Film Review: Tron: Legacy

Official Website
Walt Disney Pictures

The sequel to Tron was always destined to be met with a mixed reception. After all, it’s more-or-less impossible in today’s filmmaking arena to match what the original Tron had achieved in terms of its cultural impact, its technological progress and its narrative innovation: introducing Carrol’s fantastical down-a-rabbit-hole plot to an electronic man-made world that so perfectly explored the late 20th century human dilemma; selfishly thinking about what technology can do for us and not worrying about what it can do to us. Since then, the idea had been done to death as sci-fi met cyberpunk and went mainstream, not too long before The Matrix turned up and established itself as the coolest looking thing ever while at the same time turning Tron’s concept upside down and presenting the programmed world as what we know to be the real world. Tron: Legacy’s tagline is ‘The Game Has Changed‘, and that it undoubtedly has… and has done already many, many times over since 1982.

So the big question is, what have they actually made in this new environment? They’ve cockteased fanboys everywhere for five years with acts as simple as putting a 2 in the title (TR2N) and have made a decision as bold – but immensely apt – as to have Daft Punk score the soundtrack. The hype was ludicrous. We live in the most perpetually hyped up era of visual media that has ever existed, but Tron: Legacy took the biscuit, ate it and subsequently boasted that it was about to drop the raddest shit you’ve ever seen. Well…

It is, at the very least, the raddest shit you will see all year. And let us not forget that Inception came out this year. Yes, Tron: Legacy is aesthetically more stunning than a Christopher Nolan movie. Digest that for a second…

That is not to say it suffers from some issues, but these were all inevitable. It was always going to have staple Hollywood moments thrown in, some more clunky than others, but even the most gorgeously dystopian backdrop (and they are gorgeous… and very dystopian) is vandalised by Sam Flynn’s (played decently by Garret Hedlund) at times ridiculous voice; as though Kosinski had said to him every other scene “hey! before this bit of dialogue, why not smoke five packs of cigarettes, drink a litre of bourbon and pretend you’re Solid Snake pretending to be Solid Snake pretending to be Raiden”. But then, annoying as this is, it’s instantly forgivable because Jeff Bridges is Jeff Fucking Bridges and Olivia Wilde looks like the Mirror’s Edge girl in a massively desaturated world, which is awesome regardless of what you want from the film. Really awesome in fact. Really awesome.

Really awesome.

At times the mise-en-scene looks like a refined pastiche of all successful sci-fi / fantasty films over the past two decades that has been topped with blue and orange neon lights like what a Japanese Jaffa Cake box might look like. The skyscrapers rise with the gloom of Ridley Scott’s Los Angeles in Bladerunner, the outlands look like a blend of the Matrix’s ‘real world’ and Oddworld’s Rupture Farms and the light-jet battle is basically Star Wars Episode 1’s podracing scene but less cripplingly awful. But it’s all so visually rewarding and satisfying, for both your average filmgoer and all the sci-fi neeks who should admire how tastefully the influences are moulded together to create a genuinely new both inspired and imaginative world which makes Avatar look like it was designed by five year old in MS Paint.

It is in the visual appeal where Tron: Legacy is both at its most successful and its most relentlessly awesome. Sure, it’s Kosinki’s strongest director trait, but the CGI is used to an effect that substitutes tacky for the fantastic, whilst utilising 3D technology not for a better box office performance but to totally redefine the often overused word ‘immersive’. If Avatar was a bar of chocolate then Tron is visual hit from a class A drug. It makes the little narrative niggles that podcasting neckbeards will inevitably argue over totally redundant, while reminding you just how phenomenal the Tron world is. Who cares about where the world cup is hosted when we can watch Sam Flynn enter THE GRID, hook up with the program that has a human complex, Quorra (adorably played by Olivia Wilde who should wear that wig for the rest of her life), beat the shit out of Rinzler, ride through an expertly choregraphed and thrilling light cycle sequence, and then battle countless programs in a pixelated nightclub with a neon frisbee while Daft Punk look at each other, nod, and then proceed to drop the biggest beat in the film diegetically while Jeff Bridges struts around talking like Jeff Bridges. It is mindblowing escapism at its absolute best.

So conceptually it’s a little weak, but I think most of us were expecting that. But as a feature film spectacle, it is a visceral gift to even the most imaginative dreamers and sci-fi lovers that somehow delivered more than my fanboy expecations craved for. Tron: Legacy will leave you breathless, it will leave you exhausted, it will leave you wanting more and most importantly, it will leave you completely and utterly derezzed.

Stanley

Tron: Legacy is out in UK cinemas on the 17th December.

Inception

www.inceptionmovie.warnerbros.com
Warner Bros.

Before I talk about the film proper I’m going to give a little personal context about my relationship with Christopher Nolan’s latest cinemagasm.

I’ve not been as excited about going to see a film in…well, I can’t remember. I’ve literally been chewing off my own hands with anticipation ever since the first insignificant nuggets of information started their slow faucet leak into the public domain. So, it was with a great deal of trepidation that I wandered into Inception’s showing, I’d mentally built it up to stratospheric heights, I’d foolishly done something that can ultimately only end in disappointment. Fantasy never aligns with reality, that girl never feels the same way, you never get the job (“dinosaur astronaut…what do you mean that‘s not a thing!?”). I’d been building myself up for heartbreak so severe that I feared it may ruin cinema for me.

Luckily…this film is utterly, jaw-hurtingly spec-fucking-tacular.

The plot revolves around Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb, a specialist in “extraction”, an illegal process where by one can enter other peoples dreams and steal their ideas…it’s a sort of metaphysical corporate espionage. He’s given a shot at redemption, to return to his family after a dark event in his past if he can complete “inception”, the process of implanting an idea, on Cillian Murphy’s billionaire heir to an energy empire. And it plays out like James Bond conceived by the Wachowski Brothers and written by Charlie Kaufman.

The performances are all stellar, DiCaprio fills Cobb with such conviction that his performance almost goes unnoticed. However, he is the pivot that the whole thing spins on, and his conviction seeps through in to ever other aspect of this world. Ellen Page exudes a weird sexiness that I didn’t think she had in her, Joseph Gordon-Levitt vomits a cool dependability that makes you forget that he’s essentially nothing more than a side kick (Page and him have the film’s best gag moment), though most laughs will come from Tom Hardy’s lovable rouge Eames.

It’s the sort of film that so many would wish to make, you can sense that Nolan has been given staggering mountains of cash and been told to let his imagination completely run free, and Nolan dreams big. I simply can’t do the visuals justice in words; there are some truly eye popping sequences, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s corridor fight will inevitably be an audience favourite. It’s the sort of pure, visceral cinema that reminds you why you love cinema, why cinema is so important, and why it’s simply the most bad ass medium of expression ever invented.

Better yet, the mindfuck visuals slink perfectly into the world Nolan has created, without once seeming out of place. The third act in particular, once they are heavy into dream territory, will make your synapses melt with the amount of clever stuff going on: multiple narratives happening on multiple timelines in multiple places all simultaneously. Yet somehow, it’s far easier to comprehend than say, Memento. Nolan’s a talented bastard at this film game.

I suggest you just go see it. Then go and see it again.

GIVE HIM THE KICK.

Jonathan Day