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Lopsided ‘TRON: Legacy’ is Heavy on Visuals, Light on Humanity

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Rating: 3.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Every great film is a delicate balance of a number of critical elements. Good films lack in one department while mediocre films have serious gaps that stick out like a red dress at a funeral. The overall mediocre “TRON: Legacy” is exceedingly fixated on its impressive visual effects while neglecting to focus on creating an evocative and humanized story.

Despite its big-budget use of special effects, you aren’t emotionally connected to its characters or plot. Following the ahead-of-its-time 1982 film “Tron” with Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner, Bridges reprises his roles in 2010’s “TRON: Legacy” with the duality of both Kevin Flynn and Clu. Boxleitner also returns as both Alan Bradley and Tron.

Garrett Hedlund in TRON: Legacy
Garrett Hedlund in “TRON: Legacy”.
Image credit: Disney Enterprises

Perhaps surprisingly for some, “TRON: Legacy” is less about the actual character that is Tron and is much more focused on Jeff Bridges’ characters along with his son, Sam Flynn (played by Garrett Hedlund). And this film actually has three different Jeff Bridges: one who’s in the real world (the brilliant but crazed inventor type) and two more who are trapped in “the grid” (one an antagonist and the other a protagonist). The grid, of course, has significant parallels to “The Matrix”.

That said, the “TRON: Legacy” performance by all three Jeff Bridges (a five-time Oscar nominee) pales in comparison to his recent standout work in the new Joel and Ethan Coen film “True Grit” and especially 2009’s “Crazy Heart”.

“Tron” and “TRON: Legacy” both share the same double-edged sword. While they’re visually arresting for their eras, they’re also unbalanced. On a 10-point meter comprised of visuals and story where ideally each would consume five points equally, both films tip the scale in the tech department with eight while only leaving two for humanity.

Beau Garrett in TRON: Legacy
Beau Garrett in “TRON: Legacy”.
Image credit: Disney Enterprises

It’s no surprise that “TRON: Legacy” wasn’t done on the cheap. The film’s estimated production budget of $200 million clearly prioritized its visuals. We’ve seen that imbalance many times before with films like the new “Star Wars” movies where money was so heavily plunked into technology that its humanity and acting suffer dramatically.

While 1982’s “Tron” was especially a landmark achievement with its technological innovations, these days we’ve seen this kind of tech feat before with films like 2008’s “Speed Racer” from the Wachowski brothers along with similar elements in their “The Matrix” films.

And while “TRON: Legacy” has already been selected as a semi-finalist for achievement in visual effects by the 83rd Academy Awards (along with films like “Inception,” “Iron Man 2,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”), we won’t be seeing it up for other major acting- or story-related Oscars.

Jeff Bridges in TRON: Legacy
Jeff Bridges in “TRON: Legacy”.
Image credit: Disney Enterprises

Aside from its unquestionable visual accomplishments, “TRON: Legacy” does have a memorable score from Daft Punk. While the light-hearted Michael Sheen attempts to be the “fun” and “funny” in this film, he ends up merely having too much fun with himself. Beau Garrett has some serious sensual potential, but the “PG” in “TRON: Legacy” doesn’t let her climax.

TRON: Legacy,” which is distributed by Disney, is questionably rated “PG” for “sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language”. But parents should seriously think twice about bringing a 10-year-old child to this film. While its language is tame, its action is intense and its themes would likely be over their heads.

Excellent “kid films” such as “Toy Story 3” succeed in appealing to both kids and the adults who bring and pay for them. “TRON: Legacy” should be rated “PG-13” for the same reasons the MPAA gave “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” a rating of “PG-13” for “some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images”.

TRON: Legacy concept art
TRON: Legacy” concept art.
Image credit: Disney Enterprises

While the MPAA considered a mostly nude orgy scene to be “brief sensuality” in the latest Harry Potter film, “TRON: Legacy” has building sexuality between Garrett Hedlund and his mate Olivia Wilde that goes nowhere. “TRON: Legacy” only has the implication of a libido through its skin-tight costuming.

Many “TRON: Legacy” viewers will be surprised to learn of its Disney affiliation. Whereas many Disney films are thought to be “for kids,” this one is a far cry from it. The typical film elements that win kids over – such as humor, falling down the stairs and quirky voices – are nowhere to be found here. While the 2010 film is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, 1982’s “Tron” was distributed by Buena Vista Pictures.

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Instead of being “for kids,” “TRON: Legacy” succeeds more as a film that’s for adults who really are “kids at heart”. It’ll be especially appreciated by hardcore gamers, technophiles and entertainment enthusiasts who enjoy theatrical thrill rides. On the other hand, those who want to develop instant love affairs with rich characters and complex scripts should steer clear.

Olivia Wilde (left) and Garrett Hedlund in TRON: Legacy
Olivia Wilde (left) and Garrett Hedlund in “TRON: Legacy”.
Image credit: Disney Enterprises

TRON: Legacy” stars Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Michael Sheen, Anis Cheurfa, Serinda Swan, Yaya DaCosta, Elizabeth Mathis, Kis Yurij, Conrad Coates, Ron Selmour and Daft Punk from director Joseph Kosinski and writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. The film is rated “PG” for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language, has a running time of 127 minutes and opened everywhere on Dec. 17, 2010.

HollywoodChicago.com editor-in-chief and publisher Adam Fendelman

By ADAM FENDELMAN
Editor-in-Chief/Publisher
HollywoodChicago.com
adam@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2010 Adam Fendelman, HollywoodChicago.com LLC

Anonymous's picture

Really?

While the MPAA considered a mostly nude orgy scene to be “brief sensuality” in the latest Harry Potter film.”
This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read.

Pixie Dust 37's picture

Harry Potter Sexuality

Well, if you have actually seen the latest Harry Potter movie, you would agree that the scene referenced in the review is indeed not brief sensuality.

Anonymous's picture

Yes I have seen it. Brief,

Yes I have seen it. Brief, yes, sensuality, arguable. The point is that the comment made is blowing it completely out of proportion.

Pixie Dust 37's picture

Harry Potter Sexuality

We will have to agree to disagree. I think it is not at all out of proportion. I think it is dead on, but that is the beauty of the difference of opinions. We are allowed to have them. :)

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