Tron: Legacy Hateration

16:19 Mon 03 Jan 2011
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I could have titled this “Tron: Legacy Review”, but decided on the more honest naming.

I should note that I don’t remember the original Tron very well, and wasn’t coming to this film hoping that it would be “true” to the original. I didn’t really have expectations; I dread to think what my reaction would have been if I had had any.

It started off badly, with a terribly saccharine opening followed by really clumsy plot setup and atrocious dialogue. Clumsiness seemed like a hallmark of the film, with every single scene feeling at least slightly off somehow. But it was only mildly annoying me for the first 20 minute or so, and then pushed me over into full-blown seething with the scene where Sam is stripped of his Earth clothes and provided with his “Tron” gear. In the high-tech “perfect system” of The Grid, how are “programs” prepared for what is essentially gladiatorial contests? By being attended by four highly sexualized females whose apparent only roles are to do just that. Complete with high heels and heavy eye makeup. Neither of which I have a problem with per se, I just thought it was an even higher level of objectification and gender ghettoization than usual, combined with the fact that these aspects of the milieu were entirely taken for granted—and further compounded by that fact that it was so clearly pandering to the intended audience of young males who are presumed by the film-makers to be entirely into the notion of having multiple female servants prepare them for entry into gaming arenas.

So I more or less hated it from that point on, although it must be said that it didn’t exactly do anything to make itself likeable, and then managed to get even more annoying in gender terms by introducing Quorra, an über-Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Really, she might be the apotheosis of the archetype, even though she’s showing up in a film quite unlike the usual, because she’s not really human and is “special” while not really having a personality of her own and is also entirely beholden to the two male protagonists (who, naturally, she apparently adores).

One peculiarity about the film is that every aspect of it seemed “bolted on”. That is, many blockbuster films suffer from having certain scenes (or characters, or entire plots) “bolted on” to satisfy some demographic (or producer’s whim), such as a particular type of fight scene, or a love interest, or a stab at some political statement. Normally these are easy to spot because they stand out, but in Tron: Legacy it really felt as if everything had that quality. The father-son story (which should feel like the heart of the plot) felt like an excuse to get in there and have The Grid as a playground; the fight scenes felt like an excuse to play with the CGI; the CGI-driven vehicle/chase scenes seemed forced into things (“we gotta have lightcycles!”). None of it felt like the core of the movie, leaving it not merely empty but just a collection of ill-fitting and quite bad scenes.

Here are some of the other things I didn’t like about it:

  • Terrible dialogue.
  • Terrible acting.
  • The CGI for Jeff Bridges’ face.
  • The fact that a “perfect system” developed by sentient AIs would somehow have all the trappings of a bread and circuses dictatorship.
  • The protagonist.
  • The fact that the protagonist didn’t develop or learn or need to do either.
  • The fact that thee mechanisms of power went totally unexplained, making various aspects of the plot (Zeus) feel pretty weird[*].
  • The fight and combat scenes, all of which were bad and by the numbers.
  • The 3D, which I found intrusive rather than immersive.

I did find one lone and solitary thing to like about it:

  • Many, if not most, of the commands entered at the various command-line interfaces present near the start of the movie were actually accurate and realistic. That’s so rare, and is so often handled so badly, that it stood out for me and I appreciate it quite a lot.
[*] This irks me in a lot of films, particularly ones where the setting is fantastical in some way, and the makers seem to think they can just get away with whatever they think needs to move the plot along.

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