I remember the first time I caught sight of the glowing, blacklit neon appeal of TRON. The boxy upright console outshone the others in my hometown Putt-Putt arcade and I couldn't help desiring to bask in its purple hazed portal though I'd always considered Centipede to be my one and only love. Let's be honest, playing TRON was about as exciting as the saccharin in a can of Tab, no matter how romanced I was by that Starlight Express meets Pinball Wizard of a design story. It's a silly game popularized a silly movie and it seems the good folks down at Disney completely understand that. TRON may never be taken seriously for its dramatic narrative and that's exactly right-on, but it is bursting with cinematic content. For me, re-viewing the 1982 classic TRON flick and the recently reimagineered TRON: Legacy was pure pop Sci-Fi pleasure the likes of which anyone this side of the Logan's Run Carousel knows better than to over-analyze.
Anyway, what better way to punctuate sweet freedom of another semester completed and celebrate the spirit of the season than seeing TRON: Legacy in IMAX 3D over Christmas vacation? Disney's new take on the ambitious yet sketchy Rotoscoped, post modern, science-fantasy arcade-gaming jam delivers a not very smart but sometimes clever cross-section of tired sci-fi/fantasy genre clichés, slickly redesigned to diamond-cut, mind-blowing visual perfection, ever flying the promotional gaming flag and still driven (literally!) by a pre-Lebowski albeit CG'd Jeff Bridges (which raises questions about the ethical treatment of dead actors' imminent bodies of possible future work) as well as the more popular (and less obviously plasti-complexioned) post "Dude" Jeff Bridges. Aesthetically, TRON went from this:
...clunky helmet no longer required. I really love the visual shift in the application of a primary color scheme from TRON's UV tinged, patent eighties neons to the updated laser red, tungsten yellow and halogen blue as they appear both on and off their respective renderings of "the grid," not to mention the thrilling, hi-tech hard edge TRON: Legacy has over the crappy vectorgraphic "effects" dealt by its predecessor. However, TRON: Legacy does manage to shovel its fair share of shit: what's with that queeny Castor character and his, or should I say HER, swishy hardly-head-of-security counterpart? Accommodating the Brits-as-villains Star Wars stereotype much? Castor's little ditty and dance act should be cast out. And how about all that easy, cheesy dialogue? I swear some of those lines were straight up lifted from the Matrix --- is that why this film wasn't made ten years ago? And while I'm not buying so much the Neo/Jesus/Skywalker/Solo vibe of Kevin Flynn's son (played by Garrett Hedlund), Sam, I am totally vibing on Jeff Bridges' Obi Wan/God/Gandalf "zen thing" update of his completely timelapsed character, under the influence of a heavy dose of his Dudeness (Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing). I mean, really, if Bridges hadn't had his prior engagement with the brothers Coen, TRON: Legacy would probably only have its visual wizardry going for it and zero characters for folks like me to latch on to. Besides, I was more than ready to settle in and enjoy the ride after that opening sequence: Bridges' voice, speaking over Daft Punk's excellent score of electronic minimalism meets classical orchestration --- incorporating Wendy Carlos' original TRON soundtrack in a fitting homage --- urging us to think of a time when computers seemed more magical than mechanical and menacing, the inevitability of A.I. more a willing dream than nightmarish catastrophe. "The Grid," he recalls: "A digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they move through the computer. What did they look like? Ships? Motorcycles? Were the circuits like freeways? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see. And then, one day, I got in."