It is probably fair to say that most people won’t know where the Tron franchise has come from – or that it is indeed a franchise. After telling my friends that I’d just been to see Tron: Legacy, most of them looked blankly at me when I told them it’s actually a sequel to the 1982, Steven Lisberger directed movie with the title ‘Tron’. Back in ’82, Tron was a huge cult movie which still has a massive following although most of them were quiet until the computer game commercial director, Joseph Kosinski, created a rather fantastic promo as a proof of concept at Comic Con back in 2008. What he created wowed fans and the hype went mad! With Disney bosses overjoyed at the response, Tron: Legacy was green-lit and now, in 2010, we have the finished product.
Tron: Legacy stars Jeff Bridges who returns as Kevin Flynn (and the character of Clu 2.0 but more on that later), Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, Beau Garrett, Bruce Boxleitner and relative newcomer, Garett Hedlund. Hedlund plays the character of Sam Flynn, the son of legendary game creator, Kevin Flynn.
The movie opens with an immensely cool sequence where the Disney Magic Kingdom is completely made out of computer ‘bits’ and immediately had me excited with what was to come. We start in the real world where Kevin Flynn (Bridges) is the owner of computer company, Encom. Flynn has made his name from creating computer games Space Paranoids and Tron (see the 1982 version for the full lowdown) and is happy in life with his son who has a bedroom kited out with Tron merchandise from the past 20 years! Bridges has his back to us for most of the scene which is used to tell the audience who know nothing about the original Tron, exactly what’s going on – plus telling his son about The Grid. As the scene approaches it’s close, Flynn turns around to face Sam, revealing his face and showing the audience that he’s 20 years younger than Bridges actually is now. Cut to the News report following to reveal that after he left Sam that night, he wasn’t seen again, with rumours that he’s skipped the country through not being able to take the pressure, or has been killed with his body missing.
Moving on 20 years, we get to see Sam now much older and with a real attitude and a gripe against the world, blaming his father for all the misfortune he’s had in his life. Now the film really begins with a rather cool opening sequence where we see Sam infiltrating Encom for his ‘yearly visit’. Throughout this sequence, we get to see exactly where all our main characters are now within the world and within the organisation of Encom, who are about to release their new Operating System known as OS12. Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) is now on the board of Encom while we get a little cameo from a well known, uncredited Irish actor who I won’t name but plays Dillinger’s son – see if you can spot him.
After causing quite a few problems at Encom, Bradley pays a visit to Sam’s digs to tell him that he’s received a page from his father and that it came from Kevin Flynn’s arcade which hasn’t been open for 20 years. Cue the biggest little dog that you’ve ever seen on a cinema screen (especially at an IMAX!). Throughout this opening scene (which does pass by pretty quickly) you’re just desperate to get into the stunning visuals that we’ve seen in all the trailers, and it doesn’t take long before Sam finds himself on The Grid which his father told him about all those years ago. The mission now, how does he get out?!
Now, onto the cool stuff! Where do I start with the coolness of Tron: Legacy?
Part of the sell for Tron: Legacy has to be the visuals. We’ve all gotten used to CGI as it’s been around for quite a while now but director Joseph Kosinski knew that the visuals were key to the look of the movie. By enlisting digital effects house, Digital Domain (founded by James Cameron and now owned by Michael Bay) he was able to not only create some of the most stunning visuals I’ve ever seen in a movie but also manage to make Jeff Bridges 20 years younger!
The Light Cycles were made famous in the original movie too with a trail of light being created wherever they go to create an extremely dangerous game which, if hit, would destroy you. Kosinski was very clever with the set design as a lot of it was real sets and not all CGI. He would create much of the platform on which the actors stand and then green screens would complete the structure so that we, the audience, never notice.
The Light Disc battle, the Light Jets and the Light Cars were all new for Tron: Legacy and were fantastic additions to the movie. Kosinski had brought concept car designer (Daniel Simon) on board who quit his job to come and work on the movie and was able to create some of the most amazing new vehicles, none of which disappointed. I think if you went into the movie just to look at the vehicle concept and not look at the story at all, you’d have to give it 10/10.
My one criticism of the Light-Bikes was in the way parts of it were shot. Often the cameras were too close to the subject making it hard to see exactly what was going on but overall, the exhibition of ‘Light’ was rather mesmerizing!
The Light disc fight was one of my personal favourites parts of the movie with the competitors ending up in a billion pieces on the floor if they got hit by the disc. Digital Domain spared no expense in getting these sequences 100% right and they simply looked fantastic.
One element that was quite hard to get used to was Clu’s CGI face. Yes it did look pretty realistic but there was something about it that you could never shake off, and although it was only his head that was actually moulded in a computer, it still felt like you were watching a CGI model of someone and I’m not sure I ever fully got used to it.
I could talk all day about each visual concept in detail but suffice to say, you wont be disappointed if you want to see a lot of cool looking neon in this movie!
After seeing the movie, there were numerous comments from people saying that this is the best 3d that they’ve seen in a movie. I didn’t really notice the 3D standing out but then I think that’s probably as good thing, this 3D does work and when you’re immersed in the Light Cycle battle or the Light Discs, you’ll absolutely love it. Filming in 3d rather than doing it in post is most definitely the way to go if you can achieve results like this!
The Score has been produced by Daft Punk and man, have they done a good job with it!! The hype for the Official SoundTrack (OST) has been almost as big as it has been for the film itself and the pair of French artists even get a little cameo in the movie. Although their soundtrack plays throughout the movie, there was one scene where Michael Sheen asks them to ‘Electrify’ the End of the Line club, and just as the music kicks in, they cut to another room within the club compeltely drowning out the music. Was a bit disappointing (due to the amazing build-up by Sheen) but I’ll just have to buy the OST and crank it up when I’ve got my copy!
In 1982, to get the effect of having light inside the costumes, each frame had to be hand-drawn and coloured into the final product before it could be placed on screen. Each cell was sent over to Asia to complete this work and it was obviously extremely expensive and time consuming. Fortunately for Kosinski, computers have advanced somewhat although it may surprise some of you to hear that the costumes were actually built with the lights inside them, much like the technology for the Motorola Razr phone which came out a couple of years ago.
The costume design was again, visually stunning with every suit built to match the body shape of each actor after being digitally scanned into a computer and then created on a CNC process (find out more about that process and costume design in general here).
OK, down to the nitty gritty, how did they all perform? Overall, pretty well. Jeff Bridges was absolutely brilliant and delivered some killer lines including ‘radical man’ (no, I’m not lying!) and so much of the young, not-a-care-in-the-world attitude that we saw in the first movie really came through, although it was hard not to mix that up with his character as ‘The Dude’ in The Big Lebowski. Seeing him back in the world of Tron will pleased so many people and it was a joy to see him embrace the character. Even though it was shot 30 years ago, it really felt like he was pleased to be back, especially since this sort of role is probably so far removed from the roles we see him in nowadays. This performance just goes to show what a great and diverse actor he really is, especially as he has to play two parts in the movie.
Another excellent performance comes from Michael Sheen, and just like Jeff Bridges, the man never puts a foot wrong. I was talking with my fellow blogger friends about this afterwards and we’ve all come out with a different opinion on who he’s trying to portray. For me, I saw loads of Gene Wilder in his character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with his cane being swung around his arm and his leg crossed as he walked along.
Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde performed well together and there was really good chemistry on the screen between the actors. The problem for me was the dodgy lines which Hedlund was given. They just didn’t fit in the script and made the audience laugh when he delivered them. The cheesy one liners which if they hadn’t been put in there, would have been fine. Olivia Wilde is an wonderful upcoming actress and there’s a reason that she’s appearing in so many big budget movies over the next year. In Tron: Legacy, she has a great childlike quality to her playing the role of Quorra, a program living on The Grid who is desperate to find out about the ‘real world’ and meeting Sam for the first time is a real proof that the ‘real world’ exists after living with Jeff Bridges for so many years.
The supporting cast including Beau Garrett and James Frain were all really well cast and I couldn’t fault their performances. One slight downside to the casting was Bruce Boxleitner. He was completely underused and I was really hoping that we’d see a lot of him in the sequel to the movie which really, was named after him. You will see him after the opening sequences in the ‘real world’ but in my opinion, not enough.
This is where negatives come into my review I’m afraid as the storyline did need some work. It seems that not even Pixar-guru John Lasseter (who was rumoured to have had a go at rewriting it) could make it more compelling. The basic storyline is Sam goes in, Sam needs to get out again with a load of challenges in the middle to get him there. And yes, the Light-Cycles, Light-Discs and Light-Jets are all cool but it felt like they were just thrown in at sporadic points. I think it lacked originality and with nearly 30 years to write a script, it could have been a little bit more structured and had a few more twists.
Don’t let this put you off to much though because when you do get the all the different ‘Light’ sections, you’ll be absolutely loving them!
Overall, if you’re looking for an action packed movie that has every element of ‘cool’ that you could ever want in it, then this is the movie you need to see in 2010. There’s no need to have seen the original movie but if you’re a fan of the Tron, then this is a good followup and stays very true to the 1982 version. The storyline lets it down somewhat but just keep your focus on Jeff Bridges and Michael Sheen for some excellent performances. Another little tip is to keep watching the bar at the End of the Line club to see if you can spot another cameo from someone instrumental in the Tron movie(s).
There were quite a few nods to the original movie with comments like ‘Man, that is a big door’ coming from Sam following in his fathers footsteps and as a movie that has been in the making within Joe Kosinski’s head for the past 30 years, he has done a good job, just a shame about the storyline. However Tron: Legacy is a must watch – especially if you’re a fan of neon!
Tron: Legacy is released in UK and US cinemas 17th December.