Monday, February 07, 2011

Tron: Legacy

Your appreciation for Tron: Legacy (aka Tron 2) might hinge on just how much impact the 1982 film had on you. I was 13 when I encountered both the movie and the video game  by Bally that same year. I loved the original film, a cold trip inside the guts of a computer program in a time when I barely knew what a computer was. In 1982, computers weren't exactly everywhere. I thought Tron was possible the coolest thing I'd ever seen with a story that didn't make a lot of sense, but who cares? The sleek, ultra-futuristic world inside a video game made up for story weaknesses. Plus, I was 13, what did I care about plot?

I loved the film, but it was the video game that really stole my heart. It was wrapped in a bright box and blessed with a glowing blue joystick that looked magical before I even dropped a quarter in it to play. And the music it played was a precursor for my lifelong obsession with synthesizers. Kind of a simple arcade game firmly in the early '80s mode, I loved this video game! At my peak, I would play it hours on end while hopped up on sugar, my teenage self becoming transfixed by the audio and the low-tech graphics as I'd challenge various hi-scores in arcades, movie theatre lobbies, convenience stores or where ever the consul might be located. Sadly, too many years off have seriously eroded my skills, but I can still set hi-scores [note the photo of me playing "Tron" and re-writing the top 10; look for my handle "ACE" if you are ever at The Max in Tulsa].

Which brings us to the new version of Tron: Legacy, a film with a lot of the same elements as the 1982 movie: an incomprehensible story, a young Jeff Bridges (CGI concocted and acting with old Bridges at the same time!), the lit up identity disks that are as dangerous as they are needed, the high-tech world inside the machine ruled by the evil and power hungry that is frequently dazzling. The story in the new one is just as silly as it was in 1982 so think of Tron: Legacy as a ramped up, over-the-top digital extravaganza and have fun while it unfolds. If you want characters, dialogue that makes sense and draws you in, tension or suspense--look elsewhere.

This is one of the rare instances when the onslaught of visuals are enough for me. I'm not a fan of films that exist solely as creations of some team of CGI programmers who live and work nowhere near the cast, crew or director, but I love the idea and look of Tron circa 1982 so much I let all that slide. I saw it at IMAX and in 3D (another thing I hate!), but felt if I was going to see this, I should go all-in with the visuals. I also loved the soundtrack by French electronic band Daft Punk. It's a collections of minimal strings and analogue synthesizers that perfectly fit the artificial world of the movie. This isn't a good movie, but Tron: Legacy made the 13 year old in me very happy. Guilty pleasure.

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