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CG Jeff Bridges was the second best actor in the film.

January 18, 2011

“Biodigital Jazz, man….”

[There will be minor spoilers….]

It’s really hard to say much about Tron: Legacy. Ultimately, it’s a film that is all surface, no depth. Except for, y’know, the third dimension bit.

And that is a good place to start. Tron: Legacy looks really, really good. Fantastically so. The scenes set in the Real World are shot in 2D, but there’s not a lot of that. The reality bits being in 2D exists simply to make the transition to the Grid all the more visually spectacular. Not that it particularly needs any help, because the design and execution of the digital world is absolutely stunning.

It’s also worth mentioning that Tron: Legacy actually succeeds in using 3D well – Rather than indulging in “stuff flying out of the screen!!!” gimmickry, it uses the technology to give the imagined world a depth that couldn’t be achieved in two dimensions. Avatar and Tron both demonstrate the potential value of 3D cinema to make movies that can realise the imagination of the most creative designers. 3D is a playground for the designers (rather than strictly directors,) allowing you to be immersed in their backgrounds and foregrounds. And there are a few people I really want to see get to grips with the proper 3D technology (rather than 2D conversions) to really explore the possibilities. (The idea of Del Toro, Lovecraft, and 3D all in one movie… I have chills.)

The visual highlights of Tron are the Games sequences – they make good use of the world being in three dimensions to make the discs and light cycles sections very entertaining and visually immersive.

The next excellent thing about the film is the soundtrack. But then again, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack a lot for the last two weeks, so I wasn’t surprised. Even if you don’t see the film, check out the soundtrack. It’s the balls.

And now, sadly, to the not so good.

The script. Oh, it was bad. In a sort-of-grimly-appropriate fashion it sounds exactly like it was written by a computer program. It has all the standard bad movie dialogue lines, followed by the standard bad movie dialogue responses to said lines. I genuinely think you could find every line in the movie if you were to search for the most commonly used line in any given context. And building on the bad dialogue, a bad plot. It looked like there might be a semblance of a Point at the start, but they went absolutely nowhere with the potential to commentate on digital culture and merely strung together the set pieces with a cardboard villain. The relationship between Jeff Bridges and CLU could have been something to hang a plot or some decent character arc on, but again, it received only superficial treatment.

Aaaand the acting… You can forgive the wooden-ness of many of the characters, since they were computer programs – I suspect they were supposed to be that way. But the Son of Jeff Bridges was even more inhuman than the non-human characters, and The Girl… The fact that I can’t remember a single character name is pretty indicative of the depth of the characters…

The Girl, being an Iso (Who as a race were described as “unimaginably wise”) ought to have had some personality beyond the “interested in humans” quirk.

The only actor in the whole film with any kind of personality was Jeff Bridges, and in his case the personality he had was All Jeff Bridges. Not that I was complaining about that, because Jeff Bridges is Cool. My favourite bit of dialogue in the whole movie came when Jeff was getting excited about the emergent digital lifeforms (Damn, but that could have actually been done well if the movie had real writers) and described it as “Biodigital Jazz, man.” Also, his coat and apartment  were freakin’ sweet. (When I grow up, I want both.)

And coming a close second to Jeff Bridges was the CG Jeff Bridges – who, as motion captured actors go, was only slightly better rendered than you might have seen in Beowulf- but he still retained that slightly-dead-inside look about him. It worked well enough for the bits in The Grid, since CG Jeff was a program, but the young Jeff parts in the real world lacked any spark. And as an aside, it worries me that we’re verging on the technology to do “young [insert actor here]” almost passably – can you imagine the horrors that might abound when an aging actor decides to do a vanity project starring their younger selves. The mind recoils in horror.

Finally, we come to the non-Game action scenes. These were the biggest disappointment of all, because with the beautiful visuals and excellent soundtrack, I was expecting beautifully assembled fight scenes to go with it. But they were not very well choreographed, and utterly lacked tension. This made me sad, because I thought at minimum level I’d get consistently good set pieces.

And yet, with all the bad, I’m still tempted to say “worth a look.” Because it was really, really, really pretty, in ways that will never work anywhere except on a big 3D screen. What would really be ideal is if you could cut out every bit of the film that didn’t have Daft Punk playing over it and enjoyed it as a really amazing hour long music video. No, seriously, that would be good. I’d watch it, happily.

Tron: Legacy is a rare thing… a really bad film that might be worth watching in the cinema, and not because it’s so bad it’s good. It’s just bad. But for all its utter lack of depth, the surface looks really amazing. Just turn off your brain whenever anyone is talking and ogle the scenery.

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