Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Legacy of Tron

In a recent article at the Guardian website, Stuart Heritage took a moment to reconsider the 2010 motion picture Tron: Legacy and why he believes the film ultimately failed to find its audience. It seems to be widely-agreed that Tron: Legacy did not satisfy its audience, despite earning $400 million at the box office.

Heritage asserted the 1982 Tron was "Star Wars for people born a year or two too late." I'm not sure what that means - I first saw Tron somewhere within a year of its release, but Star Wars was massively important to me as a child, what with the new home video & cable TV markets making the films available beyond their original theatrical release and the simple fact that 1983's Return of the Jedi hadn't even come out yet. Heritage also wrote of Tron's reputation having been "built to the point where the producers made the mistake of treating it with a bit too much respect." I have to admit, I was unaware Tron had much of a reputation by 2010 - I watched it at least once on television later in the 1980s, but that's it - I saw it twice as a child and while I had fond memories of it, it didn't mean much in my household, nor was it a film my friends reminisced about with me.

Surely there was a great following behind Tron - heck, I'm sure Krull still has a lot of fans. I do agree with Heritage's assertion about Tron's reputation being a problem in Tron; Legacy, but for a different reason; Heritage complains about many deviations from the style of the earlier film. Myself, I was simply lost for great periods of time. Tron: Legacy is certainly not a very well-plotted movie, but as I didn't commit the details of the original film to memory, I blanked out at much of the attempted exposition. Heck, I didn't remember who/what Clu was and he's essential to the sequel. Still, for all I'd forgotten of the earlier film, I did have an uneasy feeling that some of what appeared in the sequel was retconning details from before, but that's an aside.

To sum up: I think the real problem with Tron: Legacy was assuming there was a rabid following for the earlier film who were chomping at the bit to pick up the story as though 28 years hadn't passed. For the rest of us, we may have had some familiarity with Tron (uh, the one where the guy goes inside a video game, right?), but we assumed this picture would be a more-or-less self-contained sequel. Show this film to someone who hasn't seen the original and they'll surely wonder why the movie even has "Tron" in the title, given how little that character has to do with the film.

Heritage and I do agree about Bridges' odd performance in Tron: Legacy, wherein for some reason he channels "the Dude" from the Big Lebowski. I did appreciate the humour in the theater (anything which evoked an emotional reaction was welcome), but at same time... c'mon. Popular as "the Dude" performance is with audiences, there was no need to pander. Y'know, we do realize Jeff Bridges is an actor and does from time to time portray different characters. Some lampshades need not be hung.

My biggest disagreement with Heritage is over the soundtrack. He wrote: "Where there was once a machine-like hum, now there is the sort of relentlessly urgent soundbed that everyone starting ripping off The Dark Knight came out." Laying aside that the Dark Knight is perhaps my favourite soundtrack, I enjoyed the Tron: Legacy soundtrack Daft Punk developed quite a bit - it was the one element of the film my friends and I all agreed upon at the theater. Not only did I bring the soundtrack home, later I wound up with the Tron: Legacy - Reconfigured soundtrack which I enjoy even more than the original. This, to me, is the real "legacy" of the picture - some pretty good Daft Punk music. As for the picture... I saw it once. That'll probably do.

4 comments:

Craig Dylke said...

I was JUST listening to Legacy again. So good...

Dark Knight rip off... LOL, those guys need to do a review of Zimmer's career. Dark Knight is a rip off of all of Zimmer's older work.

I still would pick Legacy as one of the most fresh and groundbreaking soundtracks of the past decade. There is nothing else like it out there (though Wreck It Ralph has a few moments that are pleasantly Tron like).

Michael Hoskin said...

I suppose it comes down to the audience's familiarity with Zimmer's work - everyone went to see the Dark Knight then began imitating the score, while not as many people went to see Crimson Tide (with virtually the same score).

I've had days in the last few weeks where I played Reconfigured all night long. Love it. It's nothing like Zimmer, however.

Craig Dylke said...

I'd also agree with your not very Zimmer like...

In instrumentation...

Music structure it actually is very Zimmer like as he helped Daft Punk write that score (as did John Powell). However unlike Zimmer, Daft Punk used a new orchestration. Which if Zimmer did more often, I think I'd cut him a LOT more slack!

Michael Hoskin said...

Then I suppose I just paid Zimmer the highest compliment by saying he didn't sound like Zimmer!