Friday, December 31, 2010

A Tron in a Much Larger Game

I'm diving into the holiday movie season, which is much like the summer movie season except with a little more lead-shot weighting at the bottom, Oscar noms being so close and all. As I write, I'm waiting at the Landmark Theater to watch the current adaptation of TRUE GRIT; and last weekend I saw TRON LEGACY at the Majestic Crest Theater.

What can I say about a sequel/reimagining of a 28-year-old movie that I didn't care for when I saw it? Well, I liked it better than I liked the original. The original came out at a time when Disney was trying for slightly more edgy live-action movies than the family fare for which it had become known. It had not yet formed its Hollywood Pictures branch; this was more the CONDORMAN era. TRON therefore had the feeling of a studio groping for a style and failing to really achieve it. I wasn't wowed by the graphics; and without the graphics there was just the novelty of people pretending to be computer programs, on dark soundstages in neon clothes.

The 2010 TRON seems to have more of a storytelling flow, although it, like the original, is choppy in places. Logic ebbs and flows, and a lot of the technology explored in the story has to be taken on faith (kind of like the tech in INCEPTION) because there's no effort to explain it that makes any kind of sense.

But what the movie does have going for it is some humanity in the tripartite relationship between Jeff Bridge's Flynn, his son (the protagonist) Sam, and CLU -- a computer avatar of Flynn who has captured Flynn's world view at a young age, and has not let it go. In contrast to the older Flynn, CLU does not learn with age. So we have a sort of family drama with son, dad, and dad's obnoxious brother. Oh, and there's Quora -- Olivia Wilde, buffed out, mascaraed, and sealed in a skintight suit -- who is the only female character with any depth and therefore must fulfill all the roles permitted to women in a boy's adventure movie: Little sister, warrior babe, foundling, victim to be protected, and love interest. She must be exhausted.

Since it's a special effects movie, the story devotes little time to exploring the family dynamic (and probably too much time, to the folks who want to see light cycles blow up). But it adds a bit of substance to the eye candy of the CG, and the delight of a world where you can leap into space and form a light-jetplane around yourself.

It makes for a fun time in the theater, and a pretty experience for your eyes. But not necessarily a best picture nomination.

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