Review: TRON: LEGACY (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Review: TRON: LEGACY (2010)


When the original TRON (1982) first released in the theaters back then, it was a box-office flop. But critics has heavily regarded that TRON was a groundbreaking sci-fi movie in term of its visual medium, though it's very dated by today's standard. Still by the late 1990s, TRON has slowly prove its cinematic worth and ultimately gained its cult status thanks to healthy video market and favorable word-of-mouth. Then came the time where Disney decides to plan a sequel known as TRON: Killer App, but the proposed movie never materialized. Much of the concept ended up instead into a video game called TRON 2.0 (2003), in hope that it will re-ignite public interest for a possible theatrical sequel. Unfortunately the video game approach failed as well and the underperformed sales has again prevented a movie to be greenlighted. Everything is laying low until the infamous test footage of a de-aged Jeff Bridges debuted at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2008 has somehow re-ignite interest among sizable audiences that a movie sequel is workable after all. Twenty-eight years has passed since the original TRON, and Disney has definitely took a huge gamble ($300 million including massive marketing campaign) for a long-awaited sequel that is seemingly looked very promising, judging by its endless stream of advertisement and trailers. The good news is, TRON: LEGACY is every bit as technically dazzling as the original version and the filmmakers behind this movie has definitely worked very hard to achieve spectacular and eye-catching visual feast that is no doubt a top-notch quality. Too bad that is just about it -- all the large sum of money that is heavily spent on making the epic production beautiful to look at but the movie fails miserably in term of its story and characters.

Still the movie begins promisingly with a 1989 setting where the young Kevin Flynn (Bridges, shot in CG), a wealthy game designer and software pioneer who owned ENCOM International, disappeared without a trace. Haunted by his father's whereabouts ever since childhood, 27-year-old Sam (Garrett Hedlund) doesn't seem to care anymore until his father's old business partner Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) receives a page from Kevin's old arcade/office. Sam is given the key by Alan to the abandoned Flynn's Arcade so he can do his own investigation. Once there, Sam encounters an old TRON arcade machine and happens to discover there's a hidden passage behind it. The hidden passage is apparently leads him to an underground office, where there is a computer available. Next thing he knows, he finds himself being zapped by a laser that sends him into the techno-world of the Grid. He is immediately caught in a tense situation where he is forced to play deadly game of life-and-death as he battles his way in the Grid. From here, this is where the movie really highlights all the best and most exciting moment, as Sam encounters in a few acrobatic disc-fight battle, before proceeding into a breathtaking and visually spectacular "light cycle" chase sequence. No doubt the action, together with ample use of slow-motion and well-staged camera angles, delivers the necessary kinetic flair as well as all those cool "wow" factor which is amplified with Daft Punk's pulsating techno score. It's a first-class entertainment, and if director Joseph Kosinski (making his ambitious feature debut) sustained the same level of breathless and confident pace, the movie would have been a cinematic triumph.

Too bad right after the scene where Quorra (Olivia Wilde) comes to the rescue and saves Sam off the Grid, the rest of the movie quickly nosedives into a series of uninspired moments. Quorra is apparently a pupil of Kevin Flynn, who is actually still alive but has already grown old. Sam is then discovers that his long-lost father is now somewhat a Zen-like hippie who lives peacefully far off from the Grid. Through a long and tedious flashback, we learn that Kevin has become trapped to the techno-world when he failed to make it to the portal that able to transport him back to the real world. Back then, his alter-ego digital creation named Clu, has somehow turned his back against him and wants to take control of everything. Now Sam plans to take his father back to the real world at all cost, before Clu and his army manage to get their hand on him.

The biggest problem surrounding the movie is Edward Kotsis and Adam Horowitz's bloated screenplay that doesn't make much sense. It doesn't help either when the story is also lazily-constructed to the point that they offer little explanation on some of the plot points happened throughout the course of the movie. For example, what is ISOs anyway? Why does Clu turn on his maker? There are actually more baffling questions begging for answers, and this is where Kotsis and Horowitz's screenplay fails to deliver.

Another blame is of course lies heavily on director Joseph Kosinski who apparently doesn't know how to sustain a momentum lasting until the finish line. Halfway through, he is suddenly running out of steam and everything else is just painfully routine. Not even the sheer amount of visual can redeem the weakness so glaringly obvious. He may have been succeeded as a talented visual stylist, but he's still too far off as an accomplished filmmaker who mastered the art of storytelling and directing his actors the right way. Which comes across as a shame, that a seasoned veteran like Jeff Bridges is somewhat wasted in his dual role as Kevin and Clu. Although there are some authentic moments we come to experience from Bridges' enthusiastic performance, his character as Kevin Flynn remain greatly undermined. As Clu, the CG-version of his young self, is surprisingly lifeless especially his vacant eyes which is looked as awful as the one we first seen in Robert Zemeckis's THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004). For a movie that is blessed with such a budget, it is somewhat unacceptable to see a bargain-bin CG effect as bad as Clu. Earlier in the movie, there are some cool-looking moments involving the light cycle that Kosinski could have been smart enough to show more of them instead of just restricted them in the one and only sequence. There are further damages throughout the movie, especially the mid-section involving Castor (Michael Sheen), a flamboyant owner of the colorful End Of Line Club. That particular scene is simply painful to watch for and it could have trimmed off altogether. Not since the irritation of Jar Jar Binks introduced in a new STAR WARS trilogy, Michael Sheen's Castor is downright annoying and very intolerable. Others, which include plenty of long-winded moments between Sam and Kevin as well as stilted romance between Sam and Quorra and of course, the equally uninspired finale, seals the deal that this movie is indeed in desperate need for proper reshoot (which is actually being conceived partially by David Fincher and Pixar's head honchos, but with little effect).

Acting-wise, aside from Bridges, newcomer Garrett Hedlund has the rugged charm of a young rebel but his acting is mostly wooden and at times his puppy-dog expression is a tad bothersome. In the meantime, Olivia Wilde is absolutely stunning but her hollow acting kills off the interest most of the time.

Overall, TRON: LEGACY is a huge missed opportunity that could have been better. All the production, visual and sound quality (except for the horrible CG-faced Clu) are right for the money. What a shame, a movie that is dazzling at first before it turns into a near-boredom experience.

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