Yesterday afternoon I went to see Tron Legacy. My history with the franchise runs thus: the original was one of my favourite films as a child, and the utterly stunning trailers for the new one had me expecting greatness, before some ho-hum reviews brought me back down to Earth. So I went in expecting a visually amazing, aurally astounding FX spectacular… with a dodgy script.
That’s pretty much what I got. As a couple of hours of entertainment I had a good time, and there was nothing ‘wrong’ with it per se – the action scenes were really imaginative and great fun, for example, particularly the Light Cycle battles – but I couldn’t help feeling that before spending $200 million, Disney might have thought to get the script a bit more up to snuff. It didn’t help that the lead guy was bland Captain McBland from the Planet Bland, and Michael Sheen in his role as a nightclub owner gave a completely bizarre OTT performance that was completely tonally different from the rest of the film. The reinvention of the first film’s Flynn character as a God version of The Dude wasn’t entirely successful, though Jeff Bridges is always good value, and the quasi-religious themes present in the digital realm were often presented more than a little heavy-handedly. Some weird decisions were made here, not all of them for the better.
What did work, apart from the action sequences, were the touches of fan service to the original – in particular, the continuity from the appearances of Bruce Boxleitner, Flynn’s Arcade and Encom in the real world, the updated design of the identity discs, and the iconic vehicles such as the Recognizer and the aforementioned Light Cycles. All of these things had my inner geek grinning from ear to ear. So while the movie was far from perfect, and could have done with as much time being spent on the writing as everything else, I didn’t feel short-changed upon coming out of the cinema (other than over the opportunistically insane price hike to see 3D films, of course).
What puzzles me about Hollywood is that they spend so much money on making something look out of this world, a ton of dough on the cast, and then blanket-market the hell out of their big films, but what often seems to be forgotten in the process is what should be the first essential ingredient of any project, which is a screenplay that makes the most of the film’s concept. This black hole leaves us with a number of recent films that are arguably less than they could and should have been. Having said that, though, I’m one of those people who exacerbates the problem by going to see, and enjoying, movies that I already know are going to be simple popcorn audio-visual extravaganzas. But never mind. I’d love for someone to look into the relationship between reviews for blockbusters and their subsequent box-office receipts, and compare the results when there has been the same marketing spend but vastly different critical reaction. I’m sure there’s a link to quality there somewhere.
Incidentally, I obtained Daft Punk’s soundtrack for Tron Legacy as soon as I got home from seeing the film. It’s bloody amazing. Could well be new music to put on while I’m writing action scenes. I’ve listened to the Bourne soundtrack way too many times now, and this could bring some different energy to things.