Monday, August 27, 2007

Movie Review: Tron

Saw this one at the Paramount Theater downtown - in "glorous 70mm". I'm not entirely sure what that gets me; I assume that wider film in some means better resolution and fidelity since there's more surface area available, and the Wikipedia page claims it holds up better as special effects are added. All I know is, the film looked good, especially for a 25-year-old film.

So yeah, as a techie, Tron holds a nostalgic place for me, but seeing it again, it's one of those memories better left in the brain. It's an OK film, but nothing great. The big wins are still the visual designs and CGI/animation portions (with one glaring exception). The design work of the landscapes, the vehicles, the games - all are very well done and very well realized, especially given the technology available at the time. The exception is the costumes for the "Programs". This was always going to be the sticking point - they couldn't actually integrate in CGI and humans, it was all just animation. So they used these flannel toga things that just didn't work out very well. And whoever decided Sark needed extra prongs all over his headpiece was working a little too hard.

Oh, and I had forgotten about the Programs dressed up as vacuum tubes - seemed to be a little misunderstanding about the difference between software and hardware there.

So the visuals and action scenes were OK. The main problem with the movie is the dialogue. You can tell that despite all of the extra tech going on, this is still a 1980's Disney movie, with all of the cheesiness that implies. So when our heroes successfully escape from the light cycle match, Tron turns to the others and says "We made it...long pause...for now."

My favorite moment is when the humans are breaking into the laser lab. Flynn hacks the computer lock with a Mattel Football game or something, and then everyone stands around and waits for twenty seconds for a three-foot thick door to slowly swing open. No music, no dialogue, just standing and waiting. Finally, Flynn says "That's a really big door." I'm hoping that Jeff Bridges ad libbed that line. It's even funnier if you imagine The Dude saying the line - "Now that's a really big fucking door, man."

It doesn't help that everyone in the movie except Bridges treats every line as seriously as possible. They all play it straight, except for Bridges, who seems to be having a pretty fun time, jumping around, playing the goofy techie guy. But the script is just too cliched to play straight, and so everyone else comes off looking really bad.

In the end, three stars for the design and Jeff Bridges, zero stars for the script and everyone else.

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