Tron: Legacy … the review

Just saw Tron: Legacy, and since I assume that anybody who cares saw it before I did, I’m not worrying about spoilers. I did not watch it in IMAX or 3D, because if a movie can’t stand on the merits of its story overblown special effects without fancy immersive viewing technology, then it’s not worth my time.

Actually I really enjoyed it. I tried to get my hands on a copy of the classic Tron, which scared me in the 80s and blew my mind with awesomeness in the 90s, (I was a late movie-bloomer, and couldn’t watch all of Raiders of the Lost Ark without covering my eyes until I was like 14) but I couldn’t because Disney is a bitch. So I had to rely on my memories, which were mostly of the light-ribbon motorcycles and Bruce Boxleitner (which was mostly a retroactive memory, since I last watched Tron a number of years before I became a B5 fan). The new movie had light-ribbon motorcycles and Bruce Boxleitner, so as far as I’m aware it is a faithful continuation.

The plot is your pretty basic Hero’s Journey deal, and they run through it without feeling the need to fancy it up, which suited me just fine. It was an admirable blend of tried-and-true plot motives and shiny shiny shiny (actually, Venus in Furs started playing in my head a number of times). The shiny was all very well done, from the special effects to the action sequences to the fetish-tastic denizens of the Grid. I already knew the music was going to be awesome, because I heard a piece from the soundtrack on Album 88 a couple of weeks ago. I love when a soundtrack makes scenes in a movie feel even awesomer than they are, which this one totally did. I might actually buy it, putting it in a privileged place next to the soundtracks for Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and Castle in the Sky.

There’s a liberal dose of creator/deity language sprinkled in, with Old Zen Jeff Bridges as the creator/deity. (Old Zen Jeff Bridges plays go! I’m one of the few American viewers who squees at a go board onscreen.) You might think they’re going for some Christian metaphor, what with the creator/deity’s son coming into the world to save it and all, but they really don’t go there. Creator/deity is not omniscient or omnipotent, and he’s the one who dies to save the world (that’s not one of the spoilers, because in the Hero’s Journey the father-figure always dies. Always.) The new life that emerged in the Grid is specifically stated not to have been created, but to have arisen spontaneously when the conditions were right. The basic philosophical message is that “perfection” is not a goal to pursue, it’s instead something to open your eyes to: true perfection is all around you or something. I feel like that redefines the word “perfection” out of all usefulness, but the basic concept is more humanistic than not, so I’m cool with it. And there’s a kind of sweet moment at the end where Old Zen Jeff Bridges confronts Young CGI Jeff Bridges and compassionately reaches out to his younger, less wise self. Which I think is the attitude we should all take to our younger, less wise selves.

CGI Jeff Bridges had me completely fooled for about three minutes, by the way, and even after I was like, “Isn’t there something a little plastic-y about him?” I wasn’t sure it was CGI until he was revealed to be the evil virtual clone. And there are scenes throughout the movie where the animation is completely convincing (as well as a number where it’s not.) The mouth is the weak spot, I guess because it does so much more moving than the rest of the face. Once animators can make a convincing mouth, it’ll be over.

There were a number of things to dislike about the movie too. Son of Flynn’s action one-liners were uniformly horrible (are there any good action one-liners anymore? I think they have all been used, and I’m darn sure that scriptwriters (or, more likely, Hollywood execs who oppress the scriptwriters) should leave them in the 90s where they belong.) I was excited to see that the flamboyantly faggy character was going to turn into an Important Plot Driver instead of Colorful Sideshow Freak, and then terribly disappointed to when he turned into a bad guy. How about a good-aligned flamboyantly faggy Important Plot Driver, hmm? And there wasn’t nearly enough Bruce Boxleitner, who at 60 is foxy in a way he never was at 23 and 34. (I was still in love with him, of course, but he wasn’t foxy as such.) And I’m really not sure why a life form that evolved within a specific virtual reality would enjoy things alien to that reality, like sunshine. (Aside: I liked Olivia Wilde in Tron better than I’ve liked her in anything else, probably because I’ve never entirely bought her as an actual human.)

All in all, good times, good movie, good shiny (OMG the coat! I forgot to mention the coat! Old Zen Jeff Bridges de-Zens slightly and puts on this seriously kickass black longcoat with a glowy white inside. The awesome is off the chart: it easily tops John Crichton’s Farscape coat as Best Sci-fi Longcoat Of All Time. I’m already trying to figure out how to make Shaun one for next Halloween.)

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