Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Movie: Tron: Legacy (2010)

What follows is completely irrational. I know that.

My name is Vince Keenan, and I loved Tron: Legacy.

Don’t try to disabuse me of my affection. My colleagues at the video game company have relentlessly itemized the movie’s flaws and I remain unswayed. The sole holdout at the office refuses to see the movie because, in his words, “I know how computers actually work.” Nobody made that argument about Toy Story 3. (OK, maybe Armond White did.) You’ll grant an inner life to a plastic action figure but not Quicken? If your empathy banks are that impoverished, I feel for you.

I know that the story – about a young man venturing into a synthetic realm in search of his father, who created it – is a hodgepodge of Christian allegory, dodgy Holocaust parallels and Joseph Campbell, laced with the most preposterous pseudoscience ever. And the way the title character is shoehorned into the narrative simply doesn’t work. Don’t care. Bought into it completely.

Maybe it’s because I still like the original movie. Or because Legacy so cannily exploits the fact that Jeff Bridges has become a beloved figure with a readily identifiable persona. Or because of the visceral thrill of watching Bridges square off against a digitized version of his 1982 self – although I prefer to think of the villain as a simulacrum of Richie Bone. Or because of Michael Sheen’s willingness to embrace his character’s looniness so completely. (Exactly what kind of code looks like Ziggy Stardust and does a Chaplin walk? I think I may have downloaded it by accident.) Or because of the brilliant Daft Punk soundtrack, which succeeds at being both one of their albums and an effective score. Or because the 3D photography for once adds to the believability of the film’s world. Director Joseph Kosinski isn’t getting enough credit for the deft way he handles the effects – or for his daring in undercutting them by closing with the most startling visual of all: the look in one of his actors’ eyes.

But ultimately I know why I fell for Tron: Legacy. It doesn’t indulge in the hipster storytelling that afflicts so many blockbusters, the knowing nods to convention. Legacy doesn’t wink once. It serves up this hooey unironically, with a sense of wonder that can’t be faked. In the age of iPhones, it still thinks computers are cool. A critic prefaced her year-end best list by saying that in order to earn a spot, a movie had to make her say “Wow” when it ended. When Tron: Legacy’s credits rolled, my only thought was, “Again.” That has to count for something, too.

Legacy was the first movie I saw at Seattle’s newly refurbished Cinerama, owned by Microsoft magnate Paul Allen. It’s still the best place in town to see a film, and now has memorabilia on display in the lobby including a costume from the original Tron. But if those are John Wayne’s jeans from The Searchers, I’ll eat the hat next to them.