TRON: Legacy (2010)

Tron-Legacy-Triptych-Poster[1]

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

What the…?

Let me get the good stuff out of the way. Style, sets, CG, Daft Punk soundscape, all top-notch. The world of the Grid looked amazing, and the effects crew should be commended. For this reason alone, I have to score this film at least average, because it’s just a unique visual and sonic environment, and certainly worth visiting for a little while.

The bad…? Where to start? I didn’t dislike TRON: Legacy, but I didn’t particularly like it either. At any rate, it certainly didn’t go out of its way to make itself comprehensible. Hugely important plot points are simply left vague. The isomophic programs, for example, are largely visited in voice-over flashback. Kevin Flynn tells us that they were going to change everything–that they would be a quantum leap forward–but the film never indulges the audience by explaining precisely how. Frankly, programs that create themselves sound like a pretty dangerous thing, and I’m almost inclined to side with the film’s villain, Clu. What if isomorphic programs were a virus that would eventually corrupt the entire Grid? But the film is too shallow to address these sorts of questions.

It’s also worth mentioning Tron, himself, who actually is in TRON: Legacy…as a minor character named Rinzler. First of all, a small thing on this that, perhaps, is not that small: the film never even bothers to show Tron’s face. And I only mention that because the de-aged Jeff Bridges (Clu) gets a ton of screentime. Meanwhile, Bruce Boxleitner is actually much better preserved than Bridges. Would it have killed the filmmakers to just once allow the helmet to come off, especially after Flynn reveals that Rinzler is Tron?

Second of all, the character is hardly important to the film at all, yet the film’s climax hinges on a totally unearned redemption for the “repurposed” Tron, in blatant and shameful sequel baiting. None of this has any emotional resonance, and it’s just a wasted opportunity. In a way, that’s the story of TRON: Legacy: it’s a film chock-full of wasted opportunities.

I’m not even going to get into Clu’s master plan, to use the portal to leave the Grid and conquer the real world, because that’s beyond dumb. Or the fact that we’re told Flynn can’t stop Clu without re-integrating with him, which would destroy them both, though like so much in TRON: Legacy, that’s just a very important plot point that we have to take on faith. The film doesn’t much care to explain itself at any given time. It merely sets up arbitrary rules so that it can invoke them later when the time is right. It’s a very cheap form of screenwriting, using bogus devices like this to advance the plot.

Anyway, you get the point. Dumb movie. Great to look at.

Recommended Reading

  • “Tron: Legacy” on my friend Donald’s website, Blessed Are the Geeks. He liked it more than I did, I think.

Tron: Uprising – Season One (2012)

tron-and-beck

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I’m erring on the side of a higher rating for Tron: Uprising based upon style and likability, more so than, necessarily, the quality of the series narrative. I don’t know that I would consider Tron: Uprising a great television series, but it is consistently entertaining, and I found myself more or less marathoning through the season whenever I could find a block of time to watch the episodes.

To be certain, I’m not specifically using the word “entertaining” in the way that, say, a bunch of stuff blowing up in a summer blockbuster is entertaining. Though Tron: Uprising is, to be sure, never short on kung fu, chases, and stuff blowing up, I think there is real substance to this series based upon character, themes, and lore. It does have trouble, however, rising above its episodic constraints.

If I had any issue with Tron: Uprising, it is that–especially in the first half of the season–the writers didn’t script in enough forward momentum for the overarching plotline. Even if an episode was interesting on its own, it almost felt as though a mandate existed that the reset button needed hitting by the end. In a way, it’s strangely reminiscent of The Prisoner, in the sense that the main character is on a kind of a treadmill.

But that’s problematic for the series, because Tron: Uprising actually works best when it alters the status quo or otherwise surprises you by taking a dramatic turn one wouldn’t necessarily expect in a show marketed to kids. But for this first season, it felt as though the creative team weren’t willing to push those boundaries too hard.

Fair enough. But I have higher expectations for Season Two. Or at least, I would have, had the show been renewed. The information about this series that exists online is a bit confusing and conflicting, though I think it’s relatively safe to say that the show has been cancelled, though it may in fact be “unofficial”. Who knows, though? Maybe it will gain a second lease on life through Netflix.

Tron-Uprising-No-Bounds-Able-tries-to-disarm-the-bombIn any event, it really is a shame, I think, that we’re not likely to get more of this series, because faults notwithstanding, Tron: Uprising just doesn’t look like anything else on television. The art style is intentionally cribbed from Æon Flux (which is, for me, a good thing, though I understand why others would have a problem with that), but it also does something very interesting, borrowing from the original Tron film, in that the base palette is actually black and white, with colors (largely black and red) seemingly painted in. It’s a neat effect, pulled off well, and whatever you may think of the highly stylized character design, it’s difficult to argue that Tron: Uprising isn’t gorgeous.

And hell–it’s the world of Tron in a TV series. Though the series doesn’t delve extensively into what that entails, it’s still just plain cool.

Check it out on Netflix. You’ve got nothing to lose. And if you don’t have Netflix, you can watch the first episode, “Beck’s Beginning” on YouTube.