Review: Tron Legacy

Atmosphere:  A+.  Despite all of the modernization and environmental redesign, the Tron universe is very recognizable, and seamlessly executed with visuals and (of course) the Daft Punk soundtrack.  Details are everywhere, but rarely threaten to drag the film down the slippery slope of Michael Bay-ish overpowering sensory noise.

Intelligence:  C+.  Based entirely on preposterous ideas and inexplicable plot devices, it nevertheless does offer a few nice novelties and twists, and maintains passable cohesion in this limited and expected scope.  The script dialog for each actor is surprisingly appropriate and reasonable for their characters.

Involvement:  B+.  Direction and acting are actually quite good (especially Jeff Bridges), but pacing is occasionally a problem.  The characters have adequate development and should be somewhat genuinely interesting even to non-fans of Tron.  The storyline (if not the science behind it) largely resolves itself naturally with only a few eyebrow-raising moments, and is pleasantly surprising in substance.

What will annoy you:

Plot devices.  Many are slap-you-in-the-face obvious for anyone who has seen the previous film or has half a brain.  Others are just cliches dressed in new clothing, blurring the line between “program represented as human facsimile” and cheesy heroism/romanticism as a tool to quickly further the story’s progress.

Deviation.  Tron made decent attempts to connect real-world computing technology with observable phenomena in the digital world.  Tron Legacy received more of a dreamworld treatment where things just “were” a certain way, and I missed this connection to the original universe.  I certainly wouldn’t have wanted a 50’s-style educational discourse anywhere in the middle of the film, but a few more intellectually stimulating tidbits here and there would have been welcome.

Marketing.  The official trailers for the movie take various scenes out of context and give a false impression of the final product.  They seem to focus on outlandishness and tired cinematography, and it’s unfortunate that people might be turned off from what is a much more impressive film in its totality.

Follow-through.  I and many other movie-goers waited through all of the credits, fully expecting at least one tie-up of certain open points of interest (I’m pretty sure you’ll think of at least one or two when you see it), but alas, none were to be had.  Hopefully this is just to keep you guessing and waiting for a sequel.

Digital Actors.  While extremely impressive, I didn’t consider them up to Avatar standards (the new baseline in motion capture technology) and was surprised at how easy it was to see the lack of humanity in them.  This may partly be due to the fact that we as human viewers are hard-wired to scrutinize other human faces much more carefully than alien-hybrids, but I’m reasonably certain there is a technological gap here.

Sam Flynn.  He’s kind of a dumb-ass compared to his father.  This isn’t a huge gripe, except that he’s the lead character.  But, at least he isn’t half as annoying or limited in range as Sam Worthington in Avatar.

Resolution.  It’s not that there were gaping plot holes; it’s that the ideas behind them were gaping in intelligence.  More than one plot point was resolved in fine fashion while also leaving me puzzled as to why it was required.  It’s difficult to explain without giving away spoilers, but you may get one or two head-scratching moments even before the heavily-foreshadowed tie-ups take place.  “Reintegration” is one that burns in my mind so badly that I have to mention it here without worrying too much over what it reveals, because I am sure you’ll remember it also.

Review: Valhalla Rising

Atmosphere:  B-.  Good attention to detail and beautiful scenery.  Stoic and silent Viking portrayal.  Effectively (to say the least at times) conveys mood of primary characters to the audience.

Intelligence:  C.  Has few interesting developments, but then again, doesn’t have high aspirations.

Involvement:  D+.  It will take some real effort to hang on due to art-house direction and amateur scripting.

What will annoy you:

Blood.  Every bit of blood from an impact in this movie is digitally enhanced, and obviously so; in addition it makes positively the wettest sound you will ever hear.  It’s a cartoon-like effect that’s badly out of place with the atmosphere.

Mystical Confusion.  There are certain primeval fears we all share: being operated upon without our consent, parasite infestations, large predatory eyes and teeth, etc.  One of those fears, though not commonly discussed, is suicide of our loved ones.  We all have a basic paranoia that someone we know will try to end their own lives and we won’t be able to stop them.  Whoever wrote this story is completely obsessed with this idea; at some point, nearly every character catches the fever of lost ambition and wanders off in a stupor to die, and the only one questioning their actions is the moviegoer.

Directing.  You know how when you were 14 you thought you could make the greatest movie in the world, never realizing how hackneyed, immature and overbearing it would be?  Valhalla Rising is the movie I would have made at 14.  It’s an art shoot more than anything else.  It’s as if the director said “ok, you guys are really depressed now, so just wander around the area here writhing in your own self-pity and we’ll take all sorts of shots”.  The problem is, they appear to have used every single shot they took.  Some of these overextended model shoots are unbearably long, others instantly expose the director’s desperate and predictable need to affect you emotionally, and all push far, far past the boundary of suspension of disbelief.

Length.  The actual substance of this story, minus the art-house formatting, could be told with feeling in about 10 minutes.