Review: TRON: Legacy

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

When I was a kid, TRON stood out as one of those landmark movies that shaped the way I thought about some things. I imagined that if you could get inside a computer, that was pretty well what it might look like. And the film transported my young mind to an entirely different world. The emotional impact was deep enough that I’m pretty sure it had a hand in convincing me, much later down the road, that I wanted to be a computer engineer.

I was wrong, of course. I realize now that I was much more mesmerized by the aesthetics of that world than I was by any kind of actual science or technology. I haven’t seen the original in… who knows how long, and I certainly have no recollection now of what it was about. What stuck was the world, so completely alien, so mesmerizing back in the 80′s.

I went to see TRON: Legacy last week in IMAX 3D. It was the right choice. I still dislike wearing those stupid glasses and my eyes always hurt afterward, but even so, it was hands down the best 3D experience I’ve had. In that format, the film was totally immersive. In fact, the “unrealness” of the 3D experience suited this film better than most, since TRON‘s basic goal is to introduce you to something wholly unreal.

Disney’s left-field sequel has been getting a lot of negative criticism for the paucity of its story, but can I be honest? I don’t really care. I usually do. I usually care about story more than, well, anything. But this film accomplished some things that work so brilliantly that I failed to even really notice the story. I felt like a kid again. It wasn’t “gosh wow look at those neat effects” — it was like I was actually there, lost in “the grid.”

The design, the way it was shot, the effects, everything — all of it was orchestrated to provide a seamless alternate reality. Even the editing, thank heavens, was consistent with the feel of the film. Instead of the nausea-inducing freneticism of Michael Bay’s typical, asinine pacing, Legacy uses plenty of smooth, sweeping long shots that coincide perfectly with the environment. The action sequences were fantastically stunning, including a light-cycle sequence that was heroically beautiful. I haven’t been so blown away, so dazzled by kinetic filmmaking since… maybe never.

It’s funny, the first film I think of in terms of comparison here is Avatar, the last film to plead shamelessly for its audience’s total submission to a new world. TRON: Legacy, then, is like Avatar‘s better-looking little brother. Completely and totally different, of course, but just as wholly and perfectly synthetic.

I’ve already admitted the story is weak, but there’s a lot to be said for writing that doesn’t irritate or enrage me. The only reason this film was able to so successfully transport me is an absence of stupid characters. They may have all been somewhat two-dimensional, but the dialog isn’t bad, the acting is good enough (though it was certainly a step down for Jeff Bridges), and the story itself is harmless, if a little melodramatic and ultimately meaningless. If there is some kind of ideological agenda driving the narrative, I missed it completely.

Monetarily, this unexpected sequel isn’t doing so hot in the theaters. It’s understandable, I suppose, but no less disappointing. I openly admit to hoping there will be another installment in this surprise franchise sometime in the near future, but Legacy will have to make some money first. Please trust me when I tell you it deserves yours.

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