kevin’s protégé, Quorra (OLIVIA WILDE), Sam joins in the fight to scarper CLU’s plans and free his father…

Visually, the film is stunning. The screen bursts with today’s technology whilst still holding close the design concepts of the original film. The update to the light cycles looks great and introduction of the familiar games is superb. The soundtrack by Daft Punk is probably one of the best soundtracks in years and complements the visuals perfectly. Bridges brings a warmth to his character in his usual imitable style, Wilde looks fantastic and brings a heart to the film, and even Hegunland is suitable as the wayward son.

It is a shame that the plot lets this all down. It feels paper thin and convoluted at the same time and the emotional beats in the film feel empty, plus TRON, our previous hero, is hardly eluded to and feels slightly shoehorned in when he does appear.

The main problem maybe the plot but the biggest distraction for me is the villain. CLU is a digital recreation of a 25 year-old Jeff Bridges and looks like a computer game character. Every time he is on screen you feel as if you are in a cut scene and it diminishes the spectacle.

Ultimately, it is an enjoyable film despite its flaws, but with a little tightening of the story by writers Kitsis and Horowitz, this could truly have been a classic.

Tron: Legacy is released in UK cinemas on December 17th.

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