REVIEW: TRON 1 & 2

CAST

Jeff Bridges (R.I.P.D.)
Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2)
Cindy Morgan (Caddyshack)
Bernard Hughes (Da)
Peter Jurasik (Babylon 5)

Watching Tron now you can’t help but feel that the visual effects are looking less impressive than they did back in the ’80s, then you realise that this film is thirty years old, and suddenly they seem pretty decent again!

The story tells of a computer genius trying to hack into his former boss’ computer system to get back his intellectual property, after breaking into the premises and being digitised into bits of data by the prototype laser transporter there – he finds himself literally inside the system. Inside the mainframe he finds himself involved in a battle against the Master Control Program, an artificial intelligence which has mutated beyond its initial coding and has visions of world domination by hacking into other networks.

The various bits of software he encounters are visually represented using blends of computer animation techniques and live action manipulated in post-production. The film has a stylistic look which was unlike anything seen at the time. It still remains a unique experience as computer generated imaging quickly evolved since, leaving Tron as a pioneering title which has inspired the CGI work on countless films over the years and has been parodied many times. Admittedly the computer graphics do look very basic now and the large flying “recognisers” are laughably crude and not even slightly menacing. You do start to get used to the computer graphics though and the impact of their basic look softens. Despite this, I don’t consider at the special effects to be particularly dated, this is best viewed as a film of its own time, you can then truly marvel at the immersive world which has been created, not that dated visuals matter too much as the strength of this film exists in the central story of a man trying to break free from a corrupt system – in both the virtual and the real world. Abuses of influence by those in high positions and by those who surprisingly find themselves with power are themes which will always be relevant, and therefore the film still remains contemporary and probably always will.

Jeff Bridges brings a cheeky flamboyance to his dual roles as Flynn the maverick genius, and Clu – his virtual alter-ego. He is a convincing programming maestro without being a stereotypical code bore, he is aware of his own esteemed regard by his peers and enjoys it. In an age where video-arcades represented the pinnacle of publicly available technology, he is the king of that domain and a character you want to see succeed in his mission against the large corporation which seems to represent so much of what is wrong with the world. For a more tech savvy generation Tron stretches plausibility, the spurious elements of what happens inside a mainframe computer will be hard to swallow but the look of the film is one of pure science-fiction fantasy and the innards of the machine could easily be a completely different world. This is escapist cinema and so it doesn’t need to be too believable, it just needs to be fun – and Tron definitely delivers there.

 

CAST

Jeff Bridges (R.I.P.D.)
Garrett Hedlund (Unbroken)
Olivia Wilde (Cowboys & Aliens)
Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5)
James Frain (Gotham)
Beau Garrett (Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer)
Michael Sheen (Underworld)
Serinda Swan (Smallville)
Yaya DaCosta (Ugly Betty)
Donnelly Rhodes (Battlestar Galactica)
Brent Stait (Andromeda)
Jeffrey Nordling (Arrow)
Christine Adams (Batman Begins)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Cillian Murphy (Inception)

Sam Flynn, the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn, looks into his father’s disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 20 years. Along with Kevin’s loyal confidant Quorra, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous. Meanwhile, the malevolent program CLU, who dominates the digital world, plans to invade the real world and will stop at nothing to prevent their escape.

There’s a fairly coherent storyline here that would appeal across the spectrum, striking a fair balance between drama and action, although action junkies would have preferred for set action sequences given the investment in souping up and introducing a number of vehicles other than the light cycle.

Certain scenes stood out either as homage or influenced pieces, the nightclub scene with Gem the Siren (Beau Garrett) bringing our new protagonist Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges returns to once again play two roles, that of Kevin Flynn the founder of Encom and his digital creation / avatar Clu) to meet Castor (played by Michael Sheen with flamboyant spunk) an information broker in the undergrounds of the digital Grid world, seems to have contained a whiff out of The Matrix Revolutions, with Persephone and Merovingian. But of course the Wachowskis didn’t have Daft Punk to turn the tables, and parallels between the Matrix and the Grid cannot be more prominent given entities within are programs, with the ones gone rogue instilled with a desire to cross over to the real world.

Then there’s something unmistakably Star Wars about it too, with the designs of attack space crafts zipping through the night sky, and clearly one of the many gorgeous costumes here can’t seem to hold a candle to what looked like an awesome robe, simple as it is, but striking nonetheless. Or how about something which reminds one of Gotham City’s caped crusader, with the Tumbler inspired getaway vehicle with large inflatable tyres played out in a scene right out of Tim Burton’s first Batman movie with the long road back to the secret hideout within which to seek out answers to questions left silent en route.

Olivia Wilde provides for the token fashionista who is ever ready to flex her battle prowess with skills in various weapons – a lethal combination of The Matrix’s Trinity equipped with Star Wars blades – and vehicles, whose background is given a superficial twist which seeks to expand the Tron universe a little bit more with miracle phenomenon being a natural occurrence once a perfect equilibrium is achieved. Fans will get to learn and understand this expanded universe a lot more as explanations get dished out in due course, even one that deals with the time in between the first and second films, of Kevin Flynn’s obsession with his latest playground that his creation ultimately took over, turning it into an arena with its own brand of gladiatorial fights for entertainment. But there’s enough material introduced without being overwhelming for the new Grid entrant, and opens up a lot more avenues for future storytellers.

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