Tron Curtain

Fiona dragged me to see TRON: LEGACY, out of some kind of nostalgic feeling for the attractive but narratively cumbrous 80s original. And she got exactly what she was expecting, so that was nice. And I didn’t hate it, either.

The opening is kind of nice — luminous green gridlines forming into a city, while Jeff Bridges murmurs some poetic-sounding stuff in VO. Then we get a scene of a digitally-rejuvenated Bridges putting his kid to bed — they keep his face hidden until he starts to leave and turns back for one line — and for that one line, they sustain the illusion, and it’s pretty spooky. Uncanny Valley here we come.

And then we have to flash-forward to the present day and there’s a bunch of TVs sitting on a black glass plain while the news broadcast on their screens fills us in on some expository stuff, and somebody’s artfully added some bars rolling up the TV screens, the way they used to do in movies before anyone figured out how to deal with the camera shutter and the whole 24fps/25fps thing, or whatever it was that did that. So that showed attention to detail and a puckish sense of humour somewhere. So I thought, let’s really give this a chance, and see where it trips up…

And there’s not exactly a moment where it does, just a slow slide into banality. Leading man Garrett Hedlund struck me as wooden, but look what he’s got to work with: every line a stultifying cliche, every damn line! And his character doesn’t go through much actual growth or change, God knows.

We do get two Jeff Bridgeses for our money, and the old grizzled one has been written with some Dude Lebowski speech patterns to make him entertaining, and the young digitally-facelifted one is creepy to look at, in a Robert Zemeckis way. After that first, surprising shot, you get a chance to look him over and note how his lips don’t behave like human lips and his eyes don’t seem to have any expression — it kind of works for a humanoid computer program character, I guess, but it suggests there are still limits to this technology.

We also get Michael Sheen in a cameo as a camp bad guy, and this is the genuine highlight, acting-wise. Nine-parts David Bowie to one part Tim Curry, with one line delivered as Bruno for good measure, this is literally a masterclass in queeny ham, with Sheen using props as if he was in a drama workshop with a gun at his head. Very nice indeed. I rather wanted him not to be a villain and not to die, but alas, cliches reign…

And then there’s Olivia Wilde, whose charms surpass mere acting: her catsuit and bobbed hair look had Fiona turning “lesbionic” whenever she was onscreen. She’s very beautiful indeed, hypnotically so, and she even has a character to play, a naive cyber-person who’s interested in the world beyond the virtual reality universe she inhabits. She does two things that I liked: when she’s seen driving a sci-fi vehicle through the digital landscape, her hands are on the wheel making little turns every second, as if she’s driving through a slalom (the road doesn’t curve that much) — I like to think this is just the actress taking the piss out of the whole thing.

And at the end, liberated from the shiny computerverse, she buries her face in Hedlund’s scarf, and I thought, “Yeah, I bet they don’t even have smells in that streamlined artificial world. Their bowel movements probably look like Pac-Man’s pac-dots.” But that’s a good bit of acting, you see — it opens up a whole universe.

12 Responses to “Tron Curtain”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by dcairns, Fiona Watson. Fiona Watson said: @michaelsheen Right, this better be the REAL you. If it is, you might enjoy this. […]

  2. I hated it but still had a good time. I thought I spotted a little bit of Marius Goring in Michael Sheen.

  3. There’s a little bit of Marius Goring in all of us. Og, you mean playing with his walking stick? You might be right!

  4. It’s the walking stick and the bit where he conjures up the stairs.

  5. Oh, I think that bit’s Georges Guitary in An American in Paris — he sings Stairway to Paradise on a stair that looks exactly like the one in T:L.

  6. You guys are making this movie sound interesting. Knock it off.

  7. Oh, it’s certainly not interesting. But pretty: they have the 2001 and Blade Runner references down pat. They should have thrown in some Marienbad too, to keep it lively, but I don’t think they’ve seen that one.

  8. I’m really curious about seeing this, I loved the original and you got me curious about the creepy digital version of Jeff Bridges

  9. kevin mummery Says:

    Having just seen “True Grit”, and having no plans whatever to see “Tron”, I had the idea that it might be interesting to transpose Jeff Bridges’ character Rooster Cogburn into the Troniverse just to liven up what appears (from the trailers) to be a very dull movie with semi-interesting visuals. Also while we’re at it maybe substitute PeeWee Herman for Michael Sheen’s Marius Goring impersonation. I don’t know why people in Hollywood never listen to my casting suggestions.

  10. Well, infusing a bit of the Dude into Bridges’ characterisation helps, although they don’t make him goofy enough to really break out of the genre. I’d prefer it if unoriginal Hollywood movies at least mixed a few surprising derivative elements into the stew.

    What’s also weird is that, in the original film, the people of the Grid are a populace to be rescued by American intervention, but in this movie they’re completely disposable. May have something to do with current foreign policy.

  11. TRON LEGACY is not as good as the orignal TRON – which was hardly a masterpiece – and the whole concept (virtual worlds, sentient programs) was executed better by R.W. Fassbinder in his 1973 miniseries, WORLD ON A WIRE.

  12. Agreed. While the first Tron makes the weird mistake of dividing the hero into two characters, for no gain whatsoever, the new one uses Tron himself for only about ten minutes. The movie would really make more sense without him.

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