Film Review - Tron: Legacy

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I was eight when Tron came out in 1982. My uncle took me to the cinema to see it and I was bored out of my mind and didn't have a clue what was going on. But during the last few years, people I love, respect and admire (including John Lasseter, who practically invented Pixar as a result of his love for Tron) have banged on and on about how awesome it is.

So two months ago, with these voices in my brain and Tron Legacy marketing being mainlined into my eyeballs by the internet, I sat down to watch the original on DVD. Now, as a grown-up, with my marginally developed intellect and appreciation for cinema, I would finally be able to enjoy this landmark film. No: I was bored out of my mind and didn't have a clue what was going on. I lasted 25 minutes before yanking it from my DVD player and swapping it for the familiar delights of Step Brothers. I love Step Brothers.

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Rumour has it that Disney itself has little confidence in the original film today, and has stalled on a DVD re-issue or Blu-ray release, concerned it might scare audiences away from the hugely-budgeted sequel, which is now among us. And once again, Tron: Legacy’s plot intricacies are somewhat impenetrable and often tiresome. Much of the time it's hard to care at all about what's going on. Even the actors all seem to be starring in different films.

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Despite having to spout all manner of nonsense, Jeff Bridges brings along a modicum of Lebowski cool. Michael Sheen, as some sort of villainous nightclub owner, has clearly been given the opportunity to do whatever amused him on set and channels David Bowie in Labyrinth. The CGI young Jeff Bridges character, meanwhile, is particularly messy - although the tech is as good as we've seen in terms of this type of photo-realism, the character's dead eyes and weird mouth movements just don't work enough to avoid being wholly distracting - it's all a bit Polar Express, and despite being, out of context, very impressive, it's not out of context, it's in this film, surrounded by humans, and its effect is ultimately not a world away from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Even the director said last week he was only really happy with "a couple glimpses" of the character, which is a brave admission to make, but filmmakers are basically experimenting with technology on screen before it's actually ready, and that's a pretty crappy thing to be doing.

HOWEVER. I loved Tron Legacy. Or, to be more accurate, I loved watching it. Although it takes its cue from a thoroughly dated 1982 film, much of it seems blindingly new; as an aural-visual assault, it's utterly spectacular and immersing, and the characters work well enough to carry it off.

The action sequences, while gratuitous, are thrilling, and the all-consuming Imax 3D treatment throws you smack into the heart of it - I winced and jolted a handful of times, as my eyes were telling the rest of my face it was about to be smashed to pieces by a neon frisbee or a big fat motorbike from the future. And there are even odd moments of greatness - and beauty - that have little or nothing to do with the technology.

Will it work on DVD, in 2D? I'm not sure. But it was shot in 3D, with around 45 minutes of footage expanded to fill the Imax screen from floor to ceiling, and in that environment (the way it needs to be seen for maximum effect) it's very, very entertaining. We're swamped with fantastical blockbuster fare in the 21st century, and it's getting harder and harder for Hollywood to produce stand-out event movies of this nature, but, despite its narrative shortcomings, this is one of them.

I still don't understand what 'the grid' is all about - as far as my comprehension goes, everyone's made tiny and sucked into a computer monitor like Mike Teevee. But I don't care. It took me to another world, and I liked being there. It made me feel like a kid, and I left the cinema happy.

Words by Alex Godfrey

Tron Legacy is out 17 December. To read our interview with star of Tron, Jeff Bridges, see this month's issue, on newsstands now.

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