a review by Joshua P. Ferguson
To most, I'm sure the idea of Jeff Bridges as a computer-guru-turned-master-of-the-universe is a bit of a stretch. But settling into the IMAX theater at Navy Pier in Chicago last night for an advance screening, I was more than ready to suspend disbelief and let the sensory overload flight of fancy that is the new Tron movie whisk me away to a digital alternate universe—the Grid—ruled by not one, but two all powerful, wise and God-like Jeff Bridges's.
Like the iconic light bikes that have been blazing a trail through the movie's previews, Tron Legacy propels itself faster than the speed of sound. After no more than 15 minutes of back story, plot set up and the discovery of a way into the Grid, our hero, Sam Flynn (actor Garrett Hedlund who, aside from a role in Four Brothers is best known for a minor role as Patroclus in Troy. He seems to have a thing for four-letter movies that start in TRO.) is off in cyberspace in search of his missing father Kevin Flynn (Bridges). In another blink of an eye, he's being outfitted by four foxy sirens and set loose in the gladiatorial games you might remember from the original Tron. But these sequences don't look like their 1982 counterparts. This is 2010: Let the 3D, high contrast, high definition action commence.
While no one will be taking home any Best Actor Oscars for their performances in the movie, Tron Legacy is a visual delight. In fact, between the fantasy world and the soundtrack it's a wet dream for stoners, video game addicts and Sci-Fi junkies everywhere. I was glued to the screen for the entire movie. I'm not saying it's a masterpiece, but if you walk away from this movie having not been entertained, then I probably don't want to hang out with you. Our heroine Quorra, whose mysterious background I won't reveal, is simultaneously sexy, dangerous and wide-eyed. The non-evil Kevin Flynn is a hippie sage who spouts words like dig, cat, man and radical as if he knows that he was the Dude in a past life. At first this may seem cheesy but that fades when you remind yourself it's a Disney film. Flynn's son, Sam has a long way to go before he's the next big action star, but he's a perfectly passable frontman, handsome enough, tough enough and witty enough.
My only real beef is the evil Kevin Flynn a.k.a. CLU 2.0, a digital clone who has gone awry in his pursuit of the perfect world, a world he was created to design. It's not the character that I take issue with (although the plot line isn't exactly original, iRobot, Alien and, of course, HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey come to mind). It's that he's a CGI rendering of Bridges from the first film. Great in concept, but in reality it begs comparison to Terminator Salvation and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Patrick Stewart appear in eye-rolling digital form. Granted, in those movies it was budget or studio issues that prevented the real actors from appearing and in Tron Legacy's it's merely a matter of age, but still, no matter how advanced our computer animation technology is, computer people still look just like that, generated, not born. And I doubt any film wants to be compared to X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Seeing as this is predominantly a music blog, I can't conclude without spending some time with the music. Especially when the soundtrack was composed by Daft Punk, in a role the duo seemed born to tackle. I nabbed the soundtrack just before Thanksgiving and have probably listened to it more than any other soundtrack, ever. As the faceless critics scattered about the web fuss over the fact that it's not the Daft Punk album they've all been waiting for, I have only this to say: duh, it's not supposed to be. It's a soundtrack. To a movie. And as such, hearing it in conjunction with one of the coolest versions of a cyber future ever rendered, I was completely floored. At times, Daft Punk's sonic precision seemed almost too much for the sound system in the theater, pushing those speakers to the absolute limit. Lush, cinematic and dark by Disney standards, it completes the experience, bring the film full circle like the power rings that are so central to the plot.
Sure, upon nationwide release, critics will take issue with elements of the film. I can see arguments that despair over too much action, too much attention paid to visual stimuli and special effects and not enough to dialogue, acting and the like. It was built to be a franchise with sequels and spin-offs waiting in the wings. Blah blah blah. But—and this is something that both myself and my movie-going companion had to keep reminding ourselves—this is first and foremost a movie for young boys. For them, and those of us who are unwilling to let go of that part of us, it's a fantastically wild ride. One we look forward to more of.
While we're here, here's the official video for the soundtrack's lead single, "Derezzed."
Daft Punk - Derezzed from Rocktails on Vimeo.