Monday, December 20, 2010

The Clu Abides

Perhaps you've seen 1982's TRON. It's a movie that has served as a model for big studio blockbusters since it came out. Every movie since TRON has followed in its footsteps and had spectacular special effects coupled with a weak, often stupid story. It's also a movie that, in the 27 years since it came out, has inspired exactly no calls for a sequel. Hollywood heard that message and has given us TRON: Legacy.

The movie's greatest achievement is that they managed to pack enough money into a moving van to convince Jeff Bridges to reprise the role of Kevin Flynn, a role I barely remembered he had done. When I think of TRON, I think of lightcycles and glowing disc battles and pretty much forget that it even had people in it. I suspect I will think of TRON: Legacy in much the same way as the years go by. The lightcyles and disc battles in this movie are great and I really mean that. I hope there's a special DVD release of just those. The problem was that there weren't enough of those. I normally complain that an action movie's plot was thin to the point of being non-existent. In this case, the problem with TRON: Legacy was that it had too much plot. Every time you'd have something like, say, a cool lightcycle scene, it would be followed by what felt like 2 hours of characters chatting aimlessly about algorithms or Isomorphs or, worst of all, their feelings.

Rising young actor Garrett Hedlund, one of those guys you've never heard of until suddenly he's in everything, plays Kevin Flynn's son Sam. Sam's been in a generally pissy mood since about 1990 when dad Kevin disappeared and he takes his mood out on society. Oh, nothing serious, mind you. When we first see him as an adult, he's sneaking into his dad's old company, ENCOM, in order to take a new piece of software they plan to sell and puts it on the web for free. After he dramatically exits the building only to be chased down by the police, we discover that everything he did was completely pointless since, as his father's heir, he's majority stockholder of ENCOM and could have just told them to do that. Also reprising his role from the original movie is Bruce Boxleitner who played Flynn's partner, Allen Bradley, as well as the titular* character, a security program called TRON. Allen lets Sam know that he received a page from his father's old phone, a number that's been disconnected for 20 years so Sam heads on down to the old Flynn arcade and, through a series of innocuous circumstances, ends up in the computer world we first saw in 1982.

The movie wisely wisely declines to try to explain how any of this is possible and instead focuses on the vast, dark landscape of the Grid. I'm of the opinion that making everything dark is the last refuge of incompetent art directors but I did like the way the Grid looked. As they did to his dad in 1982, merciless patrollers pick up Sam thinking he's just another program in this virtual reality and toss him into an arena to fight for his life in a very extreme version of ring toss. This brings him to the attention of his dad but OH NO it's not his dad. It's Clu, Kevin Flynn's lookalike avatar who has taken over the city and forced Flynn himself to the outer edges of the Grid. Even though Clu says he needs Sam alive, he forces him into another deadly contest, this time with LIGHTCYLCES WOO! That makes no sense but that's fine with me. I like lightcycles. Lightcycles are those things that drive around and create a wall behind them into which other lightcycles can crash and, with 2010 computer technology, they're now far more maneuverable than they were in 1982.

Sadly, this good thing must come to an end and Sam escapes Clu with the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a student of his father. She brings him to Kevin Flynn and we once again see that, judging by his appearance and his dialogue, Jeff Bridges has decided that every character he plays from now on will be some variation of the Dude. Kevin Flynn is a man who, depending on the needs of the script, is either helpless or has god-like powers, a situation that makes it difficult for them to return to the exit portal in the middle of Clu's fortress. On their journey there, Sam and Kevin talk A LOT about Sam's daddy issues before the action finally starts back up again. When the action DOES start up, it turns out Clu has daddy issues of his own. Does Sam A) get to go home and B) get to have sex with Quorra. It's a Disney film so no to the second one, at least not onscreen. As for the first, what do you think?

To wrap things up, here is my advice for the next sequel in 2038. God only knows what will be possible then, special effects wise, but that's what the movie should be. Don't have Sam Flynn have to be rescued by some jerk off son or, if you go that route, don't spend half the movie talking about it. The actors did OK but I didn't care. Disc battles and lightcycles should rule the day. In fact, disc battles should be in every movie from now on including Black Swan and The King's Speech. Make it so.

And that concludes this edition of Jeff Bridges Movie Of The Week. Come back next week for True Grit and the week after Little Fockers starring Jeff Bridges.

*I love that word. I think I'll use it more often. Signed, Michael Clear, titular own of this blog.

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