For your eyes only
Tron: Legacy (3D)
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Actors: Jeff Bridges, Garett Hudland
The girl (Olivia Wilde) is hot in a spunky sort of way (mandatory character for a fanboy fantasy). She loves Jules Verne, has read Tolstoy, is still a computer generated "program", mentored under a human being (Bridges), they call "user" (make that "loser") in this digital universe. This rare human contact’s made her curious of what earth’s like.
"What’s sunlight like?" she asks her mentor’s son (Garett Hudland). The young man ponders for a second, replies, "(I’ve) never had to describe it before. It’s warm, radiant, beautiful…." By this part of the film you realise how everything in the film so far, for so long, has left you tensely techno-cold. You miss the real world! It’s also the only portion in the film perhaps, where you think anything at all.
The screen is a humungous, dark canvas with strong tones of blackish blue. Objects – laser discs, super-bikes – merely stream in and out. They remind you of speeding car headlights that merge into red-yellow streaks, when modern city streets are shot on low shutter speed (refer images in National Geographic etc). Frisbees glow. Light cycles cut a neon figure. The show is overwhelming, to suggest the least.
Tron is an American franchise flick, which more often than not, for most parts, works on nostalgia alone. The Hollywood producers know they have little to fear for the global reception of this multi-million dollar production. Tron, the original, came out in 1982, when most of its current viewers were either too young or not born at all. Those old enough in India, being fed on racing cars at local arcades at the time, may not have accessed the Jeff Bridges starrer back then anyway. Clean slate is always a good thing. It keeps your enthusiasm going in a way, say X-Men or Wolverine cannot (or at least to me, they don’t), and only Spidey, Batman and Superman series still do.
A young son (Hudland) goes out in search of his father (Bridges), who mysteriously disappeared one fine evening from the world and his bedroom. The dad, a video game creator, it turns out, was sucked into the computer program he’d created himself. It’s been 20 years. The son wants to bring his father back, which is simple enough.
The audience hence lives out yet another human fantasy of ultimately existing in completely another realm – a digital “grid”, as it were, with its own villains (a young Bridges, crazily computer-generated), who wants to conquer the world, and platoons of “programs” who fight for him. The vision’s dim.
The only lively spot in this nether new-tron land is a neat lounge bar run by Castor (Michael Sheen) where "programs" chill out, down wine glasses of a glowing fluid. You’re not sure why software programs would need to drink to unwind, or how, for that matter, the human “user” here (Bridges) has graciously aged and survived two decades in a white robe, and a large disc on his back.
“Where does he take a dump, how does he shower?” I found myself asking my friend in the 3D Imax theatre, both of us feeling like geeks with thick glasses resting on the bridge of our nose, marveling at the state of science (if not art). It isn’t clear either how this “bio-digital” frontier could help overcome “scientific, philosophical” constraints of the natural (read, human) world. You are better off not questioning. The filmmakers are so besotted by their own gizmo-gadgetry, they figured, pure logic, let alone sub-text, would be the last thing lurking in the bedazzled viewer’s mind. They’re probably right.
James Cameron’s Avatar, in comparison, was almost a sensible allegory; and Disney’s previous 3D release, Despicable Me, far more playful. This one’s entirely an emotionless video game. Sometime soon, I suspect, spectacles like these would play out in 100 feet cinema screens, with gaming consoles on every seat. That's the future. You might wanna pick up that Light Cycle for now!