Friday, January 07, 2011

"Tron: Legacy" a Visual Feast

On New Year's Day, I went to see Tron: Legacy in XD 3-D. I had no idea that there was such a thing called XD (for Extra Digital). I hadn't planned to see this movie, but when a review in the paper mentioned that this movie had to be seen in 3-D, I decided, "Why not?" Avatar made me a fan of 3-D films and I don't go see every single one (I thought about seeing Alice in Wonderland in 3-D but I really don't like Tim Burton's weirdness anymore. I stopped seeing his movies since his Planet of the Apes remake). The review wasn't impressed with the storyline / plot of the Tron sequel, but the reviewer said that the special effects is satisfying enough that you won't even notice.

I remember seeing the original Tron in theaters. My dad took me when I was young boy. I don't remember much about the movie, other than how I loved the way the light was used. The whole day-glo neon light just impressed me back then (and still does. I'm thinking its a deeply spiritual thing, since the spiritual realm is supposedly made of translucent light). I played the Tron video game enough times in my youth and it was a popular film among my group of friends. Unfortunately, the original is not available on DVD so I couldn't check it out to refresh my memory. I had to go into this sequel with little memory about the storyline. Perhaps that's what the creators had in mind. Perhaps they didn't want the original film to discourage potential new fans from checking this sequel out.

The film began with a statement stating that some scenes are not in 3-D, just so we wouldn't wonder if our special glasses weren't working or if we had went into the theater showing the 2-D version. As the film began, I understood what the filmmakers were aiming at. The use of 3-D in this film is reminiscent of the use of colour in The Wizard of Oz. Only the scenes in the cyberworld of Tron would be 3-D. The scenes in the real world were 2-D. Pretty clever, I think.

I was easily taken in with this film. Like the young man who finds himself in this strange world, the audience is along for the ride as we try to figure things out with the main character. The young man is the son of the guy (played by Jeff Bridges, who was in the original) who created the cyberworld of Tron and had disappeared from earth in 1989. The tech company he left behind has been doing well in his absence, though his son has been known to engage in what some might consider "cyber-terrorism" by making some parts free for users.

The character finds himself suited up and sent to play a variety of gladiatorial games in this strange, futuristic cyber-universe. When its discovered that he's a "user" rather than a program, the leader of this world seeks his presence. The mystery deepens and then the most familiar scene of Tron begins: the cool motorcycle that creates walls as its afterburn in a contest of trapping the opponent in a closed off maze. This scene is far better than the one in the original movie or the video game. This is what 3-D was made for!!! Oh, and the XD part of this movie included a complete vibration of the entire theater when the strange looking aircraft hovers onscreen.

As the film moves along, with stunning visuals and the brilliant light that is apparent throughout, this is clearly one of the most stylish films I've seen in a long while. I love it! I was worried that the storyline would bore me, but I actually saw an interesting spiritual subtext throughout the film. It clearly fits in with the kind of futuristic film fantasies that I love. Basically, in a high-tech futurist world that is highly regimented, authoritarian / totalitarian, and conformist, the individualist who fights against it is the hero. Plus there's the story about the son rescuing the father he had not seen in decades. His father has been hiding out in a vast wasteland where he has a view of the main city far off in the distance. His place is very zen and he spends much of his time in meditation.

The spiritual subtext deals with the aspect of a creator who has built a perfect world, but in that perfection, something has gone wrong. The enforced conformity and oppressive environment leaves much to be desired. The lesson learned is that imperfection is okay, because life is messy and allows people to learn from mistakes. Its a pretty good storyline to me, but make no mistake, the visuals on this film is completely amazing. I was truly in some geeklike spiritual realm watching this movie. It has to be seen in 3-D! Defintely worth it.
I did not see this film in time to consider it for my end of year Best of list, otherwise I would have found my Best Supporting Actor and Actress. In this film, I LOVED Olivia Wilde, who played the young lady that the protagonist meets and fights alongside with. I'm a complete sucker for women with a hairstyle like hers. She is awesome! So, in 2010, she gets my vote for Best Supporting Actress!

The Best Supporting Actor would go to Michael Sheen, who plays it campy in one critical scene. He's a mix of Data (from Star Trek: The Next Generation), Khan (from Star Trek II), the Merovingian (The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions) and David Bowie. Its a role unlike any you've seen him in before (he has played British Prime Minister Tony Blair in three films now). There's nothing like good camp in a movie like this.

If Disney will just hurry up and release the original Tron on DVD, then I can watch that again and get a better understanding of the story behind this universe. I think it was a movie far ahead of its time (I can't remember when it was released, but I want to say between 1980 and 1982). Right now, there is a cyberworld called Second Life where people create alternative identities and some have gotten addicted to it that it has distracted them from real life. I'm not into online gaming or alternative cyber-universes because I simply don't have the time to devote to such activities. I do find it interesting, though, and there might even be a novel idea in it at some future point. What interests me is the idea that the creation of these Internet alternative universes with online avatars that live a life of their own. In a sense, we are gods to the computer generated identities, and perhaps that is how God and the spiritual realm views our life on earth. We are like a computer game for the spiritual world.

The best kinds of movies for me are the kinds that get me thinking on a wide range of topics. Tron: Legacy is that kind of film for me. Bravo, all around! A must-see visual treat for your eyes and mind. See it in 3-D while you have the opportunity. This was made for the multi-dimensional experience.

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