I suppose getting burnt with a less than stellar box office return meant TRON had to wait some 28 years before Disney finally green lit a sequel to finally plough its way to the big screen, in attendance of no less than 3 Comic-Cons to pique and gauge fanboy interest. Way ahead of its time and featuring some rather cutting edge digital effects for a film in those days, TRON had survived and was never forgotten, thanks to its cult status, and undoubtedly in the course of its longevity had fans such as first time feature director Joseph Kosinski, who's also developing yet another Disney live action film The Black Hole, one of my favourite science fiction films when I was a kid.
With no less than four scribes pitching in to tune up a story, influences seemed to be a mesh of identifiable contemporary science fiction films, which I suppose helped to make it easier for audiences to swallow and adapt to without being seen as catering for too geeky a crowd (*nix is the digital environment of choice here), nor requiring too much from a fan perspective being bogged down with insider details and alienating the curious film goer who got wind from the hyped out marketing efforts. There's a fairly coherent storyline here that would appeal across the spectrum, striking a fair balance between drama and action, although action junkies would have preferred for set action sequences given the investment in souping up and introducing a number of vehicles other than the light cycle.
Certain scenes stood out either as homage or influenced pieces, and perhaps you may disagree with me, but the nightclub scene with Gem the Siren (Beau Garrett) bringing our new protagonist Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges returns to once again play two roles, that of Kevin Flynn the founder of Encom and his digital creation / avatar Clu) to meet Castor (played by Michael Sheen with flamboyant spunk) an information broker in the undergrounds of the digital Grid world, seems to have contained a whiff out of The Matrix Revolutions, with Persephone and Merovingian. But of course the Wachowskis didn't have Daft Punk to turn the tables, and parallels between the Matrix and the Grid cannot be more prominent given entities within are programs, with the ones gone rogue instilled with a desire to cross over to the real world.
Then there's something unmistakably Star Wars about it too, with the designs of attack space crafts zipping through the night sky, and clearly one of the many gorgeous costumes here can't seem to hold a candle to what looked like an awesome robe, simple as it is, but striking nonetheless. Or how about something which reminds one of Gotham City's caped crusader, with the Tumbler inspired getaway vehicle with large inflatable tyres played out in a scene right out of Tim Burton's first Batman movie with the long road back to the secret hideout within which to seek out answers to questions left silent en route.
So I may be stretching it, but there will be certain degrees of familiarity you'll find in some moments of the story, but I assure you the crux of it is a film that has deeper pathos, dealing with man's relentless pursuit for perfection and utopia, and the desire to play god if given a chance. Creations made in the image of is quite pronounced in a scene that stood out almost like Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, although here it's interpreted in the digital realm. Humans aren't perfect, so our creations in all likelihood will inherit some of our flaws, no matter if they happen to be digital and following certain fixed patterns and constructs. It's what being human is all about with our imperfection. The dramatic elements here between Father and Son is the film's strength to provide that emotional anchor and attachment making this a digital affair with plenty of soul, and the chemistry shared between Jeff Bridges and Garrett Hedlund make them quite the father and son pair up, with shades of how revered the former is within his own created realm, and the tremendous power that he still holds even if in exile.
Olivia Wilde provides for the token fashionista who is ever ready to flex her battle prowess with skills in various weapons - a lethal combination of The Matrix's Trinity equipped with Star Wars blades - and vehicles, whose background is given a superficial twist which seeks to expand the TRON universe a little bit more with miracle phenomenon being a natural occurrence once a perfect equilibrium is achieved. Fans will get to learn and understand this expanded universe a lot more as explanations get dished out in due course, even one that deals with the time in between the first and second films, of Kevin Flynn's obsession with his latest playground that his creation ultimately took over, turning it into an arena with its own brand of gladiatorial fights for entertainment. But there's enough material introduced without being overwhelming for the new Grid entrant, and opens up a lot more avenues for future storytellers.
Even for those days, I wasn't one of those who got instantly impressed by the effects of the time, but then again that's what made TRON stand out based on its uniqueness in look. It was way ahead with combining live action with computer generated graphics, and in the same fashion, the filmmakers here had done an admirable job prepping this film up for 3D. 3D may be the latest Hollywood fad that got people jumping onto its bandwagon, but just as how computer graphics has to be inherent in the first TRON movie, the updates of the franchise has to keep up with the times, and in true reel mimicking real life, The Grid pops up in more than 2 dimensions, starting with the light cycle wars that include an additional dimension to consider, which makes for some thrilling action, both on or under the ground and in the air, rather than just becoming a mere special effect.
But I have to admit my personal hook line and sinker to watch this film, is the soundtrack by Daft Punk. It stands out most definitely throughout the film, and provided additional lift. It's a character in itself without which the film wouldn't be half as exciting or watchable, with rousing themes to stoke your expectations with its pomp. Their musical contribution and its importance cannot be more than overstated, and is a critical ingredient to why I had enjoyed this film so much to put it as a late consideration into one of the best this year has to offer.