19 December 2010

The Legacy Continues

**** (4 stars)

I so rarely get to sit down and type out my review immediatly following the movie, but I am today. Please bare with me and keep that in mind if some of this doesn't make a lot of sense. I'm just too excited to wait!

The original "Tron" was a massive failure. Still, on video and at countless midnight showings across the country it is considered a forgotten gem, a camp classic for the ages. Now, almost 30 years later it is getting a reboot in the form of a continuation story. "Tron: Legacy" picks up almost where the original left off. After getting sucked into his own computer program, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) sends a message through the ethos to his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund). Soon, Sam finds himself trapped in the grid amidst an ancient battle between Flynn's alter ego Clu and his father. With the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), another program and Flynn's protege, they must rescue Flynn and return home before Clu can cross over and reek havoc on Earth.

The first thing that hits you while watching "Legacy" is the look. Gone are the fuzzy, almost pastel lights and sound stages. Here is a whole world created with the magic of CG and the technology unavailable in the early 80s. This is a movie that was screaming for a remake! Thank you Hollywood. Bridges plays both his current aged self and the ageless Clu, ssimilar to "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", and the FX team must have crossed themselves since they had access to footage of Bridges from the original movie. While in the grid universe, this copy and paste technique works wonderfully. Everything has that slick, wet look and the light suits and weapons cast a similar glow to all the actors. It is truly amazing. However, a brief scene in the beginning of the film was misguided. It totally removed me from the story to see a shiny, happy Bridges talking to his young son. Oh well, we can't win all the time.

Kevin Ishioka ("Avatar", "Chronicles of Riddick") does an amazing job with the art direction of the film. Usually, talking at length about how good a film looks would be the kiss of death, but "Legacy" relies on the sets, the FX, the costumes, to bring this world to life. If we don't buy it, it's just "Tron: Redux". I can't say enough about how great and consuming the overall look of the film was. The 3D was also pretty good. It wasn't campy or trying to hard. It just gave depth to the computer world and breathed life into it. If 3D was used this consciously in every movie, maybe I wouldn't have such a huge problem with it.

This new "Tron" also has a nice script by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (the writers/producers of "Lost" TV series, "Birds of Prey"). They seamlessly weaved in the recap of the first movie without making it seem like an afterthought. Quorra has some really nice lines and the relationships between all the characters is well developed. If there is a weak point, it's in James Haygood's editing. At 129 minutes, it's just a tad too long. Some scenes seem like they were thrown in last second (or more realistically, after a bad screening). During a lovely conversation between reunited father and son, we jump cut to Clu in his lair for the ubiquitous and meaningless "I'm gonna get you Kevin Flynn" moment, then jump back to the dinner table conversation. What was the point? We know he's out to get him. That's what they're talking about at the table! I wish more movies could leave a bit to the audience to imagine (great case in point- the sparse "Black Swan"). It could have been much tighter. The score by techno-legends Daft Punk is very good though a bit overwhelming in places. It's as if the director and editor didn't know what to do so they just layered a loud piece of music over the scene. It's not really Joseph Kosinski's fault, or really anything to blame. Far worse has occurred in other director's first films and I'm sure he will have a long career if he wants it.

The action scenes and fights are really fun to watch, especially the grid battle between teams of light cycles. I nominate David Leitch ("300", "Fight Club") for a Stuntman Award. His coordination of the films stunts is great and we never give the stuntmen and coordinator enough credit. Applause!! My buddy who went with me and I both agreed that the sound was off the charts! How nice to see a movie that finds that perfect pitch of quiet and loud. A certain Oscar contender.

If it is possible to love Olivia Wilde more, it is after seeing this movie. I never watched "The O.C.", but I really liked her in "Alpha Dog", the short lived "The Black Donnelly's", and she was certainly the best thing about "Turistas". "House" also picked up once she was cast as 13. In "Legacy", she gets to play something totally different- a girl. Not someone tough and jaded or guarded, but a strong young woman who finds humor in the smallest places. I highly recommend reading the interview she gave to /film where she talks about fleshing out the character and the importance that she not be just another pretty face (which she certainly is). I just loved her!

Bridges is best when it's actually him acting and not his CGI morphed face on another actor's body, but that's a bit to be expected. Hedlund (the upcoming "Country Strong", "Eragon") does a fine though somewhat flat job as Sam. He is at his best when acting opposite Wilde and in the more tender moments between himself and Bridges. I'm certainly curious to see more from him, though am reserving love or hate for later.

If you have any interest in seeing "Tron: Legacy", you must see it in the theatre and I recommend in 3D.

PS- Someone get me a light cycle!!

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