Film Review: The Wrong Type of Legacy

review

Note: as part of Throwback Thursday, I’m posting this piece I wrote June 21, 2011, for my LiveJournal blog. I am planning to slowly move over anything of substance from LiveJournal to this one, with plans on turning the LiveJournal into something else.

TRON: Legacy, written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz (screenplay); Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz and Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal (story); directed by Joseph Kosinski. Copyright 2010: seen June 18, 2011. Buy on Amazon.com.

TRON: Legacy suffers from the same problem as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – mainly the thought of ‘it took them 30 years to come up with THIS?’

I really wanted to like this movie. I tried not to be too eager for it, especially after re-watching the original TRON a couple of weeks ago via Netflix and realizing it has not held up to the test of time. And I really wanted to not have the high expectations I had going into the movies listed above.

But while the original TRON could get away with being written by someone who only had a passing knowledge (and passion) for computers and games (it being released in 1982, back when the concept of networking computers was really the realm of science fiction), TRON: Legacy has no such excuse. From the actors actually pronouncing ISO as a word as opposed to an acronym to the concept that games today are still all about competition instead of cooperation, Legacy was very obviously written by someone (or many someones, as in this case) who may use a computer to type up the screenplay, but that’s about the extent of their knowledge.

While it was nice to see the same universe expanded, and my inner fanboy squeed at seeing the old TRON video game, the movie was a pale shadow of The Matrix as to the purpose of computers and programs in our lives. I admit the computer animators must’ve had a hard time creating an environment that looked like it was created with a computer but didn’t look fake. And the action must’ve rocked in 3-D.

But the concept of a sequel to TRON had so much more potential: with the rise of social networking, online gaming, iPads, and phone apps, this could have been a decent commentary on how computers (and games) have changed (and, considering the minor plot point of independent programs evolving of their own, dare I say ‘evolved’?) over the past 30 years, and how integral they now are to our way of life. It could have been a commentary on the changing hacker community, how plugged in people are and how that can be both a positive and a negative, or if they wanted to distance themselves from The Matrix focus on gaming, and how gaming culture has changed to where it’s more about communities and cooperation. Instead, we get this needlessly messianic story of Jeff Bridges being God and his son coming to the computer world to save both that society and our own.

As for acting, Garrett Hedlund did an okay job as Sam Flynn, although I’m really trying to figure out the importance of an early scene of him pulling his ‘annual prank’ on the corporation he runs but doesn’t care about – it was too long to be simple character development. It led me to believe that the CEO who was all about the profit was going to be our ‘big bad’, but who we never see again. And Olivia Wilde did what she could with her minimal character, but considering the real-life concept that women gamers are quickly becoming the majority rather than an oddity, she could’ve had so much more to do with the plot than be just a love interest. A shout-out to poor Bruce Boxleitner for making the most of his two (three, if you count the board room) scenes (somehow I doubt that was really Boxleitner doing all the acrobatics that Tron was doing in the computer).

As for Bridges, his acting was awkward at best. While I could understand the reasoning behind it, having Jeff Bridges say ‘Dude’ and speak like an ’80s surfer came across less as though he didn’t know language had evolved over the past 30 years and more like he was imitating The Dude from The Big Lebowski. (Although his CGI ‘younger’ face was done very well.)

Legacy is defined by Merriam-Webster as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” And it’s typically used in terms of something grand – you are left a legacy. But the adjective is also defined as “of, relating to, or being a previous or outdated computer system”. And that is exactly what TRON: Legacy comes across as: relating to an outdated system. Legacy is outdated in concept, as well as in implementation.