Brian Jacobson

Legacy” : Making the case for seeing films in 2D

By - Dec 20th, 2010 11:07 am

The first time I saw Tron: Legacy was on Saturday morning at the IMAX 3D screen in Mayfair Mall’s AMC Theater.  It was mesmerizing, and I was satisfied in my need to be wowed with booming stereo and flashbacks of stereoscopic Viewmaster slides of childhood.

The second time I saw Tron: Legacy was at the Marcus Ridge Cinema on Sunday afternoon.  I was spending quality time with an old friend who wanted to see it, so I went along for the ride. This screening was in 2D, shoved way in the back of the multiplex with a more muted sound system. This viewing was still slick and dreamy, but now I was also able to focus on the story itself and was more sensitive to nuances in the acting.

Images courtesy the Disney website for Tron: Legacy.I’ve always had an affectionate spot in my heart for the original TRON, which debuted way back in 1982 and wasn’t so much a movie as it was a preview of things to come with the successful marriage of CGI (before there was such a thing) and filmmaking.  From a story perspective, it was the first time we imagined a world of ‘cyberspace’ even before William Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” could hit the pages of Omni magazine, and well before The Matrix films. It imagined that our created programs had lives and emotions of their own, where videogame choices had actual consequences, and that freedom was necessary for information trafficking — long before “Net Neutrality” was even a concept.

But mostly, it was fun to watch Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn.  He was a brash hacker trying to re-claim copyrights to games he created from a corrupt CEO.  Once digitized into the computer world, he was funny as a “user” in exile like a stranger in a strange land.  He was very human.

Some 28 years later, we have haggard old man Flynn played by Jeff Bridges and also the vibrantly ferevent Clu played by Jeff Bridges. Well, that is, a CGI-created and youthful Jeff Bridges ala the Curious Case of Benjamin Button meets Beowulf.  This works great in the Grid scenes, but not-so-great in the real world prologue scenes that set up the story of a son in search of his lost father.  It would have been better to just re-use shots of Bridges from Against All Odds, similar to the successful way the third Austin Powers movie used footage of Michael Caine from 1967’s Hurry Sundown for its flashback scenes.

Instead we get the ‘uncanny valley‘ effect, in which we can’t handle computerized humans looking too human else our brains begin to melt from creepiness.  We also get a repeat of the original story in some ways, making this more of a flashy remake than a sequel.  Of course, most of the population doesn’t even remember the original plot; many of the published reviews seem to come from either a generation of movie scholars out of touch with videogame culture and theology, and online reviewers who play videogames are busy being jaded, cynical, and nitpicky.

There are a lot of movie posters in the hallways of the multiplex, and they advertise upcoming films all the way into next spring.  A majority of them either proudly display that they were made in 3D or secretly hide it in the fine print in a way that acknowledges the technology was just tagged on and probably unnecessary. What many of them seem to be saying is that they’ve sacrificed any real storytelling and acting, adding depth through spectacular.

Don’t get me wrong, the 3D viewing on Saturday morning was indeed spectacular, but something interesting happens upon the second lo-fi viewing, aided by not having to wear special glasses or feel the ears reverberate with the Daft Punk score:  you start to appreciate the acting, the updated mythology and story progression, the underlying themes, and how a PG-rated movie in 2010 America can still be made — and entertaining.

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