I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of video games just as much as I am a fan of movies as both have been a key part of my life for as long as I can remember. But here’s the thing… when you combine these two forms of media, the end results are never really that good. Most movie-licensed video games really end up being nothing more than simple ‘cash grabs’ looking to bank on the success of the movies they’re based on, as they are rushed out around the time of the movie’s release date (most infamously ‘E.T.’ for the Atari 2600, which had to be made in just five-and-a-half weeks to meet a Christmas deadline with the end result being so bad that Atari buried a large amount of unsold copies of the game in a landfill in New Mexico). And on the other side of the spectrum, most movies that are based on video games are, to put it bluntly, quite terrible. Usually the main reason for this is because a lot of them stray from the source material quite drastically, like ‘Super Mario Bros.’ or the 1994 ‘Street Fighter’ film. There have been some decent video-game based films that have come out over the years like ‘Mortal Kombat’ and ‘Prince of Persia’ but for the most part a lot of them suck. But who knows? Maybe we’ll get a great video-game based film sometime soon. After all, there are quite a few of these films that are currently in development including film adaptations of games like ‘Assassin’s Creed’ and ‘World of Warcraft’. However, that’s not why we’re here today…
For you see if you really think about it, the best ‘video game movies’ actually aren’t ones that are based on a particular game. Instead, the best ‘video game movies’ are ones with stories that are ‘inspired/influenced by video games’ and I do feel that because of that, these films work much better because the filmmakers/writers aren’t trying to condense the plot of a video game into a two hour movie and they don’t have to worry that much about having to stay true to any source material. With that said, two of the best films that are ‘inspired’ by video games, in my opinion, are Disney’s ‘Tron’ movies, consisting of the 1982 cult classic ‘Tron’ and its 2010 sequel, ‘Tron: Legacy’. I refer to the original as a ‘cult classic’ because it wasn’t that big of a hit when it first came out, despite the fact that it was a groundbreaking pioneer of the sci-fi film genre when it came to visual effects. However, it did manage to attract a notable cult following in the years after its release and Disney eventually made a follow-up to it 28 years later in 2010. Then they followed that up with an animated series, ‘Tron: Uprising’, but it only ran for one season. Despite this, a sequel to ‘Legacy’ is still in development (at least that’s what we can assume at the moment). All I have to say about that is if they do it… hopefully it won’t take them 28 years to make it. But with that said, it’s time to head onto ‘the Grid’ as today I look at the two ‘Tron’ films; ‘Tron’ and ‘Tron: Legacy’.
“Do you Believe in the Users?”
First off, I just want to mention something interesting about how I came around to watching this film: I actually watched ‘Legacy’ first before watching this film and if you’re wondering why, there’s actually a good reason for this. That is because when ‘Legacy’ was released, it was pretty much damn-near impossible to find the original film anywhere. Now for the record I’m not saying that copies of it weren’t available… it was just that you couldn’t really find them no matter how hard you looked. They weren’t in any video stores (and keep in mind, this was 2010 when most video stores were going out of business… in fact most of the video stores near me had already closed down), it wasn’t on Netflix (neither in DVD’s or their Instant Streaming section) and any DVD copies of the film (that certain edition of the film was already out of print, by the way) that were being sold online were being sold at ridiculously high prices. Apparently one copy on EBay ran for as much as $300 (!)… Just for one bloody movie and one that, for the record, wasn’t as popular as something like, say, ‘Star Wars’. It wasn’t until a few months after I saw ‘Legacy’ when I finally managed to find the original film playing on Showtime one day. Nowadays, the original DVD editions of the film go for much cheaper prices online (usually around $10) but I’m just amazed at the fact that this film was incredibly hard to find (not to mention the fact that any of the limited copies of the film were being sold at very high prices) at the time of its sequel’s initial release, which you think wouldn’t be the case given that when it comes to sequels I’m pretty sure that most people want to watch the previous films again before going to see the new one. And I don’t care if they were busy working on the Blu-Ray (which I do own, by the way). They should have at least had it be available to the public in one way or another during the time, but they didn’t and hopefully I wasn’t the only one who was really pissed about that. But anyway, back to ‘Tron’…
Whether you like it or not, you can’t deny the fact that this was a groundbreaking film for its time as it was the first feature-length film to extensively use CGI as much as it did. And sure, nowadays the CGI in this film is fairly dated (in fact, fairly might be too kind of a word to use in this case) but even with that in mind, I still think the CGI is pretty good in regards to the time. Not only that, but it also gives the film a distinct visual style that I don’t think that any other film has managed to match. Really, ‘Tron’ just has a cool sci-fi vibe to it (the same can be said for the sequel as well) that makes it such an entertaining sci-fi film even if the story isn’t as strong as the visuals. The story itself here is fairly simple at best but manages to at least work in the context of the film itself and at the very least, the film is never boring. The cast is fairly solid as well, though there are quite a few instances of over-the-top acting, mostly from David Warner, who in this film plays three roles; Kevin Flynn’s (Jeff Bridges) real-world rival Ed Dillinger, the Master Control Program A.I. system, and its second-in-command program Sark. But overall, ‘Tron’ is an entertaining piece of 80’s nostalgia and certainly one of the most underrated sci-fi films of the 80’s. In fact quite frankly I’d say that it’s one of the most underrated films of all time.
TRON: LEGACY (2010)
It did take quite a long time for it to get made (28 years to be precise), but in 2010, Disney finally returned to the world of ‘The Grid’ with ‘Tron: Legacy’ and the end result is a film that not only continues the story from where the original film left off, but also does a fantastic job of staying true to the original film in many ways (e.g. certain lines of dialogue, visual cues, etc…) while also giving everything a much needed modern update. However, that also means that, like the original, the writing here is not as strong as the visuals in regards to the story. In the case of this film, you can say that it’s a case where there are a lot of interesting ideas that are introduced in this film and yet it doesn’t really do much with them. In other words, the story in this is quite simple in its structure just like the original ‘Tron’. So with that said, some may argue that this is nothing more than just a much better-looking version of that film. Still, just like ‘Tron’, I’m not that bothered by that. I feel that ‘Legacy’ is still a very entertaining sci-fi film and I feel that it manages to get around the fact that the writing is not the absolute best in the world.
The visuals in this are absolutely fantastic and you really have to give credit to director Joseph Kosinski here (this being his first feature film) in that he does a great job at immersing the audience in the worlds that he creates (the same can be said for his second film, ‘Oblivion’, which ironically had the same main issue that ‘Tron: Legacy’ had in regards to the writing). When I saw this in theaters, I saw it in 3-D and although it’s been a while, I think I remember liking the 3-D. Of course, one of the best parts of this whole movie is the score by Daft Punk. Their electronic music blends perfectly with the film and it’s quite frankly one of the best film scores of the past few years. As for the acting, it’s as solid as it was in the first ‘Tron’ and thankfully doesn’t have as many over-the-top performances though even with that said, one of the standouts of the cast would easily be Michael Sheen as the eccentric bar owner Castor because of that exact reason; he really gets into that role. As for the three main leads, Jeff Bridges is just as great here as he was in the original ‘Tron’, Olivia Wilde is another major standout in here as the naïve but curious isomorphic program Quorra, and as for Garrett Hedlund, he may not be the most compelling lead in the world but I still think he does a really good job here channeling Jeff Bridges as Sam Flynn, son of Bridges’ character Kevin Flynn. Some feel that the character development in this was rather weak, but I still found that I actually was able to connect with the main characters, especially in regards to the father-son relationship between Kevin and Sam.
So in short, ‘Tron: Legacy’ may not be a perfect movie but it is still a very entertaining one, just like the original ‘Tron’ that came before it back in 1982. This ‘Tron’ manages to one-up its predecessor with far better special effects but it also follows in the footsteps of the original quite well. It continues the story but also pays a few homages to the original film so even though it’s been nearly 3 decades since the original came out, this new film still very much feels like a ‘Tron’ movie. Sure, that also means that, like the original ‘Tron’, this new film also has noticeable scripting problems with a story that is a bit too simple for a film like this and not the best character development in the world but I do feel that the film’s major strengths (the visuals, the score, the action, etc…) manage to overcome the film’s shortcomings for another enjoyable adventure within the world of ‘the Grid’. And really, I don’t think the writing is ‘that bad’ though I’m guessing some might have been expecting much more from it given how much more advanced the technology world has become in the years since the original first came out. In the end, the film does pave the way for a potential sequel which I would be very interesting in seeing. But like I said earlier, hopefully it won’t take Disney more than two and a half decades to get the next film made.