Friday 17 December 2010

Abort, retry, epic fail: "Tron: Legacy" (ST 19/12/10)

Tron: Legacy (PG) 125 mins *

You remember 1982’s Tron, don’t you? One of the first Hollywood films to engage with virtual realities, it boasted what were then state-of-the-art effects, the young Jeff Bridges, and not all that much else besides. At best, the film perhaps merited a five-minute retrospective on an I Love the 80s clipshow; instead, a decision has been taken to update its source code – at great expense – in the hope of tapping any false nostalgia still lingering after July’s A-Team movie. The result is almost unbelievably soulless product – a sapping series of deceptions and disappointments packaged as a top-of-the-range 3D Christmas gift. Sorry folks, no refunds.

Tron 2.0 feigns sticking it to The Man, even as its other hand sets about crushing anybody who even thinks of streaming it online. Hero Sam Flynn (walking, smirking haircut Garrett Hedlund) is striving to keep in the public domain software first designed by his father – Bridges’ Kevin – and since co-opted by an Evil Corporation that, you know, cares more about stock prices than it does about what the kids want. (Unlike backers Disney, of course.) To do this, he must pass into the cyberworld itself, where he undergoes several Rollerball-like challenges to earn his freedom and (yawn) his pappy’s respect, virtual or otherwise.

Director Joseph Kosinski hails from advertising, and it shows: he tires of narrative coherence within ninety seconds, and thereafter prefers posing models to actual actors. Michael Sheen’s lively hamming as a cane-swishing nightclub owner merely underlines how impersonal – how inhuman – much else here is. One of the in-game Bridges is rendered as his twentysomething self from the first movie, and given the choice between a creaseless, computer-generated Bridges and a grizzled, lived-in Bridges, I know where I’d put my money: True Grit opens in cinemas next month.

These effects, supposedly game-changing, instead conspire to sink Legacy something rotten. Avatar, with its liberated depth of field and rapturous responses to nature, felt like a world worth escaping into, whichever story was told therein. Tron’s 3D has been spent on something grey and dreary, heavy on vectors and algorithms, light on romance, humour and adventure. It’s an enterprise designed by committee, built by robots, and watching it feels like being stuck in a boardroom for the holidays, with only a relentless PowerPoint presentation to make up for being denied fresh air, good company, or indeed a life.

Tron: Legacy opens nationwide today.

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