Review by Nathan Samdahl (B+)
When you think of ideal films to remake or reinvent, big franchises such as Batman or Superman come to mind. Or, in the other direction, movies that can be updated on the cheap - like the recent slew of horror remakes. One movie that does not instantly stand out in this category is Tron, a 1982 Disney film that performed modestly at the box office ($27 million) and that sports bold albeit very dated special effects. It also caters to a core audience of young males, many of whom have probably never seen or heard of the original film. Despite these hurdles, the original Tron also screams for a modern makeover.
Thankfully Tron: Legacy delivers on its promise.
Finally, a big film that looks and feels big! (outside of Inception there weren't that many this year) It is clear that the filmmakers didn't squander the massive budget they were given; they remained focused on maintaining high production values.
The visual effects in Tron: Legacy are the best of the year, delivering one of the most beautiful and seamless film worlds created in recent memory (there are definitely some Blade Runner similarities).
As for the story, Tron: Legacy is a complete film. Unlike the last blockbuster to be released - sorry Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - the movie has a beginning, middle and end. Audiences will appreciate that. I sure did.
The performances are solid as well. Jeff Bridges, who was great in the original, brings much needed maturity to the otherwise young cast and is perfect reprising the role of Kevin Flynn. The writers, wise to the pop culture mythos surrounding Bridges, were clever to include several lines harkening back to his Big Lebowski days, inserting some timely comic relief into the story.
Bridge's on-screen son, played by Garrett Hedlund, is also excellent and believable. Like Channing Tatum only more natural in delivery, expect Hedlund to blow up in years to come. He's clearly got the personality and acting chops to go far. Olivia Wilde is solid, although her role did not seem as well crafted as the males in the story. She is as gorgeous as I've ever seen her, though.
Michael Sheen is also fun as the over-the-top revolutionary-turned-traitor Zuse, who draws similar parallels to Merovingian in Matrix: Reloaded.
One of the real gambles in the film is the use of the facial de-aging technology (also used in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), which is used to keep Jeff Bridges' identical nemesis CLU looking just as he did when he was created 20+ years ago. The technology takes awhile to get used to and not every moment works perfectly - there are a few sync issues - but the technology improves as the film progresses.
Any flaws with the technology are granted a bit of leeway, since, after all, they primarily occur within a computer-created world. Some glitches can be attributed to programming issues, right?
Disney did an incredible job creating a PG-rated film that nonetheless contains all of the action/dramatic elements needed to appeal to adults. Whether this translates into massive box office remains to be seen, but Tron: Legacy is a great film. Good word-of-mouth should sustain it throughout the holiday season.
It's about time a movie fired on all cylinders. Tron: Legacy is immensely enjoyable and one of the best rides of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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