|Tron: Legacy (2010) Film Review
The original TRON film released in 1982 when this reviewer was just a mere two years of age. I revisited the technological sci-fi film earlier this year and discovered just how bizarre and dated the film seemed. The story was an interesting one, however, about a game designer named Kevin Flynn who, when trying to expose the corporation he was fired from as having stolen his game and design is sucked into the computer system himself. Inside the system, he finds a world of digital people who are "programs" written by real programmers outside this digital universe. Some of these programs believe that the "users" that created them are almost like gods, with most of the programs not believing in such mythology. A dictator-like villain controlled this digital universe and enslaved many of the programs for the purpose of playing in life-or-death games in arena style death matches. When Flynn is inserted into this world, he turns it upside down, enlisting the help of a heroic program named TRON and ultimately defeating the villain and freeing the system of the oppression. Flynn then is able to release the truth of his creation to the real world and get the rights to the game he created.
The 1982 film was essentially twenty or so years ahead of its time. The technology used to bring the story to the big screen was limited in the early 80s and ultimately looks as primitive as some of the first video games look today (like those on the original Atari or Intellivision, the latter of which I used to play myself). A proposed sequel has been talked about for many years, so the fact that TRON: Legacy is now a reality twenty eight years later is quite amazing. The special effects are incredibly improved upon from the original design. The textures are unbelievable and instead of the digital universe looking like blocks of solid color with glowing lines, the world that Flynn has created - called "The Grid" - is rather realistic and tangible in appearance. The look and feel is actually quite similar to something like that seen in Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones, but pulled off in an undeniably "TRON" sort of way with a much more grounded feel. First-time director Joseph Kosinski takes over the 2010 universe of TRON, helping to reunite two of the original cast members -- most importantly Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn -- and introduce the new character of Sam Flynn as Kevin's son, played quite well by Garrett Hedlund. Kosinski and Disney do an wonderful job paying homage after homage to the original TRON - from using the original theme to recreating "FLYNN'S" arcade, lounge, and even the huge entrance door to Encom. It's all done so well that Legacy feels like a natural follow-up to the original story. The only real hiccup might be the overwhelming twenty-eight year jump in technological advancement.
One of the things that really strengthens TRON: Legacy may actually be its greatest weakness. The first TRON was light on action and heavy on story and introducing this new world, causing a lot of the scenes to drag some. And when there wasn't story or action, the film seemed to lose itself in the ever changing, increasingly more complicated sci-fi logistics of the TRON universe. Legacy feels a lot less cerebral and more grounded, due in part I'm sure to the more incredible special effects and imaginative landscapes. But there are moments in Legacy where the film's pacing comes to a crawl. It does help the characters to breathe and interact and for the story to develop, but it does threaten to disrupt the flow of the film too much. Still, nearly everything about the original is improved upon in Legacy, right down to the script and acting.
It's great to see Bridges back in the saddle as Flynn, but it's also a bit bittersweet to see just how much the character has aged. Buried under a bushy beard and often shown in unflattering lighting, Bridges looks even older than he normally does (and the monk-like robes don't feel very much like his character either), and it's unfortunate to see such a once-lively character become so limited in what they can do. Legacy's villain is a digital look alike of a much younger Kevin Flynn, named Clu. This program version of a younger Flynn is essentially a CGI-reproduction look alike of Bridges, but never really looks all too convincing. If anything, Clu often just looks lifted out of an animated motion-captured Robert Zemeckis film. It works just enough to keep the Bridges appearance from the original, but Clu never looks as good as he should. They also use the exact same effect on Flynn for flashback scenes and it's just as ineffective and fake-looking there. It's unfortunate, too, because just about every other effect in the film is looks incredible.
As an added bonus, mainstream act Daft Punk created the score themselves, keeping the soundtrack feeling especially faithful to the original, giving it a very 80s tone, while occasionally glazing it with a bit of a modern touch. But because there's such a resurgence in anything 80s in recent years, it doesn't sound quite as dated as one might expect it to.
The content of the film is pretty on par with the original. A couple uses of "h*ll" and a use of "d*mn" are the extent of the profanity usage in the film, sticking tightly to the PG rating. The action is intense enough, but every program's demise in the film is shown as little cubes shattering and digital fragments spraying everywhere. It never even feels gory or gross and looks pretty impressive. We briefly do see some droplets of blood when Sam is injured during one of his first games (and the droplets are clearly digitally animated), and a couple random program characters appear to have deformed, mechanical faces or scars, but it's something that is never focused on for very long (or all that disturbing).
Both Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde are worthy additions to the TRON universe and it would be interesting to see where the story could be taken further if Legacy is a success. Hedlund was a wise choice to play Bridges' son and he even did well to capture some of the nuances of Flynn from the original. The only actor to not fair quite as well as the others was the over-the-top Michael Sheen who played a flamboyant and obnoxious club owner inside The Grid. His character doesn't fit within the TRON universe and his dismissal from the screen couldn't come too soon.
As a sequel, TRON: Legacy improves upon the original in almost every way. It's a grand sci-fi adventure of epic scope and ultimately a visually delicious film. It's a fun movie that could possibly jumpstart a new budding franchise, but even if Legacy is the only other TRON film we get, it's a strong effort and a nice wrap-up to complement the original.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 12/17/10)
|TRON (1982) Film Review
I was about two years old when the original TRON hit the big screen. I vaguely remember seeing it either on VHS or TV while growing up, but I think I played the video game spin-offs from the film more than actually seeing the film. In early 2010, I rewatched the original film in the convenience of my own home; I remembered pretty much nothing from seeing it before, so it felt like I was watching it for the first time. TRON, in 2010, felt almost painfully dated, but for the time it was made in, it's an incredible film and an accurate representation of the early 80s and what computer technology was like back then. It might be humorous to watch now but it was ahead of its time for how advanced computers would become. Just comparing the visuals between the two TRON films is a testament to that.
The plot revolves around a programmer named Kevin Flynn who tries to hack into the "Master Control Program" (also known as the MCP) of his previous employment, Encom, after he was double-crossed by another programmer who took Flynn's work, claimed it as his, and was promoted high within the company. The MCP evolves to have a mind of its own and, during one of Flynn's attempts to hack into the computer to find the evidence he needs to prove he was cheated, the computer transports Flynn into the inner workings of the computer. Now stuck in a digital cyberspace (that predates the internet, mind you), Flynn must figure out how to escape the clutches of the MCP and bring it down. To do so, he meets a program named Tron that helps him in his quest to thwart the computer's plans.
Jeff Bridges is great as the fun and spirited programmer Flynn. It's sad to see how Kevin ends up in Legacy (i.e. being trapped in the computer since 1989), but it makes for a decent story and for his legacy to carry on through his son. In TRON, the title character and Bruce Boxleitner's Alan have a much more central role. There's also more emphasis placed on the difference between "users" and "programs." The metaphor goes so far as to have the programs believing that their users created them, while the evil opposing forces try to debunk and discourage such beliefs. Tron himself takes on a sort of "savior" role as well, creating an even deeper God and creation likeness for the story.
To anyone more accustomed to big blockbuster action movies with brilliant effects and almost no story, the original TRON is nothing they'll ever want to see. In comparison to such films, it's slower in pacing and more character-driven. Also, the effects, by today's standards, are like trying to get a kid who is accustomed to playing his Playstation 3 all day to drop it for an Atari system. You probably would have to have grown up with this style and imagery to fully appreciate it. Content-wise, the movie is pretty family friendly. There's just a little bit of language with about three uses of "d*mn," but that's the extent of any kind of profanity (one of the programs even says "Oh my user" at one point instead of "Oh my G-d").
In Blu-Ray high definition, the movie has really never looked better. The color is punched up and vibrant, which helps make the real-world scenes look less aged, while the digital world looks much more vibrant. It's a good sci-fi film, but viewers will really have to get past the dated visuals to enjoy it. Seeing both movies together creates a complete story, so if you really enjoyed Legacy, it's worth a watch to check out the original TRON -- just make sure you get your mind set on when this film was created. TRON truly was ahead of its time.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 4/2/11)
5-Disc Blu-Ray Special Features Review
Disney has brought TRON: Legacy home on Blu-Ray in a pretty extraordinary way. There are a slew of buying options via combo packs for the movie, including: A 2-disc set with the Blu-Ray and DVD of TRON: Legacy; A 4-disc set that includes a 3D Blu-Ray disc, a Blu-Ray disc, a DVD and a Digital Copy of TRON: Legacy; A 5-disc set that includes everything from the 4-disc set but also includes a 2D Blu-Ray disc of the original TRON; The 5-disc set in a collectible "identity disc" packaging; Or, finally, just the DVD by itself. This is a review for the regular 5-disc set.
You sure can't go wrong receiving four formats of one single film. If you don't own a 3D Blu-Ray player and TV yet (like I don't), this is still a great combo pack if you think you may ever upgrade to one. I did see the film in 3D on IMAX and the scenes on the Grid were pretty incredible in 3D. I'd love to see how the 3D looks on a TV at home (Incidentally, this movie was actually shot in 3D, not converted to it in post-production). In addition to four copies of TRON: Legacy, you get the complete story with the inclusion of the first film on Blu-Ray. It's the very first time this movie is available in high definition and it's never looked so good. The Blu-Ray disc for the original TRON has its own array of bonus goodies, including everything that first appeared on the previous DVD release of the film (unfortunately, those special features are NOT in HD and look a little crummy on a nice TV, but it's great to have them included here at all).
TRON: Legacy Blu-Ray Features:
The Next Day: Flynn Lives Revealed - This is a fake documentary about the "Flynn Lives" movement, chronicling what happened to Encom after Kevin Flynn's disappearance. It's neat for TRON fans and those who really enjoy the lore of the TRON world. It's also cool because the short film also brings back RAM from the first movie! At the end of the segment, we see an arcade game screen that looks like one where you might type in your initials after a game is over (to record your score). It gives a list of the initials from previous winners, but some of them are actually codes to type in for additional footage that was made for this short film. It's basically extended footage from portions of "The Next Day." You can simply watch every one of these bonus segments together by typing in the initials "ALL" on that screen.
Disney Second Screen: TRON: Legacy - For iPad users especially, this is a unique function that allows you to watch the film on your TV while accessing bonus features that simultaneously coincide with the film via your iPad (a special app must be downloaded first from the iTunes store). There is also an option to use your Apple computer if you don't own an iPad, so for fans who don't mind the multi-tasking that this involves, this is a cool feature to check out. It highlights the vehicles and details of the film that take you beyond what is seen on screen.
First Look at TRON: Uprising, The Disney XD Animated Series (1:15) - This is a short trailer for the new cartoon series featuring the voices of Elijah Wood, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Mandy Moore, Nate Corddry, Lance Henriksen, Paul Reubens and Bruce Boxleitner as Tron. The animation seems like a mix of CG work and 2D hand-drawn-style animation, so it could be interesting. I'm eager to see how it plays out and where the series would go.
Launching The Legacy (10:20) - This is a real treat as it nearly goes into step by step of how the sequel came to be. The filmmakers talk about a test trailer that was made to see if there was any kind of fan interest and this featurette includes the entire thing (I do remember seeing this online quite some time ago). They tested it with a San Diego Comic-Con audience and its warm reception convinced Disney to give TRON: Legacy the go-ahead. It then goes into the conceptual planning of the sequel, showing some great on-set footage and lots of discussion into what a sequel would look like twenty five years later. It's a wonderful featurette.
Visualizing TRON (11:46) goes into the design of the series and its focus specifically on the importance of light. Another fantastic featurette, this one goes into great detail about the make-up of the new TRON world. It mentions how director Joseph Kosinski has a background in design and architecture and how that came into play in the look and feel of the film. One of the best parts of this segment is they take a quick look around the set that was built for Kevin Flynn's secret underground lab, and we see incredible detail that wasn't as apparent in the final film. From there, we see how they designed the light suits which have real lighting effects embedded in them, and then get to see how they brought the younger Jeff Bridges as CLU to life. It was cool to learn how Bridges acted out the scenes as CLU and then had a stand-in mimic his performance and then that actor's head was replaced with the younger CG version of Bridges.
Installing The Cast (12:04) opens with a behind-the-scenes filming of Bridges as CLU meeting with Zeus in the bar. We then hear from the cast talking about Jeff's return to the franchise. It also focuses on Bruce Boxleitner's reprise as Alan and Tron and the careful selection of Garrett Hedlund to play Flynn's son. Finally, there are interviews with Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen about their selection for the sequel as well. It's a great watch too, as we see some really great behind-the-scenes footage here.
Disc Roars (3:00) reveals that the arena crowd noise in the film was actually recorded at Comic-Con 2010. It shows Joe directing the 7,000 fans at the press conference and what the crowd cheers sounded like in the final film. It's pretty incredible.
Music Video: "Derezzed," Written, Produced and Performed by Daft Punk (2:58) - This is a pretty sweet music video that shows the Daft Punk duo walking into Flynn's Arcade and starting up a game called "Derezzed." From there, it takes the song from the soundtrack and shows a mix of animation from both TRON films to create a new visual experience (with heavy influence from the original TRON), complete with a sort of jousting match at the end that reveals Olivia Wilde to having been one of the players.
TRON Lithograph (2:58) - There's a TRON lithograph included in this set. It's an old photo of Bruce Boxleitner in the original TRON outfit and a red glow to his suit (which is weird, because his suit was only ever blue). It's a neat keepsake, but it's only the size of the inside of the Blu-Ray case, so it's pretty small.
That's about it for the TRON: Legacy Blu-Ray goodies, but the original TRON Blu-Ray disc also has some cool extras...
TRON: The Original Classic Blu-Ray Features:
The TRON Phenomenon (9:45) - This features the cast and crew from TRON: Legacy talking about the impact that the first film had on pop culture. Original writer/producer/director Steven Lisberger talks about what it was like to make the film back then in the early 80's and the "mystery" that computers were to people at the time. The featurette goes into how the original film was made and how much it has impacted the special effects world that we know of today. It's cool to see some archive footage of the process that was used to make the light suits in the original film -- and how primitive the computer animation was back then.
Photo Tronology (16:37) - Steven Lisberger takes his son Carl to the Disney movie archives where they break out some old binders that have a photo chronology of the making of the original TRON. Steven and Carl both reflect on the experience of making the film, and for Carl, growing up in his father's "legacy" of having created such an influential film.
Audio Commentary - There's a feature-length audio commentary from Steven Lisberger, Producer Donald Kushner, Associate Producer and Visual Effects Supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw and Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Taylor.
Original DVD Features - There are a slew of features from the original TRON DVD release, including "Development," "Digital Imagery," "The Making of TRON," "Music," "Publicity," "Deleted Scenes," "Design," "Storyboarding," and "Galleries." The downside to these is they're all in standard Definition and don't really look that great blown up on a nice-sized HD screen. The Deleted Scenes involve a deleted "love scene" between Tron and Yori. It's bizarre and probably a smart omission from the final film. The Making-of feature is just under an hour and a half and a pretty extensive behind-the-scenes look at the movie. I would have liked to have seen something like this made for Legacy.
Overall, the 5-Disc TRON: Legacy and TRON set is a pretty complete experience for any fan of the franchise. Both look fabulous in high definition and there is plenty of fandom wrapped up in the extras on this set that you can spend a good portion of a day immersed in the TRON world. It's a great set and well worth picking up.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 4/3/11)
TRON: Legacy & TRON Parental Guide: Quick Summary of Content
Legacy: Four shapely women in tight outfits approach Sam once he's entered The Grid and one uses a light beam on her finger to slice his pants open down the side of his leg and they drop to the floor. We then briefly see him without his shirt and in his shorts as they refit him with his suit. // Original TRON: Flynn sarcastically asks Alan if Lara still leaves her clothes on the floor (a reference to Kevin and Lara possibly living together before)
Legacy: 1 possible "s" word, 4 "h*ll," 1 "d*mmit" // Original TRON has 3 "d*mn"
Alcohol/Drugs: Legacy: Sam gets two cans of Coors out of his fridge, opens one and tosses another to Alan (who doesn't drink it); There is a bar on The Grid where Clu makes a drink for Castor (who doesn't drink it) and other programs appear to be drinking unidentified beverages
Legacy: We see some bruises on Sam's back as he changes his shirt; We see a program in The Grid with half of its face missing; We see a little bit of blood ooze out of a slice in Sam's suit. Then the camera focuses on the droplets as they hit the ground; When programs are destroyed in The Grid, they shatter like glass into tons of tiny shards. We often see the bodies fragment in different ways. At one point, the camera focuses on a character's arm shattering off. // Original TRON: A character is hit in the head with an identity disc and we see colored digital bits fall out (like pixel fragments)
Legacy: The people inside the digital universe are digital programs that fight to the death in arena style games. The characters toss discs at each other, destroying the environment around them to cause them to fall to their death, or the discs cause their demise directly. There are some vehicle chases that also result in the demise of quite a few programs. There are several hand-to-hand combat sequences with punching and discs being used to slice through program limbs, etc. It's not shown graphically. Clu blows up a building with programs in it. (SPOILER: There is a large explosion that kills a person and surrounding programs) // Original TRON: When players fight in the games, a few programs die in a burst of light; CLU is captured and briefly tortured. We see him screaming while being sort of electrocuted and then he's derezzed; We see cycles crash during the games; Another program is electrocuted like that; Kevin fights some programs briefly; Kevin pilots and crashes a recognizer; Tron hits a program in the head with his disc, causing bits of data to spill out
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most
reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.