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Monday, 1 August 2011

Tron: Legacy - Review - 11/01/11

So recently I went to the cinema for the first time in ages. I can’t even remember the last film I saw, and 3D wasn’t even a thing yet. For no reason at all, in a sort of celebration of my trip I thought I’d write a little review! This contains mega spoilers and I am in no way a professional critic so it’s basically nothing more than (and definitely no better than) a rambling. You are in no way obliged to enjoy this!

This was my first experience of 3D and I have to say, I was a little underwhelmed. I got excited when the first thing to jump out at me was the Walt Disney logo, shooting out at the bottom of the screen with a visible trail of just how far it had travelled, but this was to be the peak of my 3D induced euphoria. I don’t know what I was expecting, and leaving it this long to see my first 3D film probably made me build it up too much as well. I know it’s still in its early stages but it did feel like a bit of a gimmick. My friend pointed out that there were certain scenes where the camera angled changed unnecessarily just to then make the moving pieces come towards you. The prime example of this being the scene where Clu discovers Kevin Flynn’s abode and in a fit of rage swipes at the objects on the table. The camera angle changes so that they fly towards you and it just feels a bit cheap, but I think it was a scene transition as well so that may be why it felt a little forced. Most of the time it felt alright, it just wasn’t particularly shocking or exciting. I may not have been helped by the fact the film itself warns that a lot of it is shot in 2D because it was designed to look that way. I spent the first third of the film constantly flicking my 3D glasses on and off to check if there was any difference.

In terms of the actual look of the film I was mightily impressed. It had the whole gamer feel to it and featured a lot of black backgrounds so the neon lights everybody was wearing looked appealing. When the motorbikes start with their bright trails it looks really cool. There was one visual slip that rubbed me up the wrong way however. Okay, so I know that Jeff Bridges was digitally restored to make him look younger and they did a fantastic job, it looked really impressive. The problem for me was that despite how good it looked, it wasn’t quite real enough. There was just something about Clu that whenever he came on the screen I felt like I was watching a cut scene from a computer game and it really started to irritate me after a while. I think the skin was a little too smooth, a friend mentioned the difficulties animating mouths and there was something off with his eyes as well. I know this sounds a bit weird considering it’s a film based on the story of a game but that doesn’t mean the people should look like they’re part of it!

Despite my constant irritation whenever Clu came on screen one of my favourite moments in the film came as he was delivering a motivational speech to his assembled army. I liked how Clu’s speech was like the mirror of when Kevin Flynn was first endorsing the grid, stating ‘In there is a new world! In there is our future! In there is our destiny!’ Instead, Clu adapts it as an invasion speech by only making a few changes. ‘Out there is a new world! Out there is our victory! Out there is our destiny!’ When Kevin Flynn says it, it’s in the back-story of events on a TV monitor and could be easily forgotten or looked over so it’s the kind of thing that could be missed by a lot of people because it was subtle. I found that made it more effective, a quiet pat on the back for the elite few who noticed, which works so well. It was made all the more impressive because Jeff Bridges has a really good gruff voice that spills over into a really manly growl when his character gets angry, ‘Our destiny!’ sounding so impressive it actually tingled the hairs on the back of my neck, like for real. I’m sure most people wouldn’t quite be affected the same way I was, but then unlike a lot of people I can only dream of making my voice sound as coarse, let alone reach that level of volume.

There were little bits spread out all through the film which I think were designed to appease the retro gamers. When Sam Flynn is piloting the machine gun as they flee to the portal there are several ‘Well done’ and ’Nice shot!’ moments when he downs a pursuer. The most notable one for me though is when Kevin Flynn tells his son ‘It’s all in the wrist’. Remember the game would have been around when computer gaming was unfashionable. If that wasn’t the script writers’ cheeky back handed reference to specially designated ‘alone time’ by young, lonely male gamers I’d eat my hat. (Assuming you first bought me a hat, and as long as it didn’t previously belong to one of those gamers.)

One of my favourite scenes was one for the loyalists, not that I am one. I am of course referring to the bike scene that replicated the game. I thought it was really good and looked spectacular. It was inventive in adding the human(ish) element to the game as well, what with the whole trapping a guy in between two bike slipstream things and having him bump about from side to side. I never played the game, but I also liked how adding the human(ishe)s meant adding a bit of story to the situation as well, and for a moment it was nice to see the people working together as a team (even if when Sam Flynn makes the stark realisation it’s a bit cheesy). The only problem was that they were in an arena, and going at top speed on their motorbikes, so there was an element of Mary Poppins’ handbag about it, especially when you consider the game would have had a bird’s eye view and had to fit on a single screen.

Another thing that really annoyed me was when all hope of making it to the portal before it closed seemed lost until Kevin Flynn just happened to notice they’d stumbled into the path of a train that went all the way there without stopping. I don’t mind when characters get a bit of luck, for them to last as long as they do in films like this it would be unfeasible for them not to, and I don’t judge too harshly at the occasional ‘Oh look this character is holding his own in a fight sequence despite having no history of combat training when the other guy has clearly been training for this exact moment’. (Rinzler however had every right to feel aggrieved). It felt like a quick fix to a problem that had been overlooked. A scene where they boarded the train in some sort of stealthy sequence was all it would have needed for me, but the way they chanced upon it with no security despite the fact it went straight to the portal was just too much luck unearned. I don’t care that there was an unexpected obstacle when they walked in on a full military base in the making, they shouldn’t have found the train in the first place.

In terms of the overall story I thought it was good and I enjoyed it. There were a couple of gaps for me because I haven’t seen the first film, so the part of Tron himself was a bit of a mystery to me. Obviously Clu has converted him to the evil team, he’s got the whole orange neon lights over the blue, but I don’t understand why he’s got two disks. Is one just a weapon? Or does it belong to somebody else? If someone could tell me that’d be much appreciated! I do like the whole inner ring being blue though to show you that he’s switched allegiances, very nice. What I don’t like is how easy it was to bring him back to the home team. Purely by telling him to look at himself, see what he’s become yadda yadda, and moments later he’s plunging his jet thingy into Clu to grant our heroes safe passage to the portal, screaming about fighting for the ‘User’. Too cheap for me. The colour on his grid suit changed back to blue as he was in freefall which could either be hinting at a sequel or just acting like a ghost that’s found his peace before he passes on properly and guilt free.

The other thing about the story is that because it’s an ‘epic’, the second half of the film followed a very similar pattern to many a film before it, which can’t be helped in most cases, it’s a logical progression of events. That doesn’t make it bad, it makes it familiar. The hard part is making it all seem original again. I’m going to have to judge that it succumbed to this problem though, in fact one of the first things a friend said as we were leaving the cinema is that we’d just been watching ‘Star Wars’. It was good though, I did enjoy it, and I thought some of the performances were good as well. Jeff Bridges impressed me and I enjoyed Michael Sheen’s cameo as Zuse.

I’m just a man who scribed my thoughts on a film I saw recently, don’t take it too personally okay? ;)

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