Tron: Legacy

Disney’s 1982 cult phenom TRON addressed a very important question for its time: what was man’s place in the growing world of computers? Nearly thirty years later, TRON: Legacy had a very different question to answer: How do you make a sequel relevant when a chunk of the movie-watching audience wasn’t even alive (this reviewer included) when the first one came out? The answer, apparently, was very simple:

Make it pretty and add a healthy dose of daddy issues and existential angst.

During the prologue, Sam Flynn(Garrett Hedlund) lost his father. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), hero of the first TRON, didn’t die. He just never came home after leaving one night to work at the Arcade. This, of course, leaves our hero with a substantial chip on his shoulder. His resentment over his father’s abandonment manifests in leading a mediocre life while engaging in yearly pranks against the company in which he’d inherited a major stake. A mysterious page sent to substitute-father-figure Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) kicks off Sam’s journey into the digital wonderland known as The Grid.

The Grid is a darker place now, ruled by fascist CLU (Jeff Bridges again) with an assist from mouthpiece Jarvis (a disturbingly bald James Frain) and enforcer Rinzler (Anis Cheurfa). It’s not all bad, though, as most of the vinyl-clad inhabitants look like they belong in Lady Gaga music videos. After getting a bit over his head, Sam’s rescued by the awesomely adorable Quorra (Olivia Wilde).  She takes him to the Fortress of Zen where The Flynn abides.

The Flynn explains a great number of things while setting up the background for CLU’s daddy issues and subsequent rise to power. The movie stalls a bit there, stumbling over the weight of its philosophical questions,but soon ramps up again for the inevitable showdowns. Highlights of the final act of the film include a delightful run-in with Castor (Michael Sheen), nightclub owner and Ziggy Stardust-wannabe, and a cameo by the film’s composers-the  electronica duo Daft Punk.

Visually stunning, TRON: Legacy was gorgeous in theaters and fantastic on Blu-ray. For those who tend to overthink these things, it serves as a great conversational topic at parties (Holocaust metaphor vs. Milton’sParadise Lost). Otherwise, it’s just a lot of fun, true to the original while bringing in a more modern, self-centered sensibility.

Underworld

It probably will come as no surprise to any of you reading this when I say that I'm a geek. After all, I write for a website dedicated to B movies, I read about B movies, and in my spare time I even watch B movies. Furthermore, and I know this must come as a shock, but I even read comic books and play video games. I am hereby sacrificing my potential future sex life so that you know that when I say that when this film was released in 2003, I was the full embodiment of its target demographic.

So when I say that this is one of the dumber movies I've ever had to sit through, then you know it's not because of some high-handed thought process. I mean, when I hear there's a movie that's all about Werewolves (or "Lycans", rather) and Vampires (err-"Death Dealers") kicking each others asses, I get all kinds of excited. And to be fair, the movie does deliver on the monster mash, at least in terms of the Werewolves. Very cool transformation sequences, coupled with the fuzzy whirling dervishes of death walking on walls and ceilings makes for one cool dog.

The vampires don't come off nearly as well, however. As near as I could make out, being a vampire in this universe means that you have sharp pointy teeth, pale skin, and have to wear freaky fetish gear. They are only as strong as a human, and be killed as easily as any human. The only time they demonstrate any kind of abilities is when they jump really high and occasionally stick to ceilings. Oh, and while they do drink blood, it seems to be more for plot related reasons than for sustenance. I spent most of the movie trying to figure out why the werewolves, who are stronger, faster, and a hell of a lot more durable, didn't wipe out the vampires years before the movie takes place.

I had the time to think about this because while the action set pieces are reasonably impressive, and the movie is certainly pretty, there is absolutely nothing going on in the plot that is interesting, or even makes much sense for that matter. Kate Bekinsale plays Selene, who is the big bad-ass Death Dealer in the movie, though that seems to be more for her ability to look hot in a leather catsuit and the fact that she doesn't just stand there and scream when the werewolves come a-knocking than anything else. She ends up in a Romeo-Juliet situation with Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). When I wasn't wondering why the vampires weren't already extinct, I was trying to figure out why Selene felt the need to sacrifice everything for Michael, as it went from one scene of "I don't care about you" to the next, where she suddenly loves him and is therefore gonna kill every motherf#$ker that gets in her way. It doesn't help that they have about the same chemistry as Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman did in the Star Wars prequels.

Scratch that. Mother Theresa and Ghandi have more chemistry than those two. This movie's central romantic story is pure Remains of the Day in comparison.

Director Len Wiseman (who also co-wrote the script) managed to put together a stylish looking movie, of that there is no doubt. But it's stretched so thinly over a plot that has a more interesting backstory than actual story, so that by the end, you don't really care what happens to anybody in the movie.

You know, I was getting worried there. After quality screenings of 28 Days Later, and An American Werewolf in London, I was worried that an "A-List blockbuster" like Underworld might be yet another good film sneaking it's way into the Cavalcade. It turns out there was nothing to worry about. It's perfect for talking over, since nobody says anything of interest, and as already stated, it can't really make much less sense, so nobody will feel especially lost watching it. Be sure to include this one!