Weird circumstances led to me watching Tron Legacy in I-MAX 3-D, marking my first viewing of a movie in this format. The original intention was to come back to Guernsey from an Open Day at Southampton University and catch the film in 2-D, but that didn’t quite happen. The weather was crap, resulting in my flight back to Guernsey being cancelled. So, I was left with the decision, what to do when stuck in Southampton for the evening? Go to the local Odeon and watch something in 3-D of course. So with my family friend’s Deb and Si accompanying me (thank you very much for all the help guys!), we went to the Leisure Centre to watch Tron Legacy- the I-MAX experience. Did I mention it was in I-MAX? And 3-D?
So what’s going on down on The Grid? Kevin Flynn (JEFF BRIDGES!) was last seen becoming the CEO of Encom industries. Over the next few years, Flynn developes the world he discoverd in the first movie, where computer programs live in human form and take part in games such as Disc Wars and Light cycle races. Flynn is also a devoted single parent to his young son, Sam, but on one fateful day, Flynn doesn’t return home from work, seemingly having vanished without a trace. Sam, now 27 (Garrent Hedlund), is the reluctant owner of Encom, living a very detached lifestyle. But Sam then receives a mysterious page from his father’s office, which leads him to investigate. Pretty soon he finds himself sucked into the world his father created and taking on different games and discovering what really happened to his Dad. The world which Flynn created has been taken over by his own programme CLU, who has intentions to break out of The Grid and into the real world with an army of corrupt programmes. The reunited father and son, with the help of a programme born within the system, Quorra (Olivia Wilde), must stop CLU by any means necessary.
In terms of expanding the universe established in the original Tron movie, this does an amazing job. The world is much grander, much sleeker and much glossier but the essential concept remains the same. The story itself is not as bad as most critics have been saying. It isn’t the sort of film that prioritizes story as it really is a technology showcase, but the story is certainly more than engaging enough to keep an interest in this world and the characters we are following. The father/son aspect works very well but certain elements of the story and sub-plots create the risk of the movie taking itself far too seriously. The introduction of the ISO’s, programmes who were born and manifested by themselves within The Grid, seems to bring up some un-needed religious connotations. It takes some of the fun away, but this is the only gripe with the story that I have. For the most part, the movie is dedicated to the Flynn father/son relationship and the battle to take down CLU. But it is in the action that this movie excels.
After viewing this, I’m starting to see how 3-D may no longer be a gimmick. You will still get movies that will use the technology for cheap thrills, but with Tron Legacy you have a film which you feel 3-D was designed for, not the other way around. What we have here is a truly immersive experience. The 3-D highlights the amazing amount of detail that has gone in to making this neon-hued world (with some nice Kubrickean features in its design). It works wonders for the action sequences as well, the light cycles have never looked better, there’s an epic disc war, a brilliant fight takes place in the End of Line nightclub (run by Michael Sheen, chanelling David Bowie in a small but fun role) and a great Tron-style dogfight in the film’s finale.
The technology has also made a mark on performance with the character of CLU, which is Jeff Bridges playing the character, but looking like he did circa-1985. CLU is an amazing achievement, despite him at times looking like he’s come out of a Tron video game. But it’s a performance with emotion, it looks like motion capture has finally sorted out that dead-eye glaze. Bridges as Flynn takes on an almost Yoda-type presence, unfortunately not as fun as he was in the first movie, but that’s character progression for you. Garrent Hedlund (who you may have seen playing Brad Pitt’s cousin in Troy) is a dependable main protagonist, making what could’ve been a very arrogant character in to a very likeable one. But the real surprise of the cast is Olivia Wilde as Quorra, a naive ball of energy who can hold herself very well in a fight with fellow programmes and is a pleasure to watch. I may have developed a new movie crush to go along with Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Zooey Deschanel. She can ‘derezz’ me any day.
I’m not too sure I would’ve enjoyed this movie as much in 2-D as I did in 3-D. It’s just such a different experience and can be quite distracting if there are plot points which in retrospect may not make any sense (how does CLU intend on taking over in the real world any how?). But the technology allows for some amazing detail, it’s almost hard to believe that this is director Joseph Kosinski’s first feature film. There is just so much going on here. The action is terrifically edited, all pumping along to the exceptional Daft Punk composed soundtrack, which has to be one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard. Their music is part of the environment, synchronizing with the action and mixing traditional orchestral film score with the French duo’s own trademark electronica. It sounds even better in I-MAX surround sound but it’s a crime to see that the score hasn’t been nominated for any awards as of yet.
What surprised me most about this movie, despite all its technical wizardry, is how much depth and imagination it is capable of displaying. The production design is flawless for the world of The Grid, with certain elements paying respect to great sci-fi films before it, notably 2001: A Space Odyssey and THX 1138. For all it has to say about the future and wonders of technology, the movie acknowledges the beauty of the real world through something simple and perhaps un-exciting to us, a sunset. It’s subtle, but I thought it was a nice touch for something human and real to be the focus at the end of all the computer-generated glamour. I’m glad this was my first 3-D I-MAX experience as I can’t think of a film better tailored for the technology, and it certainly was an amazing cinematic experience. Whether it transposes as well onto 2-D remains to be seen for me. The movie ends in a way that would both welcome a sequel but doesn’t necessairly call for one, which easily leaves Disney’s options open. I, for one, would happily take another trip into The Grid.