How To Film Fireworks From The Inside: Tron: Legacy

Copyright © 2010 by Walt Disney Pictures.

It’s January 2011 and the Rhapsodist is back!  I hope you all had a great Christmas and are as excited about this new year as I am.  So, let’s celebrate with some new reviews!

During the Eighties, one of the most distinctive-looking films was Tron, starring a young Jeff Bridges as a hacker who ends up inside a computer program, battling against virtual avatars of other programs by racing “Light Cycles” and hurling lethal discs.  Several years later, Walt Disney Pictures had both the technology and the fandom to come out with a sequel, Tron: Legacy.

Legacy had one major selling point: its visual appeal.  Thanks to advances in CG filming and a release as a 3-D format, the sequel was going to be Tron for the Millennial generation.

So how does this sequel hold up to its predecessor?  Visually, it’s pretty cool.  Story-wise, it’s pretty flat.

The Story

Sam Flynn (played by Garrett Hedlund) is the son of the original protagonist, Kevin Flynn (Bridges), who disappears for fifteen years while pursuing his obsession with “the digital frontier.”  Upon learning that his father might still be alive, Sam comes across a portal to “The Grid,” the fantastic digital world that Kevin has been redesigning, albeit as a prisoner of his own creation.  In order to free his father, Sam must battle against Clu, a digital copy of Kevin Flynn who has taken control of the Grid and wants to enter the human world, that he continue his vision of “perfection.”  Along the way, Sam gets help from an independent program called Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and must avoid capture by Clu’s chief henchman, a masked warrior known as Rinzler.

Light Cycles in Action. Copyright © 2010 by Walt Disney Pictures.

Going into this film, I knew that I wasn’t going to be attracted to the story so much as the visuals–and on that regard, I wasn’t disappointed.  The story is predictable, and if you pay attention, then all the revelations in the third act aren’t going to be that surprising.  There are a few obvious sequel hooks in the end, and knowing Disney, there’s no way this franchise won’t continue to be milked for all it’s worth.

The Cast

That said, I did like the set-up of Sam’s character.  He’s demonstrated to be a confident and resourceful young man, and every bit the programming genius that his father was.  Kevin Flynn comes off in this film as some kind of weird hybrid of Jedi Master and aging hippie, although he does have his quality moments.  I found Quorra to be an interesting female character, in that she’s a program who worships Kevin and has trouble appreciating the real world that Sam is from.  As for Clu, he’s just your run-of-the-mill Ruler With An Iron Fist And A Vision… except that his face is that of a young Jeff Bridges, which comes off as slightly unreal and eerie when compared to the older Bridges.

Clu Vs. His Creator. Copyright © 2010 by Walt Disney Pictures.

The Special Effects

With plot and characters out of the way, we come now to the visual element.  Let me say, first of all, that if you really like the colors blue and orange, then you will love this film.  Let me also say that the 3-D, despite its hype, didn’t really stick with me as I watched.  I loved the brightly-illuminated foreground characters and scenery contrasting with the near-black backgrounds, but it wasn’t anything made even better by being three-dimensional.  Still, I enjoyed the disc-dueling, Light Cycle races, and Light Jet dogfighting simply because they were nothing more than the astral-looking action scenes that I’d paid to see.

Final Verdict

Overall, the film’s build-up was good and the execution was okay.  While I loved the Light Cycle races, the electronic soundtrack scored by Daft Punk, and the character of Sam Flynn, the rest of the film didn’t even faze me.  It wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t mind-blowing.  It was just Tron.

Bibliography: Tron: Legacy.  Directed by Joseph Kosinski.  Produced by Sean Bailey, Jeffrey Silver, and Steven Lisberger.  Perf. Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Bruce Boxleitner, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, and James Frain.  LivePlanet.  Walt Disney Pictures.  December 17, 2010 (US release).

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