Friday, May 27, 2011

The Cyber-Dude Cyber-Abides. - Thoughts on "TRON: Legacy"

Movie #63: "TRON: Legacy"

Well first off, because this just occurred to me, let's marvel at the fact that an early 80's flop with a modest but very loyal cult following has been given a gigantic, ambitious, big-budget sequel (the first of a hopeful long-running franchise) by a massive mainstream studio. Whether or not you think the movie is good, that is pretty amazing.

And all things considered, I rather liked "TRON: Legacy". I've got a soft spot for the original and given how long this film has been in development and how much Disney has been crapping itself over the film promoting it, it's much better than I expected it would be.

Of course, what I mean by this is that "Legacy" is a worthy sequel to the original "TRON". And that is to say, it's basically CGI eye-candy. It has a few interesting ideas here and there and it bothered me a little in hindsight that it didn't really play around with the interesting sci-fi concepts it easily could have. But to be honest, I didn't really expect it to (then again, it is very sad that I'm conditioned to not expect interesting sci-fi from big franchise sci-fi movies). The film takes a little bit to find it's footing, the villain's evil plan is incomprehensible, and there is an early scene that rivals Jim Hawking sky-sailboarding in "Treasure Planet" in it's hamfisted attempt to show the kids in the audience how awesome the hero is. All things considered, those weren't the things that I disliked most about this movie. If you've read this blog for a long time you probably know already what I'm going to rant about in the whole next paragraph.

There are three characters in this movie who are brought to animated life via motion capture. Two of them are little virtual TRON people, so it isn't
too distracting. And of these, one of them is seen only briefly and the other is the villain so it's fine that he creeps you out a little (but oh ye Gods, when he shouts near the end...

The third character is a person from the real world at a younger age. He looks fine at first when he faces away from us and when he is completely obscured by shadows and such. When he finally faces us, he looks terrible. Completely terrible. Like, in the same year we got the Winkelvoss twins in "The Social Network", he looks like something out of "Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within". No, worse than that. He looks like he was animated by somebody who had only the most vague idea of how human cheek muscles and jawbones work but has never ever actually watched someone talk before.

But other than this, the movie is really neat.
Like the original, it's got a production design that doesn't really look like anything else that has come out of Disney, and I liked it for the sheer fact that the animation in the updated TRON universe is *really* pretty (hot dang, the new lightcycle transformation sequence!) Where the first "TRON" was basically, "Look at what we can do with computer animation!", this movie is, "Look at what we can do with computer animation NOW!" I'm genuinely sad that I didn't get to see this in IMAX.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Castor. I wouldn't dream of ruining the fun by explaining who he is or what to expect from him. Just know that Michael Sheen knew
exactly what kind of movie "TRON: Legacy" should have been (a big retro cheesy meal). He comes in at just the right moment (after the movie almost grinds to a halt and nearly reaches a "9" level of Young Newbie: "Let's go actually do something" Old Fart: "No, everything must stay the same" wallbangery). And he steals the show right out from under Not Sam Worthington. Remember when we first saw Jack Sparrow in the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" and wondered, "how the hell did Disney let this fly?" Yep, same deal here.

Quorra's another fun character and I like how she takes the old Cute Girl Who Saves the Boring Hero meme in some different directions and the little flashes of the "things humans take for granted that an alien wouldn't quite 'get'" part of her personality. The music is amazing and overall the movie is a fun ride for fans of the original. I am actually pretty curious as to where Disney's going to take this franchise from here.

ADDENDUM: As this just hit me, months later: The weirdest thing about me reviewing "TRON: Legacy" as part of the Disney Animated Canon is the fact that CGI eye-candy is EVERYWHERE these days. So why consider "TRON" part of the Canon and not, say, "Pirates of the Caribbean"? "G-Force"? "Sorcerer's Apprentice"? You cannot deny that all these films include computer animated characters.

Well, the reason why "Legacy" (and any possible future "TRON" movies although the future looks a bit dim there right now) makes the cut is simply because it's parent did. And the one and only reason "TRON" made the cut is because Disney considered it one of their animated films in the early 80's, back when it was the most impressive recent thing they had to brag about. I don't suppose anyone is going to necessarily complain that I am not reviewing "G-Force" et al, but I supposed I ought to say something about it to cover myself.

For more posts in this ongoing series, go here, or click the Chronological Disney Animated Canon tag below.


Sketch of the Day! It's a raptor! How exciting!

5.10.11 Sketchbook Page


Traumador said...

The best part of the movie was the music hands down (I had to track down the Daft Punk soundtrack 3 minutes after leaving the theatre... got to love modern shopping complexes).

Young Jeff Bridges was an interesting problem. I sympathize with the production team (if you watch the making of specials... I caught one on TV...) their biggest problem was capturing the look of Bridges. It really wasn't that the jaw muscles or cheeks were wrong per say, its that they didn't move exactly like Jeff Bridges. The CG guy went into detail on how that was their biggest problem. Once you integrate the CG Bridges into a real shot the problems occurred. Our brains know what Jeff Bridges looks and moves like, whether we want it to or not, and the poor CG guys can't quite match it in a non computer environment (had the whole film been CG it won't have been an issue)

I personally thought they only went wrong with those needless close ups during his evil speech to the minions (in agreed the dumbest evil scheme they could have gone with).

Overall Tron was a nice bit of special effects eye candy, with cute computer sprite girl, and the Dude. You missed out how Bridges stole every scene he was in ;)

Hopefully in the sequel they have something more for poor Boxleitner to do. Always wanted to see him in stuff post B5.

raptor_044 said...

"Sketch of the Day! It's a raptor! How exciting!"

Is it using WAIR? I'm looking forward to seeing the final version.