Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TRON: Legacy (2010), in 3D – Review

TRON: Legacy is a lot of flash but without much substance. The score, design and cinematography are all beautifully done and striking. Director Joseph Kosinski has done justice to the world of TRON and the original film stylistically, as the film does look amazing. There is a colossal feel the landscapes and the set design is modern and minimalistic, which fits the cyber world (the grid).  However, the story is subpar, which is disappointing. The narrative structure also drags in a few areas making the film feel a bit tedious and longer than its playtime would indicate. For all the visual mastery and entertainment, the flaws in the narrative are what ultimately leave the film feeling a tad boring and underwhelming. All the great action set pieces – the games, light-cycles races, and so on – do charm and captivate viewers, but only to an extent. Emotional drama and audience connection with the characters, even before plot, are the necessary elements to make a film that works and authentically mesmerizes viewers. The characters here feel more like stand-in clichés than real people (or fully formed characters) – completely hollow and void of genuine emotion. Now, viewers do not go into a spectacle-film like TRON for the characters and emotionally connection. They go for the action, the visuals and the sheer magnitude of the adventure. But even for the film’s intended audience, connection is still essential to the film’s overall success, and it is lacking. The visual style is very cold with blacks and blues, accentuated with bright reds and oranges. It reminded me a bit of Bladerunner both visually (but a lot cleaner) and tonally. There is a subtle tone of depression and sadness behind the action – stemming for the film’s fairly serious past events, like a utopian façade obscuring the corruption of power. The film tells a story of best intentions for controlling society (be it The Grid or our world) that ultimately crumble due to the conflict of freewill versus regulation. Thus, the film takes on the feel of a sci-fi dystopian narrative in which civilization corrodes in the grip of best intentions. These big story elements work well. Rather, it is the specific narrative points and the characters that are shallow, underdeveloped and feel false. Characters and situations are just overused and too much like tons of other films, this play as clichés. TRON: Legacy has a lot of good and should be seen in theaters, it is just too bad that the narrative could not match the visual and sonic excellence.

Technical and acting achievements: Joseph Kosinski has real talent for exquisite visuals (and I am excited to see what he does next, with the hope that he can improve his handle on narrative structure and character development). Daft Punk’s score is mesmerizing and exciting – mixing their classic style of electronic beats with big orchestration (which reminded me of Hans Zimmer’s work on Inception and The Dark Knight). It brings a wonderful impact to the imagery on the screen. Claudio Miranda (who is one of the best) also does phenomenal work. His cinematography and the score are the real reasons to see this film, in light of the poor narrative. Relative newcomer to production design Darren Gilford’s set fit the world completely (I especially love his set for Kevin Flynn’s Grid home). Michael Sheen and James Frain are generally brilliant in their films (and TV), yet here their character’s were just placeholders, thus their talents were for not. Olivia Wilde, while also playing a commonplace sci-fi/action character, brings spunk to the role, distinguishing her performance and being one of the more interesting and entertaining characters in the film. Jeff Bridges’s character is really the only one with any development and he is good, but it seems as though too much of Bridges is in Flynn. Along with Bridges, Garrett Hedlund does have some emotional work to do in the film, but he is flat and one of the main reasons the connection with the audience never happens. He is not bad – he just does not demand attention or an investment in the film and character.

TRON: Legacy is fun, cinematic and aesthetically brilliant, but purely spectacle. 5/10

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