Cinemalphabet: T is for Tron Legacy (2010)
A long rambling aside about the original Tron
Look, I come from a time where one had to use a steam engine to play Combat. Tron blew into town at time when Disney was trying to get its groove back. The Black Hole (1979) and the highly underrated ghost tale The Watcher in the Woods (1980) had not revamped the brand the way it had hoped. Remember, The Little Mermaid was still seven years away. Tron was expected to usher in a new direction for the mouse, However, with its modest box office success, accusations of “cheating” (via the use of computer technology still in its infancy) and mixed to terrible reviews, Tron seemed poised to become the Thank God It’s Friday of the sci-fi film world.
Enter Tron’s release on laser disc. I believe this was a game changer in some respects for sci-fi action films, more so than Ridley Scott playing footies with various cuts of Blade Runner. Seeing it on Laser Disc, with the visuals set to Wendy Carlos’s dazzling synth work probably did more for the film than legions of Queer Studies papers deconstructing the homoerotic relationship of Clu and Tron, though the papers were highly entertaining and very much appreciated.
The tagline states, “The game has changed.” which was probably the best way the screenwriter could come up with to explain away relevance of the name “Tron”. Oh sure his user Alan – Bruce Boxleitner reprising his role – popped up from time to time clad in a trenchcoat and looking like he needed to be somewhere else ten minutes ago. But this film could hardly be called “Tron: Legacy” given so much time is spent on Kevin Flynn, his son and renegade program Clu. I was a little burnt about the paucity of the everfine Bruce Boxleitner. When the first trailers began appearing on YouTube I was confused because so much emphasis was being placed on Clu, Flynn and his son, none of which are Tron. But I decided to let the neonlight disco heaven overwhelm me and cover a multitude of Tron: Legacy‘s sins. Oh there are some sins! Woo. Hot digital, campy mess does not began to cover some of the deficits of the film.
Like Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps the producers requirements of their film’s lead involved having the most grating screen presence ever, possessing almost no affect and spitting out every line as though it were made of shards of glass. Garrett Hedlund is wretched as Sam Flynn because he is so freaking earnest. None of the real grown ups are carrying on like this cat. He was just a cinematic drain. Fortunately, Tron: Legacy contains so much hot, shiny goodness it’s easier to ignore the character. Honestly, I blame the actor less and the script, character more. This is not a movie where the actors should be engaged in a lot of earnest “acting”. They ought to have been instructed to abandon ye all hope of snaring any accolades for their craft and just enjoy all the geewhizatronics surrounding them.
But who cares about Sam when we can talk about those sexy Sirens, lead by – Friday Night Lights star Kyle Chandler’s cousin – Beau Garrett, who is despite being kind of robotic in nature is by far the most appropriately articulated character in the film. All of the Sirens are gorgeous in their fantastic costumes and shoes. I audibly gasped when I saw the siren’s kicks. The fact these women are extremely gorgeous, ornamental and spend the bulk of their time – when they’re not engaged in laser tailoring or alterations – they are locked in an a tomb of some sort is not lost on me. I definitely bristled at the image of them marching like fuckable androids and not having much function beyond entertaining the male gaze. I also didn’t like their “I’m fixing to wash my face” topknots either. Those were hideous.
House’s Olivia Wilde co-stars as Quorra a childlike and earnest program being mentored by the grizzled Kevin Flynn. Quorra is nothing you haven’t seen before in terms of “kick ass” sci-fi females. She’s kind of like Trinity minus a comprehensive sense of self. Wilde does what she can with her watered down role despite much of it exceed the grasp of her modest talents. Whereas other characters are wearing Tron, Tron is definitely wearing Wilde. Still, Wilde is adept at not be a distracting element, which is more than I can say for the soundtrack!
As a huge fan of Daft Punk I was excited about their collaborating with the filmmakers to make music. I’ve seen the mashup of old school tron with Daft Punk songs and, of course, the band is a great fit. That said, the soundtrack was not well used in the film. In some places it was intrusive and jarring. In other places it was muddy and didn’t seem to mesh with the images it accompanied. Listening to the soundtrack on its own I find it satisfying and Daft Punk-lite, but the tracks as they appeared in the film were pretty obnoxious. The film itself is really kind of loud and if you have auditory issues that render you unable to tolerate that, it’s good to know this ahead of time. I haven’t noticed this criticism in any other reviews.
Much has been made of the CGI reverse aging Jeff Bridges undergoes in Tron: Legacy and I was floored at how uncreepy it looked. I’m sure it strayed over the uncanny valley line, but it wasn’t bothersome as I thought it might be. If anything, it made me savor the moments with geezerlicious Bridges who rocks a really saucy and well kempt “crazy visionary” beard. And he acts like one too! He’s part burnt out hippie, “You’re wrecking my zen, man!” and part Messiah, complete with discolit robes and barefeet. Most of his acting is far worse than original, but in a really great way. He really goes for it here and in most cases it works. I LOL’d at nearly everything he or his programing twin says. But it wasn’t until Clu uttered, “End of line, man!” that I lost it and LOL’d long and hard.
Bottom line, ignore the haters. Haters gonna hate, amirite? Ignore any millennials snarking on the film. They don’t know nuthing about no Tron. They don’t know the joy joy of insert a floppy disk the size of Lisa Frank folder into the slot of a machine the size of a small, affordable automobile, typing code for about twenty minutes in order to play a round of Lemonade Stand. And the best part of Tron: Legacy is that is knows this and frankly, it’s not talking to them. I think most are just getting their scoff on because they can’t fathom of something so discolicious and technohot not being marketed with their needs in mind. And they’re just gonna need to buy a ladder and get the hell over it.