Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TRON: Legacies

The countdown is over. Have you seen it? After decades of anticipation I found TRON: Legacy entertaining, thoughtful and, with the exception of a computer-generated face that looked like a computer-generated face, everything I hoped it would be. Travelling hundreds of miles to see it with my oldest friend and his son skewed my objectivity and in all honesty it would have had to be an unmitigated disaster to rate any less, but I liked it. A lot.

It was the Year of the Geek when we met, my friend and I, the same year of the original TRON's release, yet 1982 seemed a long time ago in a galaxy far away as we stood at the front of the line for its sequel. His seven-year-old son brought an identity disc along, a toy replica from their summer visit to the elecTRONica exhibit at Disneyland, and afterward as we ate dinner and digested what we had seen kept it close at hand like he was ready to dive back into the game grid at any second.

For sights and sounds a peerless spectacle, were it not for one glaring problem we'd have unanimously embraced TRON: Legacy right then and there as the first great sci-fi classic of a new generation. It doesn't cross the uncanny valley. Common to animation, the uncanny valley is what you get when a face doesn't look real. The more animators attempt to realistically render a face, the steeper the valley wall. Pixar manages to climb out every time, but they are alone in this category.

The adversary in TRON: Legacy wears a computer-generated face that looks uncanny as can be. Every time he appears, you want to reach up and slap that stiff mannequin face. Every movie has its flaws and this one's has cartoony eyes and a stiff upper lip that imitates a gumming action when rubbed against its stiff lower lip, like the villain just put his dentures out. Weird. Distracting. Less Grandpa Tron and more light cycles, please!

Was that all we talked about over dinner? Of course not. Between bites of taquitos and tacos, we griped briefly about the uncanny valley problem and then got back to remembering the movie's many fantastic scenes. It was a great movie. The legacy of 1982 lives on.

TRON: Legacy has so much that is entertaining and fun. The breathtaking light cycle sequences could go on forever. Jeff Bridges is terrific as an aged Zen hacker. Balletic scuffles with discs flying hot and furious are dazzling. Great stuff. Honestly, I can't wait to see it again.

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