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Let’s get this out of the way first: ignore everything except for the visuals you’ll be seeing on the screen. Disney, for some unfathomable reason, hasn’t had the original Tron available on DVD for months now (the last release being the 20th anniversary edition). For people like me, looking to see this sequel, having the original would have helped at least introduce the world of Tron. Luckily, the sequel tells us about Tron without having to worry about seeing the first film.

Unluckily, you’ll need a doctorate in computer engineering to try to get through the plot. You’ll also need sugar pills or adrenaline shots just to stay awake at times. The exposition is so heavy that it slows the film down to an absolute crawl. And it doesn’t make a lick of sense either. Inception, even when it didn’t make sense, had the decency to keep things moving. Tron Legacy just stops dead. Several maddening plot holes occur throughout, especially towards the end, during the final battle and climactic sequence.

The characters are severely two dimensional or less as well. Kevin Flynn is Zen-like and passive, who only accepts change because of his son Sam (Hedlund as a thankfully less whining Hayden Christensen), who seems to get everything his way. Also, why doesn’t Sam just run ENCOM anyway, or at least put competent people on the board? You’re a majority stock holder. Wield that power you have. Moving on: Quorra doesn’t move much beyond naive, CLU doesn’t change at all (but he’s the bad guy, so there’s no requirement), and everyone else just moves along as computer constructs. Only Michael Sheen brings any life in the film to his role as Caster, and he’s still just a cipher.

Got that out of the way. Now, for the visual treat. The Grid, or Tron (whichever you want to call the place), is beautiful. A friend called it “retro-futuristic eyegasm”, and she’s right. All the buildings are tall and strictly angular, with only a few choice colors used to define the city (white and black, primarily, with blue and some orange added to define sides). The 3-D, while darkening the screen (removing the glasses makes the screen brighter), is actually used properly for once, like Avatar. The emphasis is on depth, not on throwing objects at you endlessly (Tron, thankfully, did not do this once). And, the 3-D is wisely limited to the Grid as well. The producers added a warning at the beginning saying that the film was meant to be seen in 2-D, with 3-D added in post. I was not annoyed.

That said, I wanted more out of the Grid too.  Yes, we have our light disc fights and light cycle battle, but because of the heavy exposition, it feels very limited.  I found each of these sequences to be very exhilarating – the tension was heightened when Sam found out he could die in these battles – yet they were spread too wide apart.  The final battle was decent, but not as thrilling or involving as the light cycle battle.

Not terrible by any means.  Rather… underwhelming?  Or just disappointed?  Then again, I knew what I was getting into when I saw the film, so I’m not upset about the money spent on the film with 3-D.  Rather, I think I just wanted more.  Eyegasm indeed, and nothing more.

C

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Can I just say one thing about Michael Sheen?

Well, multiple, but here we go.

It’s unbelievable the transformation he undergoes from character to character. Part of it is probably Peter Morgan writing (this is their third collaboration I’ve watched, which makes me wonder if there are any more movies they’ve done together (wikipedia lists five total)), but Sheen is terrific. I saw him first in Frost/Nixon as David Frost, the TV personality in over his head against Richard Nixon and his ability to talk out of any relevant issue. I saw him next in The Queen (I know, this came out first, but I didn’t watch it until recently). I have to watch it again, but he was Tony Blair, in a nutshell.

Now he’s Brian Clough, a football manager who had a short lived tenure as the manager of Leeds United. It all of six weeks, in which he never was able to connect with his players. He was more concerned with 1) getting the hooliganism out of the team, and 2) finding ways of upstaging Don Revie, who never properly acknowledged him when they first encountered each other on the football field. Revie was the manager of Leeds United prior to becoming the manager for the England football team (which lasted all of three years as well before Revie went into obscurity).

Upstaging Revie was Clough’s drive for much of his managerial career, as the movie depicts. Prior to coaching Leeds, he was the coach of Darby County, a smaller school that had been relegated to the bottom of the Second Division. After a thorough whitewashing by Leeds, Clough gets personal. Along with his assistant Peter Taylor, they set off to sign several players with experience and youth, hoping to gain advantage over Leeds. Darby wins the Second Division title, which sets the stage for their rise in the First Division (after another beating from Leeds).

Clough is an interesting character indeed. He’s friendly enough, but ultra competitive, and often prone to speaking whatever comes to his mind. He has his own way of doing things, which works at Darby, but fails to work at Leeds (the players repeat several times that Revie often has dossiers set up for each team they face). It’s Clough’s mouth that gets him and Taylor fired from Darby, even after they get the club to the European Cup.

The movie is told in flash back, which is done to build up specific sequences in the present day (Clough’s tenure at Leeds). It works quite well thematically and narrative wise. The focus is more on the backstage drama than on the soccer action, but the latter, when done with the actors, is filmed well (some archival footage was used from actual matches in the 60s and 70s). All in all, the movie is filmed well.

This is definitely one to see for Michael Sheen though. This only adds to his great resume.