‘TRON Legacy’ reeks and rocks with equal measure

Posted by · 9:35 am · December 6th, 2010

Disney has probably been wise to discontinue the original “TRON” on DVD in advance of the release of “TRON Legacy,” lest people be reminded of how truly bad it was.  Beyond being conceptually ahead of its time, it never seemed to be more than a pop culture blip in cinema history, if we’re being perfectly honest.

Bottom line: the film had unrefined if progressive narrative ideas and got points for pushing boundaries if nothing else.  Naturally, then, it developed a cult following that heaped appreciation for what wasn’t really on the screen, but rather what existed in the conceptual ether of the thing.  This puts “TRON Legacy” in decent enough position to capitalize on throwback mania.

Here’s the thing.  The new film has plenty of issues, but I doubt I’ve had a better time in a movie theater all year.  Expectations couldn’t have been lower, which played to the film’s advantage I imagine, but I was strapped in and game from the opening text.

There are more than a handful of groaner moments (usually by way of awkward dialogue).  There are plenty of histrionics to go around.  There are leaps in logic — even on the film’s own terms — that are difficult to get past and the eye candy is enough to lull you into a non-participatory cinediabetic coma before long.  It’s a film with ideas just as unrefined as the original, but I wasn’t prepared to be as engaged as I was for as long as I was, nor was I prepared for the emotions when they came late in the third act and how real they felt.  Broadly speaking, Joseph Kosinski and company have hammered out an intriguing mythology without ever really condescending to it, and I appreciate that.

The ingredients are the expected standout, though.  Art direction, cinematography, costumes, editing, makeup, Daft Punk’s amazing score, the visual effects and, most especially, the sound design are all state of the art, all impactful in profound measure, and all worthy of awards recognition.

The uncanny valley nature of a youthful Jeff Bridges didn’t bother me all that much (though its use in the first scene did stand out as particularly rough).  Again, concept wins out over execution.  But most intriguing to me is how this film elevates the actor to an iconic cinematic status like no film before it.  It’s a bit poetic that we get this the year after he won the Oscar for Best Actor, because his voice, his image, it pulses through the veins of this film and marries itself to the iconography buried somewhere inside this mess of a screenplay in a very unique and rewarding way.  Tough to explain.

I don’t know.  I dug it.  And I’m very eager to see it again.  What can I tell ya?

[Photo: Walt Disney Pictures]




→ 29 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

29 responses so far

  • 1 12-06-2010 at 9:42 am

    americanrequiem said...

    cool, it looks like a fun time at the movies, though the young jeff bridges has looked a bit creepy.

    Are we getting an off the carpet column today kris?

  • 2 12-06-2010 at 9:42 am

    Graysmith said...

    Cinediabetic coma. Haha. Brilliant.

  • 3 12-06-2010 at 9:44 am

    JJ1 said...

    I like this write-up. You acknowledge ALL of it’s misfires/rough spots, but then say what a great time you had watching it.

    That’s the subjectivity of film. There are hundreds of films I ‘know’ are weak, but I love ’em anyway.

    And there is room for that type of movie. Too often, critics fail to just friggin’ enjoy a movie that’s meant to entertain, and opt to rip it apart for it’s objectively obvious faults.

  • 4 12-06-2010 at 10:02 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    Honestly, I really hope to have this exact same reaction to the film when I see it. The original TRON, by any objective measure, was a lousy movie, yet I never *not* enjoy it because its cheesiness and groundbreaking-but-dated visuals are part of what makes it so enjoyable.

    If the sequel tried to be anything “more,” I would have been pissed, and it’s good to know that I can laugh with (at?) this in the theater.

    Arbitrary competition question: Electronic film scores of 2010…prefer The Social Network or TRON Legacy?

  • 5 12-06-2010 at 10:06 am

    Maxim said...

    That’s a prety superb apologetic review. There’s an art to writing this kind of thing. Sounds like a good time at a theater for those who like this kind of thing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like a kind of film that will really last.

  • 6 12-06-2010 at 10:08 am

    James C said...

    ” But most intriguing to me is how this film elevates the actor to an iconic cinematic status like no film before it. It’s a bit poetic that we get this the year after he won the Oscar for Best Actor, because his voice, his image, it pulses through the veins of this film and marries itself to the iconography buried somewhere inside this mess of a screenplay in a very unique and rewarding way. Tough to explain.”

    I got that feeling from the trailer. I know what you mean and ya did it a way I understand. Can’t wait to see it.

  • 7 12-06-2010 at 10:19 am

    Ben M. said...

    I’m actually really looking forward to this film. I’ve been blown away by the technical aspects on display in the trailers, hopefully the story isn’t so bad that I can’t enjoy the spectacle of the movie at least.

  • 8 12-06-2010 at 10:33 am

    Kevin K. said...

    Definitely looking forward to this one after listening to Daft Punk’s incredibly kick-ass score and now reading your write-up. If anything it looks to be a great bit of good old fashioned escapist fun, which is something sorely needed this time of year amidst all the serious fall awards season films. I really can’t wait to see it in IMAX 3D. Speaking of which, how was the 3D? It looks like it could potentially be the return of good 3D in movies, like you pointed out earlier this year, there should just be one or two really big event movies with great 3D rather than a ton of crappy movies with crappy 3D, a statement I couldn’t agree with more.

  • 9 12-06-2010 at 10:58 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Robert: I happen to think Daft Punk’s work here is the best score of the year.

  • 10 12-06-2010 at 11:25 am

    Fitz said...

    I’ve been looking forward to this for some time. The soundtrack has debuted and I’m hoping that it can contend come awards season. “Derezzed” has been playing on my mp3 all day.

  • 11 12-06-2010 at 11:48 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    So in other words what are largely considered the two best scores of the year (Daft Punk and Reznor) will not be nominated. Doh!

  • 12 12-06-2010 at 11:52 am

    Maxim said...

    Lately I was thinking that one of those two scores could pull a Vangelis and get nominated. Odder things have happened. I also think that Elfman’s score for Alice is being underestimated as a contender.

  • 13 12-06-2010 at 12:05 pm

    red_wine said...

    Kris, even though I haven’t heard the score within the context of the film, but on album it was by far the best listening experience of any score this year. Sure How To Train Your Dragon was “better composed” and was more traditionally beautiful and gorgeous but Tron was also “a proper score” with a main theme, other themes and motifs, development and variations of the themes and motifs, counter-point, crescendos and resolution.

    I found the above ingredients severely lacking in the other two heralded metallic/electronic/synth scores of the year – Inception and The Social Network. Both strike me as perhaps fitting for their films but not truly transcending that requirement as superb individual compositions of music.

  • 14 12-06-2010 at 12:21 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    The Social Network score is all about mood and atmosphere, and I dig it. It’s overpraised, but it gets points from me for going a non-traditional route and creating an aural identity for the film.

  • 15 12-06-2010 at 12:22 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    And by the way, I don’t subscribe to this weird thought process that a film score cannot be “great” unless it succeeds as a standalone piece of music. That doesn’t make much sense to me. A great score is about working in tandem with visuals and I think Inception greatly achieved that.

  • 16 12-06-2010 at 12:33 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    I think both the Social Network and Inception OST’s are fine as standalone albums and they are both in my mp3 player.

  • 17 12-06-2010 at 12:38 pm

    James C said...

    Best score of the year? Sweet. I’ve been looking forward to hearing Daft Punk’s score applied to these images for sometime. When I heard they were hired as the composers I immediately thought “these guys know what their doing by hiring them.”

  • 18 12-06-2010 at 1:01 pm

    Andrew M said...

    The Hurt Locker got nominated for Best Score, and I for one can not see how. I barley remember any music at all. Saying that, The Social Network score is easily recognizable to me, has been playing non-stop on my iPod, and is my favorite of the year. And the Tron score is great too, but I haven’t heard it in the film so it might be my favorite of the year. So I can see either one of them get nominated.

  • 19 12-06-2010 at 5:19 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Andrew M — “The Hurt Locker got nominated for Best Score, and I for one can not see how.”

    Allow me to introduce you to…

    Kristopher Tapley — “…I don’t subscribe to this weird thought process that a film score cannot be “great” unless it succeeds as a standalone piece of music. That doesn’t make much sense to me. A great score is about working in tandem with visuals…”

    Question answered!

    P.S. Though I should state up front that I do not agree with Kris’ statement in the context of Inception. I thought it suffered from the common Hans Zimmer problem of being WAY! TOO! OBVIOUS! AND! BOMBASTIC! and ended up detracting from the film.

  • 20 12-06-2010 at 5:29 pm

    Ben M. said...

    Robert, I agree with you completely. While I personally wouldn’t have nominated The Hurt Locker score it was moody and fit the film well and I wasn’t surprised by the nomination (particularly considering the praise the film got), whereas the Inception music may well be impressive by itself but in the context of the film I found it too loud and distracting.

  • 21 12-06-2010 at 7:27 pm

    Speaking English said...

    ***Andrew M — “The Hurt Locker got nominated for Best Score, and I for one can not see how.”

    Allow me to introduce you to…

    Kristopher Tapley — “…I don’t subscribe to this weird thought process that a film score cannot be “great” unless it succeeds as a standalone piece of music. That doesn’t make much sense to me. A great score is about working in tandem with visuals…”

    Question answered!***

    Except the so-called score to “The Hurt Locker” DOESN’T do anything for the film. It’s unmemorable, insubstantial, and doesn’t work in tandem with the visuals in any impressive or artistically elevating way. People justifying that frankly bewildering nomination is pathetic.

  • 22 12-06-2010 at 10:24 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Oh my, Speaking English despises The Hurt Locker and heaps personal insults at anyone who disagrees? Color me shocked!

  • 23 12-06-2010 at 11:07 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    English doesn’t realize how marginalized he is on The Hurt Locker. I was convinced last year he was a Fox stooge/shill. Now it’s clear he’s just desperate for someone to feel the way he does.

    And by the way — I remember The Hurt Locker score just fine. Can hear the wail of its theme in my head right now.

    But yeah, English, watch the personal insults. “Pathetic” describes a lot of things. Consistent badgering of differing opinions, unrelenting digs at a film that’s well over a year old, etc. Liking a score? Not one of them.

    Get…over…it.

  • 24 12-07-2010 at 6:06 pm

    BulgingThrobbingShroom said...

    I’m not Speaking English (no pun intended) but I have to wonder what personal insults you are talking about here.

    Pathetic can be seen as an insult (and even that is a bit of stretch) but there is hardly anything personal about how it was used.

    On the other hand this:

    “English doesn’t realize how marginalized he is on The Hurt Locker. I was convinced last year he was a Fox stooge/shill. Now it’s clear he’s just desperate for someone to feel the way he does.”

    This reads much more like a personal insult to me. You may not agree with the guy’s opinion but you sure come like a hypocrat, Tapley. And a sore one at that.

  • 25 12-07-2010 at 6:44 pm

    James C said...

    Kris, is Micheal Sheen any fun?

  • 26 12-07-2010 at 6:53 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    English has come close in the past, specifically regarding THL. Consider it a warning shot.

    (And since you seem to be new around these parts, you haven’t had the opportunity to delight in his repetition, bordering on the obsessive, about this particular issue. It was fine for a few months but I got well fed up at the end of last season, so any time he dips back into that well, I’ll admit to being more than a little frustrated.)

    James: He’s fun, yeah. Brief scene but memorable.

  • 27 12-08-2010 at 4:00 am

    Andrew M said...

    Unlike Speaking English, I actually like The Hurt Locker a lot, and think it was quite deserving of what it got. It’s just the score didn’t stand out to me that much. What I should have included in my original comment is that if a minimalist score like THL could get in, maybe TSN or TL could get in. Not minimalist in the way the convey emotion, just in their sound.

  • 28 12-08-2010 at 5:21 pm

    ninja said...

    No mention of terrific Olivia Wilde = terrible review. Like, WTF? Everyone is raving about the girl and here, not a word.

  • 29 12-18-2010 at 10:07 pm

    André said...

    my thoughts exactly, Kris…

    there are GAPING flaws in its writing, but it was my favorite theatrical experience of the year and, like I said before, I’m quite surprised at how much I loved the film.