Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TRON: Legacy (2010, Kosinski)

Rating: **

As noisy, disjointed and tone-deaf as it is, TRON: Legacy is at least enjoyable as a footnote of sorts to this year’s most celebrated movie, The Social Network (2010). Should the Joseph Kosinski’s 3-D behemoth be called TRON: The Grid, the connection would have been even more pronounced.

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is obsessed with creating a democratic cyber-Utopia, with the word “sharing” for a constitution and the “users” for a self-guarding army. And since there’s no business like share business these days (case in point: Mark Zuckerberg), small wonder that his innocuous impulse ends up as a huge corporation, Encom (case in point: Facebook etc.).

Early on in the movie the executive board of Encom is shown and – in an amusing and perceptive touch – 99% of its members are not a day over 25 (they wear morbid-chic Twilight attire). Youth without youth is avenged by… you guessed it: youth. Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), Kevin’s admirably sane heir, is the main shareholder in Encom, but he’s cool enough to sabotage his own company (in a Peter Parker-like opening stunt).

The movie is mostly gibberish: rarely entertaining, always numbing and inconsistent throughout. Its absolute nadir comes with the appearance of Michael Sheen as Castor, the sub-Joel Grey M.C. of the surprisingly commonplace cyber-joint “The End of the Line” (a nod to Gaspar Noé’s “Rectum”, as depicted in Irreversible [2004], perhaps…?). Sheen is desperately camping things up: all giggly, he prances around, brandishing a stupid neon-cane (with top hat inexplicably missing), and finally belting out what might have been the movie’s wishful motto: “This is going to be quite a ride!”.

(It’s an embarrassing performance, but it doesn’t top some of the lines others were given to chew on. Sam, when asked to convey what sun is like, comes up with this nugget of B-movie descriptive flair: “Warm. Radiant. Beautiful”).

The movie not only eschews the visual elegance of its 1982 predecessor (which I happen to like), but is not above devouring Stanley Kubrick’s white Beyond-Infinity-Chamber from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). In Kosinski, the dish being served in this venerable setting is a roasted pig and the wine (?) is toxic-waste-green. Classy.

Just like Avatar (2009) a year ago, TRON: Legacy delivers a metaphor for our own experience of viewing it. There’s a sequence midway through that shows “The Games”: a gladiator-like struggle suspended in mid-air, performed for the roaring crowds down below. The roaring multitudes, though heard in head-splitting outbursts, are nowhere in sight: they’re bathed in shadows. They’re us: all “users”, relevant only for the sake of having “logged in”, but not for the sake of being there or feeling anything at all.


  1. Nice review, Michael. Mirrors my take in many ways, and I dig the comparisons with The Social Network.

    It certainly did feel sloppy most times, however I wasn't aware if that was a function of me not seeing the original and thus not being familiar with the whole world, or whether it really was just bad writing. Obviously after talking/reading about it, it seems the latter is most likely.

    I actually dug the glassy black color pallet that seems to have rubbed most the wrong way (again, this could be because I have no ties to the original), and I thought the sequence with The Games did a lot of really striking thing with geometry and forms. I came away with a feeling that had the filmmakers had the confidence to let the movie tell it story more through the visuals, and minimized all the stupid expository gibberish, they could have really had something here, but as it were everything was interesting was continually sucked back in to service the dumb plot.

    Also agree with you re: Sheen's performance, which gave me the embarrassment chills more times than I care to remember.

  2. Hi Drew,

    glad you liked the review! I agree with what you said: I found some of the visual stuff impressive, but it was frustrating to see how the filmmakers were undermining their own achievement by plunging into endless scenes of pseudo-deep mumbo-jumbo.

    My single favorite scene is the splice between 2D and 3D parts of the movie: entering the computer and Sam learning his ways in the cyber-world. I was excited to see the story develop, but then it faltered, and then it regressed, and then I simply lost interest.

    Interesting blog, by the way! I like your line-up of 2010 best movies. I will be a regular visitor :)

    Where are you based?


  3. Michal, I am in the States. Georgia, to be precise. Thanks for the compliment!

  4. Good to meet you, Drew! Never been to Georgia but I hope to see it one day!

    Good to hear from you--