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Friday, December 17, 2010

Disney’s “Tron: Legacy” Movie Review

Movie Rating: PG - Appropriate for families - In 3D, IMAX (this was first published on Technorati)

Background to TRON: Initially released in 1982 (at the cusp of the IMB PC introduction, and way before wireless technology and the Internet), the original TRON was Walt Disney Studio’s pioneer high-tech movie. Now considered a cult classic, TRON was cutting-edge, taking computer graphics to an entirely new level. The film included virtual sets and live action sequences blended with hand drawn animation – a major motion-picture studio first.  (Continued)

Tron's Light Cycle, cool visual effect

In TRON, the simple plot centers on the main character, Kevin Flynn, (played by Jeff Bridges) as he creates the internal world of his gaming grid and has to discover and create the rules of the game in real time. Kevin creates Clu, a master program in his likeness, to govern the growth of the digital kingdom. But Clu soon develops a mind of his own and begins to plot against Kevin and make him a prisoner in his own virtual world.

TRON, written and directed by Steven Lisberger, was initially intended to be an animated film. Along the way, Lisberger visualized an entirely bold concept, to include live-action elements with computer animation.
 A number of studios rejected the prospect of such a film since it had never been tested before. Disney, known for its superb animation, took on the film and helped establish a new high-tech movie industry. It would not be farfetched to say TRON was instrumental in the way all CG movies are made today.
Fast forward 28 years later to the highly anticipated sequel, TRON: Legacy. Today’s advances in computer technology takes this sequel to an entirely new level and has created a feast for the eyes just in time for the holidays.

In TRON: Legacy, gone are the warehouse sets and handmade props and in their place is an actual virtual computer world which uses 3D very effectively. I know this because I have a sensitive stomach and felt close to tossing my popcorn as the stunning visuals take you across a spectacular cityscape where you fly like Harry Potter across the landscape. The sound effects are ever so subtle, heightening the viewer’s experience as you hear the wind rushing by your side as you glide over the cityscape.

At the heart of the movie is a Disney fairy tale meshed with an updated Wizard of Oz plot. Like last summer’s Avatar (another visually stunning and ground-breaking movie) both have simple, moral themes about good versus evil, about the frailty of human relationships, the genocide of a race if good does not prevail, and finding one’s way back home.

The first time I saw The Wizard of Oz, I vividly remember when Dorothy wasn’t in Kansas anymore; the transition from black and white to color was magical. In TRON: Legacy, there is an equally vivid transition from the real world (ironically in 2D), to the virtual world (in 3D). Like Dorothy, Sam Flynn (played by Garrett Hedlund), is orphaned at an early age. A cyclone takes Dorothy to a new land of enchantment and her quest for home; for Sam it is an arcade that contains a portal to another world and an adventure that leads him back to his father.

Sam does not encounter a scarecrow, tin man or cowardly lion, but like Dorothy, he has various obstacles he must overcome or certain death will be his outcome. He does encounter one confidante along the way, Quorra (played by the lovely Olivia Wilde). Like the scarecrow, she is the soul of the movie.

There are other Oz-similarities including a Toto-like dog and the evil Clu who is analogous to the Wicked Witch of the west. And rather than ruby red slippers, Clu is determined to obtain Kevin Flynn’s light disk which contains all of his user data and is also a key to the outside world.

Clu, played by a computer animated and younger Jeff Bridges, may be the ultimate first in a CG movie where an actor is playing next to his younger version. It’s wonderful to see a 30-year old version of Jeff Bridges alongside his current-day self. Equally wonderful is seeing Bruce Boxleitner reprise his role as Alan Bradley, although a younger version of him is not part of the plot.

Were “TRON: Legacy” to have come out a year before Jim Cameron’s Avatar, it might have been as lauded as a technical sensation. And while it does have a number of technical achievements (including a fantastic soundtrack by DAFT PUNK), it may not seem as earth shattering as Avatar. Nonetheless it is a visual work of art and for all science fiction, adventure-loving movie goers, this is a must see movie. It will leave you visually satiated and satisfied this holiday season.

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