Alternate worlds and computer games

Before I get to the cool stuff – let’s get this out of the way. Tron has a plot with more holes than a sieve, so if you’re looking for a thoughtful science fiction thriller, try Inception. However, if like me, you’re tempted to pant discreetly in the presence of state of the art technology and if testosterone laced fantasies of alternate worlds are your thing, well, Tron is running at Majestic Cinema.

Jeff Bridges has been one of my favourite actors for a long time and his performance in True Grit had the critics in ecstasies. In Tron, Bridges revisits a role that he played 28 years ago. The original Tron, might look incredibly dated now, but when it was released it was the first movie to create a digital world and embed human actors in it.

(Earliest attempts at creating alternate universes had always leaned heavily on blue screens, optical printers and what not.) Bridges played Kevin, a guy who gets lost in a computer game. Tron Legacy offers Bridges a chance to play that same role as a much younger man, but also puts him in the role of a much older Kevin and simultaneously that of a computer program/avatar. That he pulls of all three, without any fuss, makes me want to have his babies.

While I might be accused of wildly over exaggerating Bridge’s prowess, I wouldn’t make the same mistake of the movie’s younger lead. Garret Hedlund turns in a hot, entirely forgettable performance in the vein of Shia LaBeouf in Transformers and Olivia Wilde in her casting as the female lead packs more punch. One of the real talking points of the movie so far has been the performance of Michael Sheen (another entirely fabulous actor) in the role of an androgynous nightclub owner. He’s going for evil, I think, and it might be argued that he doesn’t get much beyond hilarious. One thing is for certain, he’s having the time of his life.

It’s hard to find fault with someone whose clearly having so much fun. Though 28 years separate Tron and Tron Legacy, both films have been described as stateof the art. Some of that technical magic is displayed in the very first sequence of the movie, where Kevin Flynn sits talking with his young son. At first, you could be forgiven for believing that Bridges looks twenty because he’s had a huge shot of botox, but it turns out that software designed especially for this purpose (think Benjamin Button) was what worked the illusion.

Much to my relief, the Bridges I know and love, old and haggard and seemingly always one step away from an alcoholic binge, appears later in the movie. The CGI version of younger Jeff sticks around to play Clu, an evil digital doppelganger and Kevin’s nemesis. Cluhas evil plans – you can take an educated guess as to what these may be – and Kevin must team up with his son to thwart them once and for all.

A few things niggled about the plot, and don’t read this if you’d rather not have them niggle at you too. Firstly, it’s a question of bodies. The shtick here is that the Tron universe exists only on computer chips. Both Kevin and his son manage to get sucked into this world though – Kevin for a staggeringly long time. What happens to the bodies?

How does Kevin stay alive inside there? Fortunately, for fans who waited a ridiculously long time for this movie, director Joseph Kosinski manages to overcome all these trivial questions to hit the ground atop an accelerating lightcycle.

Between the disc wars and the clingy body suits they’re fought in, Tron delivers some really elegant, adrenaline infused action sequences. I love the way the bikes in particular become an extension of their riders – looking at those sleek racing shapes you’re not sure where rider ends and bikes begin.

You might not notice, but thing that’s raising the hair on the back of your neck isn’t always the action – a critically acclaimed soundtrack for iconic duo Daft Punk is one of the best things about the movie.

In the end, the original Tron is still something of a cult favourite, known for its pioneering computer graphics and a look that defined 80s technology. Its plot – chaotic and dazzling by turns, but imperfectly delivered – proved ultimately rather forgettable.

It’s a formula that the makers of Tron Legacy seemed to have embraced unwittingly: visually, you have a gorgeous, almost elegant production, filled with exhilarating visual sequences. Storywise, you might be hard pressed to recall the details this time next year.

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