Tron Legacy – movie review

Look, let’s get this out of the way. I’m a nerd.  Well, certainly a geek at least – I’m not entirely sure where the line is these days.  It only takes a cursory glance at this website to see I have a tragic infatuation with robots, sci-fi crap, and shiny shiny toys.  It’s not my fault, I was just programmed that way..

Back in 1982, when I was 5 years old, my school lunchbox was adorned with glow-in-the-dark Tron stickers free from Aquafresh toothpaste packets (a special treat as my mum would normally only buy Tesco’s own brand). I couldn’t begin to tell you what my first exposure to the Tron “brand” was, but perhaps if I enlightened you that my parents had to hire a VHS player from Rumbelows before we could then rent the tape of Tron for me to watch, it ought to demonstrate to some extent the rabid fanaticism I had for a rather plodding, boring Disney flop about computer-men who throw Frisbees at each other.  As a lanky, carrot-topped sportophobe who spent his non-school hours typing reams of ineffectual code into a Spectrum 48k, Tron made computers seem legitimately exciting to the rest of the world in a way that my demonstrating Bat’n’Ball somehow failed to do (if it loaded).

So, here we are, 28 years later. I now have my very own VHS player and can buy all the Aquafresh packets I desire.. Oh look – there’s a new Tron movie out! How times have changed… Computers ARE exciting!

Tron Legacy, should you have been lost in The Matrix for the last 2 or 3 years, is a sequel to the 80’s original, but with nearly 2 generations’ gap since the first it’s a whole new entity in its own right.  This means it has artistic license to remake pivotal iconic scenes from the original whilst building a new universe for a franchise to blossom in.  Effectively a “Son of Tron” remake then, although “Son of Flynn” would be more accurate, eh, pedants?

Our hero, Sam Flynn, is Bruce Wayne in techno trousers, apparently obsessed with finding his long lost father whilst using expensive gadgetry to annually prank the hub of his father’s legacy – the computer giant Encom.  Some contrivance & several conveniences later Sam finds himself in the computer-land known as “The Grid”, and then loads of really cool looking stuff happens.. in full screen Imax 3d.  As far as plot goes, that’s pretty much it.

There are vague themes of redemption, regret, familial loss, the importance of the individual juxtaposed with the weight of the universal; the stoicism of wisdom versus the petulance of youth; the freedom of information versus corporate larceny; and a glow-suited take on the fascistic tenet of the Nietzchean Uberman.  For all the professed depth or perceived intellectual stimuli however, none of these vague whispers of mental provocation will linger for an instant once your senses are pummelled into submission by Loads Of Really Cool Shit Happening Loudly In Your Face.

I must admit a certain mourning for my younger self, when 45 minutes into this audio visual assault I found myself wanting to “care” about someone, anyone, in amongst all the lightcycles and Frisbees. By rights, I should have been a salivating heap on the floor by this point in the proceedings, but there is something just not quite . . . right.  Ironically for a franchise that has its roots in the Wizard of Oz, this retina-burning light show has the same problem that once troubled the Tin Man.

Much has been touted about Daft Punk’s involvement with the film.  The band’s Syd Mead-inspired attire is entirely consistent with the original film’s aesthetic, and their musical output has always had a whiff of 80’s hair-metal, un morceau de fromage, and swathes of retro-futurism. Their score fits beautifully with the visuals: Messrs Punk have digested & blended Vangelis, Jarre, Zimmer & Williams in equal measure, creating at turns a haunting, bombastic, synth-heavy or orchestral score that will no doubt lead to plaudits when award season is upon us.  An early sequence of Sam in the Real World on his motorbike mutes the rest of the world so that we can drink in the Punk score, and it is a surprisingly beautiful moment. As for DP’s cameo, I think there was perhaps more of them to be seen in Interstella 5555.. If you want to see the robot-helmeted Gallic chaps on screen for longer, you might want to hunt down a dvd of their sublime Electroma film.

For all my sneering cynicism though, I did have a whale of a time – Jeff Bridges is superb in every scene as Flynn, drawling Californian hippie-duderisms into what is otherwise a fairly witless dialogue; Olivia Wilde’s Quorra is quite simply breathtaking to behold and heartbreaking to witness. With all that skin-tight black leather you can see why some people are theorising she may be a future Selina Kyle in Chris Nolan’s Bat3.

Tron Legacy is the biggest, fastest, shiniest roller-coaster ride you will experience in a cinema this year.  It would not be unkind to compare it to Avatar for a number of reasons, most pertinently that it is a massively-budgeted special effects showreel by a talented visual showman that is lacking in any substance whatsoever.  Inevitably the seeds of a franchise are sown, and one hopes that if a sequel is eventually greenlit perhaps some coherence or soul can be woven into the fabric of Tron 2.2.

If you are able, get yourself to an Imax & enjoy the ride – you will regret waiting for the blu ray to come out.

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