…virtual

Tron: Legacy (2010) Dir. Joseph Kosinski

Let’s start with saying that I like this movie. I like Tron: Legacy, but…

The story is simple (or rather simplistic) — one of these stories we’ve seen million times on the big screen. There’s a father, who’s a genius on the verge of discovering something grand, and there’s a son, who looks up to him with almost religious reverence. Then, one day, the father disappears and never comes back. The son is hurt and holds a grudge against his father. The grudge lasts till the son is grown up. And one day, he gets a message from his father. This part covers only the beginning, and it takes place in the real world. What follows takes place in the virtual world, and shows us how the father and the son are reunited, and, in a way, reintroduced to each other. But not without a lot of ups and downs along the way.

My first ‘but’ concerns the plot. A bumpy father-son relationship traces back to Luke Skywalker, Bruce Wayne, and James T. Kirk (all these movies heavily inspired Tron). Inspirations are okay as long as there is more to it. Unfortunately, Tron serves us a typical and predictable father-son story. What’s more, it’s banal. On the one hand, Kosinski and his writers convince us that it’s awfully hard to fix a broken relationship such as Sam (Garrett Hedlund) and Kevin’s (Jeff Bridges). On the other, it’s stripped to a simple, even trivial pattern: the son worships his father; the father leaves; the son is sulky; the son meets the father after many years; they go through adventures together, save each others lives; the culmination point — they are forgiven. The way I put it may sound ignorant, but I’m just trying to prove that Tron doesn’t go beyond this ordinary pattern, no effort to boost the story any further.

Here’s another ‘but.’ Like every sci-fi movie, Tron presents an issue important for a contemporary viewer. In this case, we have a young person, a User, caught up in the virtual reality. He needs to play the game to survive. It also shows Kevin Flynn, the creator of this world, whose only ambition is to create a perfect world. It expresses how people spend more and more time in the virtual reality. At the same time, Sam fixes his relationship with his father and finds a girl in the virtual world. The stereotype goes that we lose touch with real life and other people when we play too many games. Of course, it’s not true — playing games is a lifestyle, or a hobby, call it what you will, that we may share with our friends and family. Then, what is Tron‘s point? What does it really stand for? It cannot be a superficial sci-fi story. Perhaps, Tron sends a message that the virtual world is not perfect, but it makes our life richer and more interesting. I don’t know. You tell me. What’s your angle?

As for female characters, it’s much better. There are two distinct women: Quarra (Olivia Wilde) & Gem (Serinda Swan). To put it simply, they stand for good and evil. I’m not gonna spoil who is what. Gem gives the color white a new meaning. Impressively, she dresses in white from top to bottom, and her smooth, a bit exaggerated makeup is stunning. Similarly, Q, as she’s also called, has a goth-like makeup, raven black hair, and shiny black outfit. These and her pugnacious, energetic personality makes her phenomenally attractive and impossible not to gaze at (who could say no to Olivia Wilde’s big eyes?). As much as the women are gorgeous to look at, they’re also to blame for this predictable pattern. There are always two women in the life of every protagonist: one a savior, and the other a femme fatal leading him to a predicament he needs to be saved from (by the savior, obviously). And it happens with Sam. Who’s the girl he’s gonna watch the sunrise with at the end? To find out, go to the movies!

How about the special effects, the main reason to watch the movie? They’re more than nice, but could we expect anything less? Visually, the world is divided into two colors: blue and red, which keeps things simple — we always know who’s good and who’s bad. What’s more, the designs and costumes are stylized in a futuristic, but austere way. It makes the visual side convincing in its consequence. Plus, imagine what great cosplay inspirations Tron gives us! The only ‘but’ is about Clu, portrayed by CG Jeff Bridges. He was supposed to look like young Bridges, but instead turned out a bit artificial and unreal. Perhaps, he intentionally represents a ruthless, obsessed game designer. My impression: he could never be a super villain he is fashioned to be.

It ends as it should — quite predictably. Everything we might expect, happens. Sadly, there is little drama even in the climax. Tron consequently follows a story that is typical and predictable, almost old-fashioned, so the only logical ending needs to be predictable, as well. As a result, it’s not intensive enough. It didn’t make me hold my breath. My final comment: the visual side attracts the aficionados of the original Tron and video games, but the story and the characters disappoint and evoke no exciting emotions. If you don’t expect these, you’re gonna enjoy this ride through The Grid.

Long days, pleasant nights,

Veronica Bazydlo

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2 thoughts on “…virtual

  1. The movie feels like an old-school Disney flick, in all its good meaning. It’s pretty much the old Tron with updated visuals. Personally, I enjoyed it very much, especially on the 18-meter-high IMAX screen, with 20k watts of engrossing Daft Punk tunes.

    However, it’s not without a flaw and far from that. The CG Bridges as you mentioned misses to fool the viewer into totally believing in his credibility as a human being. For me it only shows how “Avatar” is still so far ahead of the curve in terms of pure technological magic.

    While you criticize the simplistic plot and praise women characters, I see it the other way around. Sure, the plot is all flash and no substance, but it somehow lets you feel like a 12-year-old watching color tv on Sunday afternoon, if you know what I mean. Quarra and Gem on the other hand render themselves dissapointing. Yes, they are beautiful, no doubt about that. That’s the problem, perhaps more than anything in this movie, they remain like living (?) statues carved in stone. They please the eye, and wardrobe team sure learned from Matrix that close-fitting leather is the way to go in 21st century fashion, and also that your ass looks awesome wearing it. Nevermind Gem, she’s just a minor pawn, a simple program created to serve its limited purpose. But Q seems like a big deal. Not only is she charming but on top of that she plays a major role in the whole Flynn vs Clu extravaganza. The story behind her holds a lot of untapped potential, and eventually is more interesting than lousy father issues. Well, maybe more appropriate is to say “would be more interesting” if only screenwriters would choos to go this path and dig a little deeper into what was going on to the Grid for the past 20-or-so years, and why exactly Q is so important.

    Other than that the only character that really stands out is hilarious Michael Sheen, a guy with like what, 10 minutes of screen time, and within that time you instantly love to hate him.

    But as I said, overall I enjoyed the movie and don’t really want to analize its weaknesses. I don’t want to ruin for myself good memories of it, cause it’s a fun motion picture that I just like to like.

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