Monday, January 31, 2011

The Chronological Canon: an introduction

Tomorrow will see the first of The Disney Revue's Chronological Canon reviews. This feature will consist of reviews of every official Disney Animated Feature (of which there are 50 as of this writing) in the order they were released. These reviews will generally be posted once a month (though there will be occasional breaks to concentrate on other things), followed by several other stories related to that month's featured movie.

The Chronological Canon was a major impetus for starting this blog in the first place. I was inspired, in part, by my friend Emily Meloche and her ridiculously ambitious project The Daily Shill, in which she reviews every single item plugged by a guest on The Daily Show in 2010 (at least I think I was. My spotty memory is confused if I this led to the idea or just pushed me to finally actually do it). The challenge sounded fun, though I preferred something a little less intense, and more along the lines of things I was already into. Emily's facing a mountain of books about politics and the economy, some of which will swallow weeks of her free time. The worst things I'll have to endure is a couple of hours with some unenjoyable cartoon characters.

This is also a way of forcing me to watch every Disney animated feature. Despite being a lifelong fan of Disney and its cartoons, I haven't seen them all. Oh, I've seen most of them. I even own copies of most of them, but there are some that I haven't seen many times, some I haven't seen in ages, and just a few that I've never seen at all. A few of those I'm dreading, but there are a couple I might even wind up enjoying. I'll let you know which are which when we get to them.

So it starts tomorrow with a review of Disney's (and the world's) first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, followed over the rest of the month with a variety of Snow White related follow-ups. Next month, Pinocchio, and so on and so on for a few years to come (and if that all goes well, I have thoughts on what to do next. You can probably guess some of them). That's the plan, anyway. I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts on each of the movies as we go too.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 Oscar Noms: Great for Pixar, but how else did Disney do?

The 2011 Academy Award nominations were announced this morning, and, unsurprisingly Toy Story 3 was the only Disney film with a solid showing on the list. Still, there were a few surprises.

Toy Story 3 becomes the third animated film nominated for the top prize of Best Picture, following Beauty and the Beast and Up (elite company to be sure, though it's not as hard to make the list as it was back in B&B's day. Last year the list of Best Picture contenders was expanded from five to ten). Other nominations for Toy Story 3 include Best Original Song for Randy Newman's "We Belong Together", Best Sound Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay. I'm not sure what Toy Story 3 was adapted from, but I'm guessing sequels must automatically go into this category as being extensions of the original.

It's also up for Best Animated Feature, the one it will almost certainly win. It's chances at the top prize of Best Picture are highly unlikely given the stigma still attached to animated features, and given that the animated feature category exists as a consolation. Never say never, but I'll be very surprised if I live to see the day a cartoon takes home the top prize.

I hear Mr. Pricklepants is very disappointed to not be nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

The biggest surprise for me from today's nominations for me was that Tangled was NOT nominated for best animated feature. Especially since there can be up to five pictures nominated in this category, but only three made the list: Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, and Illusionist. Tangled shouldn't win the Oscar - certainly not over Toy Story 3, maybe not even over Dragon. I have yet to see Illusionist, but I loved director previous animated feature, The Triplets of Bellville. Still for Tangled to not even be deemed worthy of one of those empty slots seems like a real snub to me. Tangled did receive a single nomination: "I See the Light" is nominated for Best Song.

I suppose I must also mention that Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland received nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Designs, though mercifully not for Best Makeup... or anything else. I hated the movie, but don't begrudge it nominations in these categories.

Tron: Legacy received a single nomination for Best Sound Editing.

Check out all the great Toy Story 3 Oscar campaign ads here

UPDATE: I forgot one! Pixar's Day & Night is up for Short Film (Animated).

Monday, January 24, 2011

From the Movies to the Parks: Donald Duck

From the Movies to the Parks will be an ongoing feature in The Disney Revue in which we show some of the places you can find each month's feature animated movie in the Disney Parks (and cruise ships). Since the parks are full of rich detail and decoration, these lists aren't meant to be a complete catalogue so much as highlights and personal favorites. Since this month featured a Character Spotlight of Donald Duck, I thought we'd also take a look at Donald in the parks...

Donald,blasted into the Philharmagic gift shop at the end of the show.

Mickey's Philharmagic Don't let the name fool you, Donald Duck is indeed the main character of this 3-D movie experience in the Magic Kingdom. The name makes sense, though, the set up is that Mickey will be using his magic hat from Fantasia to conduct a concert. But while Donald helps set up, he messes with the hat and gets sucked into an adventure through the settings of several beloved animated features (mostly the musical hits of the 1990s).

Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros In Epcot's Mexico pavilion, Donald is on a madcap tour through the Mexico while his band mates Jose Carioca and Panchito are hot on his trail, hoping to catch him in time for their big concert that night.

In Animal Kingdom's Tusker House restaurant, Donald plays host for Donald's Safari Breakfast, a buffet meal during which Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and Mickey will stop by your table dressed in safari gear.

Donald's Boat The Miss Daisy, Donald's boat and home is parked on the outskirts of Toon Town, essentially a kiddie play area with some cute theming to see.

A statue of Donald in the hub at Disneyland.

Donald is a small part of it's a small world, showing up as part of the Three Caballeros in the South America portion of the ride. Donald, Jose, and Panchito were added to the venerable attraction along with a host of other Disney characters in 2009.

There's a chair in the Haunted Mansion (next to the endless hallway) that features a strange design that's widely believed to be an abstract version of Donald's face. Here's a picture:

I'll let you decide for yourself if that's meant to be him or not.


Donald Duck, in his Admiral Donald outfit, is the bronze statue that greets cruisers as they enter The Disney Dream. He's also the mascot of The AquaDuck, the ship's on board water coaster.

Over on the The Disney Wonder, Donald can be seen painting the name on the rear of the ship while his rascally nephews attempt to cut him down before he can finish.

And, of course, Donald Duck himself frequently pops up in all the Disney parks and on the ships as well in case you'd like to meet him or get a photo or autograph. He's typically quite friendly in person and not usually prone to the temper tantrums you might expect.

Donald greets guests in Frontierland in Disney's Magic Kingdom.

Donald and Disney sailing on board the Disney Wonder

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Character Spotlight: Donald Duck

The Disney Revue's feature, Character Spotlight, will usually focus in on a specific character from the film featured in each month's Chronological Canon review, but before that feature starts up, I thought I'd do the first entry on a character known more for his work in shorts than features. He also happens to be my favorite Disney character: Donald Duck.

When we think of Donald Fauntleroy Duck, the first character attribute we think of is his ferocious temper. Whenever a cartoon short starts up and the screen fills with Donald's smiling beak and the theme song asks, "who's got the sweetest disposition?", you can be sure that within a few minutes Donald will be stomping the ground, feathery fists swirling in the air while he lets loose a squadron of scathing squawks that it's probably best we can't really understand.

But it's important to remember that Donald isn't always angry. In fact, I'd say that anger isn't really Donald's default emotion. In his heart, he's really an optimist. He wakes up every day with a song in his heart and a spring in his step. He faces every new challenge with optimism and good cheer. Just look at this compilation of Donald singing and dancing clips I spotted on YouTube. It's important to note that the majority of these clips come from the beginning of the shorts from which they've been excerpted:

I ask you - is that the attitude of a character whose dominant emotion is anger? Absolutely not. It's just that things never go poor Donald's way. Firstly, of course, there are those characters who seem to live only to vex him, chief among them a trio of mischievous nephews and a pair of troublesome chipmunks. But worse than those frequent thorns or any of the other foils our friend faces is the army of average annoyances that seem to always align against him until they become an avalanche of frustration. What should be simple tasks become Herculean trials of patience: trying to change a tire, making a batch of waffles, even just going to bed. These are the things that really drive Donald crazy, and who can blame him? Who hasn't struggled with some task that seems like it should be so easy, but frustrates at every turn until you want to scream and yell and tantrum like a toddler?
"Maybe I'm just a duck, but I'm human! A man can only stand for so much!" - Donald Duck, Early to Bed

Everyone has felt like this, but we learn that we have to control those emotions. We can't rant and scream and throw things just because the DVD case has so many pieces of tape on it, and those pieces of tape keep ripping so you can't get them off in one piece, and then the tape is stuck to your finger, and all the while your popcorn is growing colder, and you just want to watch the DVD already, and then you think you're all set, but there's ANOTHER piece of tape and... but we can't lose our tops over such things.

Fortunately, we have Donald Duck to do that for us.

And while Donald's passion can occasionally erupt into outbursts of fury, he can also direct that passion in healthy, even admirable ways. Look at the passion with which he pursues the object of his affection - the alluring miss Daisy Duck. Sure, Mickey has his Minnie, and those mice will flirt, hold hands, and date, but this is nothing compared to Donald's desperate desires for Daisy.

What a kiss - and without lips even!

Sure, there are times when his affection is distracted in another direction. If The Three Caballeros can be said to have a plot at all, that plot appears to be about Donald's traveling all over South America in an attempt to seduce (human) women. Let's assume, though, that those are wild weekends away driven by a recent spurning from Daisy. His heart always finds his way back to her. He is, as the title of the old cartoon said, crazy over Daisy.

Finally, we must admire Donald Duck for his incredible perseverance. As we've already noted, he has terrible luck It often seems as though every inanimate object in the world has somehow conspired against him. And yet, when faced with a task that turns out to be surprisingly difficult, Donald will continue to try to overcome it. Beaten down again and again, our duck continuously strives for success, and hopes to regain that sunny disposition again. Who but Donald Duck shrugs off a robot butler repeatedly stealing his hat because he has a million more hats up his sleeve?

So next time you think of Donald Fauntleroy Duck, don't just think of the terrible temper. Remember Donald the optimist, Donald the romantic, and Donald the indomitable. And then remember the temper, because that's pretty funny too.

If you care to buy some Donald to bring home...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fantasyland Expansion: Meet the new plans, much like the old plans

In the fall of 2009, plans leaked online that showed Walt Disney World was considering a huge expansion of the Fantasyland portion of the park, spreading out into previously unused areas and supplanting the always-intended-to-be-temporary Mickey's Toontown fair. Within weeks came official confirmation, press releases, and concept art.

In the changes announced at that time, the only thing leaving Fantasyland itself would be a Winnie the Pooh themed playground. The headlining addition would be a large dark ride themed to The Little Mermaid. A new restaurant with a dinner show called Be Our Guest would anchor a Beauty and the Beast area which would also include Belle's storytime in her father's cottage and Gaston's tavern, purported to be a counter-service dining location. The famous Dumbo attraction would be moved into the former Toontown area and given a twin to double capacity. Goofy's Barnstormer would be the sole survivor of Toontown, but given a new theme.

The rest of Fantasyland was to be given over to elaborate, immersive areas for kids to meet and interact with Princesses Aurora and Cinderella, and a Pixie Hollow area that appeared to also be mostly or only a meet-and-greet location for Tinkerbell and her less popular fairy friends.

Fans were not thrilled. While the Little Mermaid attraction and Beauty and the Beast restaurant announcements were well-received, two major complaints were heard over and over again: 1) With so much emphasis on Princesses, the additions were way too girl-centric. 2) Lots of land was being given over to the expansion, but we'd only be getting one new ride. So much valuable real-estate being given over to meet-and-greets seemed like a real waste.

Word eventually got out that Disney, and its new Chairman of Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs, was listening. Plans were being reshuffled. Imagineers were returning to the drawing board.

Today, we got a look at the new New Fantasyland plans. Were the complaints met?

The new overview

The most warmly-regarded portions of the previously-announced plans remain: The Little Mermaid and the Be Our Guest restaurants are still coming. In fact, both are already being built. Dumbo will still be doubled. I'm very relieved to see Gaston's Tavern is still in the new plans, as I've got a soft spot for the big lug.

The biggest news of today is that a new coaster is coming to Fantasyland, themed to the Seven Dwarf's mine. The existing Snow White attraction, Snow White's Scary Adventures will be closed and become the new meet-and-greet location of all the princesses. Goofy's Barnstormer will become The Great Goofini, and the area that was Toontown will be the Fantasyland Storybook Circus.

Dwarfs' mine, coaster style.

Now, on the whole this is mostly good news. Fantasyland is going to be a bigger and prettier place as a result of this expansion, but I am left scratching my head a little about some of these new announcements.

Remember the two biggest complaints that seemed to cause this rethinking? Too much princess emphasis and not enough attractions. Well... none of these changes really address that. Everything we're getting that's truly new is still themed to a princess movie, and while we are getting one more new attraction, we're also now losing an old attraction, meaning a net gain of ZERO attractions over the previous announcement and a net gain of only ONE new attraction for the park as a whole.

I'll be sad to see Snow White's Scary Adventures go away. I'm not surprised, and I can't say I disagree with the decision, but I can also not be happy about it. It's old, it's old-fashioned, and there is never a line for it. All negatives to the people making the decisions, I'm sure, but all positives to me. Here's hoping the replacement still finds a place for a couple of creepy appearances by the Old Hag, because I'll really miss the old bat otherwise.

The princesses will take over Snow White's Scary Adventures

Putting the princesses all together into the old Snow White spot makes sense. It's connected to the castle itself, and the previous plans would've limited logical appearances to just Belle, Cinderella, Ariel, and Aurora. The new location allows for appearances by Tiana, Rapunzel, Snow White, and really anyone they feel like adding.

The Barnstormer becoming the Great Goofini makes no difference to me. It was a kiddie coaster starring Goofy and airplanes before and it's a kiddie coaster starring Goofy and airplanes now. Either way it's not on my list of things to care about.


Questions that remain: Is that it for the Circus land? Concept art features some unexplained tents. I'm guessing those are just gift shops maybe? The new plans seem to leave room for possible additional attractions alongside of the new Dwarf coaster and in the Circusland. Is that being done for future development or will these additions really fill the area?

This, I can't wait for.

I don't mean to be too much of a curmudgeon about all this. I'm still glad Fantasyland is getting some much-needed TLC and beautification. I'm still really looking forward to riding The Little Mermaid attraction and making my reservations for Be Our Guest, but I was still hoping for a little more. And of course I'll reserve my true final judgment for when I'm actually able to experience New Fantasyland in 2012 (or whenever I'm able to make it there).

Word is there are still some details coming at tonight's press conference. Here's hoping they've held back that one little piece that feels like it's missing.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Tiki Room: Feeling hot, hot, hot

Reports indicate there was a small fire in The Enchanted Tiki Room at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom yesterday.

Pure speculation on my part, but I'm guessing the cause was the attraction itself attempting to commit suicide due to the horrible "Under New Management" additions made back in 1997 still being in place. I know having to hear Gilbert Gottfried scream as Iago inside of me all day, every day would drive me to drastic measures too.

Here's hoping the attraction is back to its old self soon. And by old self I mean sans Iago and Zazu.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Epic Mickey: the little mouse makes a big splash on the Wii

Epic Mickey, an adventure-game exclusive to the Nintendo Wii gaming system, produced by Warren Spector, is a charming and entertaining game that really caters to the longtime Disney fan.

A quick synopsis of the premise: one night, Mickey Mouse sneaks into the workshop of Yen Sid (the sorcerer he was apprenticed to in Fantasia), and accidentally spills a bunch of paint thinner into what appears to be a huge model of a theme park somewhat resembling Disneyland. It turns out this model is actually another dimension, The Wasteland, and when Mickey gets sucked into it, he learns it's the home of a legion of forgotten and/or rejected Disney characters.

Ruling over the Wasteland is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Disney's original cartoon star. Oswald is bitter that Walt Disney abandonded him in favor of Mickey. Mickey could probably straighten this out explaining that Oswald was created under a contract with Universal, and that Walt didn't abandon him so much as lose control of him thanks to lawyers and legalities (Disney recently gained Oswald back in 2006, when they traded sports commentator Al Michaels for him. Seriously). I suppose a lesson in history and copyrights wouldn't be quite as much fun as embarking on a dangerous adventure, though, so that's what happens instead.

Oswald confronts Mickey.

Following Mickey's big spill, the Wasteland has been threatened by the twin menaces of The Mad Doctor with his army of animatronic monsters, and the Phantom Blot and his legion of devious drippings. Mickey has to head into various sections of the Wasteland and carrying out a number of missions to make up for the damage he's done.

One of the really interesting wrinkles to Epic Mickey is that there are usually at least two solutions to every obstacle, often with a moral choice involved. The majority of these involve simple choices: Mickey weilds both paint and thinner in the game. Paint can be used to quickly disolve most enemies, but taking a little longer to cover them with paint will convert most enemies to allies. The more moral route takes more effort in the short-term, but often results an easier overall path.

Some choices aren't even so clear-cut. One example (with just a minor spoiler). Oswald's girlfriend Ortensia, has gone missing. When Mickey finds her locket, another character suggests bringing it to the museum to earn several E-tickets (which function as money in the game). However, if you realize on your own that it would be nicer to give it to Oswald, he rewards you by increasing your maximum health (making Mickey tougher throughout the rest of the game). It doesn't take a huge amount of thought to come to this conclusion, but it does require both initiative and intuition on the part of the player, and I was pleasantly surprised by that.

As a fan of the Disney theme parks, I was both delighted and occasionally frustrated by the game's environments. The locales are all warped, fun-house mirror reflections of the Disneyland/Magic Kingdom lands: Main Street becomes Mean Street, Tomorrowland becomes Tomorrow City, Adventureland is represented as Ventureland, Toontown is replaced by Ostown, New Orleans Square becomes Bog Easy, Fantasyland is Gremlin Village, and allegedly the surreal Mickeyjunk Mountain (a massive mountain made up of old Mickey Mouse merchandise) is kind of, sort of the Matterhorn.

Some of these levels really hit the mark they're aiming for. Mean Street and Tomrrow City, especially, feel like the twisted versions of their counterparts they're intended to be, full of clear connections and counterparts to attractions and locations in the real parks. Ventureland is a pretty big disappointment, featuring a Jungle level that's utterly generic. How hard would it have been to include visual references to The Jungle Cruise and the Enchanted Tiki Room? Probably not too hard. Lonesome Manor is a combination of the various Haunted Mansions around the world and the haunted house from the old Lonesome Ghosts cartoon. As a big Haunted Mansion fan, I enjoyed the inclusion of Madame Leota and the stretching portraits, but was still left wanting a little more.

Mickey paints the entrance to Ventureland.

Mickey travels between these realms through magic screens in which he has to pass through mini side-scrolling adventures set in some of his (and Oswald's) old cartoon shorts like Clock Cleaners, The Alpine Climbers, and Mickey's Mechanical Man. These are both fun and highly-detailed diversions and one of my favorite things about Epic Mickey. 20s and 30s style cartoons combined with 80s and 90s style gaming add up to a unexpected double dose of retro fun.

Mickey in the Lonesome Ghosts side-scroller.

One of the stated goals with Epic Mickey was to boost the recognition of the characters featured within, even that of its exteremly well-known lead. I think it was a great idea to cast Mickey as the main character of a fun adventure game. Aside from the Mickey Mouse Clubhose show (which is aimed squarely at preschoolers), it's been much too long since Mickey was treated as an actual character, rather than just a corporate symbol or a picture on a T-shirt. Even as a longtime Disney fan, I left Epic Mickey thinking more of the little mouse. It was nice to see little appearances from old-timers like Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow, but it did feel like this concept wasn't taken as far as it could've been. Instead, Wasteland is mostly peopled by an army of generic horses, cows, goofs, and pirates - many of which I'm sure were never really specific Disney characters. Why not trade some of those appearances by Clara Cluck, Elmer Elephant, the Three Little Pigs, and so on? They and many others are as forgotten as poor Horace.

It's a minor complaint, though, as are any I can come up with (like sure, sometimes the camera isn't cooperative. Sure, it is frustrating that you can return to some levels, but not others. Yes, there are a few too many missions during which Mickey is essentially playing messanger boy.). On the whole, Epic Mickey is delightful both as a game and a catalog of Disney references. I'm looking forward to more such games on the Wii, and not just the already hinted-at direct sequels, but hopefully other quality Wii games from Disney. Could I request an adventure set in the world of Disney Ducks please, starring Donald, Scrooge, Daisy, and the nephews? How about a Mario Party style game featuring Mickey and friends? Mickey racing?

In the meantime, I think I'll play Epic Mickey at least once more. Unlike most adventure games, I'm actually interested in revisiting this one and seeing how making different choices effects the game.

I'm giving Epic Mickey 8/10 mice.

If you care to buy Epic Mickey:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pauly D brings GTL to WDW

Disney World and Disneyland both occasionally close the parks to regular guests to hold Grad Nites. Nights in which recent high school graduates can celebrate receiving their diplomas by not worrying about the correct spelling of the word "night" anymore. Oh, and there are also rides and music and stuff.

At one of this year's Grad Nites in Disney World, the DJ pressing play on the music button will be DJ Pauly D, one of the stars of the MTV monster hit series The Jersey Shore (a monster hit in that it gets huge ratings, and several of its castmembers are actually monsters).

Here's a hilarious picture of Pauly D on a recent visit to WDW, riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:

If you're not familiar with Pauly, you'd probably assume that the wind in his face from speeding down Big Thunder's slopes was blowing his hair back. But no - it looks like that all the time! It's a feat of architectural sophistication that's more inspiring than Epcot's Spaceship Earth.

Teaching Goofy to fist pump. I look forward to the upcoming Goofy short: "How To Be A Gudio."

On the one hand, having Pauly D spin at Grad Nite makes a lot of sense. After all, the cast of Jersey Shore are all pretty much cartoon characters to begin with, embracing any stereotype you might throw at them, gleefully calling on another Guidos and Guidettes. Seriously, these people are bigger caricatures of Italian Americans than Tony and Joe, the singing Spaghetti-slingers from Lady and the Tramp. On the other hand, let's compare what happens when a Disney character and Pauly D go out dancing...

Cinderella heads to the Prince's ball. She finds herself in the arms of the man of her dreams. Her heart soars, and this song fills her mind:

"So this is love,
So this is what makes life divine.
I'm all aglow and now I know,
The key to all heaven is mine."

Conversely, Pauly D said this about his nights at the clubs:

"When I go into the club I have a game plan, I don’t wanna waste my time and take home a girl that just wants to hang out, I just wanna get to the business… so. you light it up and then you move on & at the end of the night you see who you end up with."
A great sound bite for a salacious MTV hit, but I'm a little surprised to see Disney wanting to get into bed with someone from a show that is largely about getting as many people into as many beds as possible.

I'll admit I sometimes watch The Jersey Shore, it's a hilarious train wreck, and Pauly D does seem like the closer to being a human being than most of the cast, but I'm still very surprised Disney would touch anybody from this show with a ten-foot pole. We can't have pirates chasing maidens anymore in Pirates of the Caribbean, but someone a Guido from the smoosh patrol is sought-out to spin at Grad Nite. Seems backwards to me.

However... this is delightful. T-SHIRT TIME!

See also this fake-comedy list of what happened when Snooki went to Disney World (note: mildly mature content).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jumping on the Silly Bandzwagon

If you've so much as seen a child in the last year or so, you're probably at least somewhat aware of the existence of Silly Bandz, and their various knock-offs. If not, they're simply rubber bands that, when left unstretched, maintain a specific shape. Kids started wearing them as bracelets, then started trading them, and a couple of schools decided to try to ban them, which of course ensured the whole thing would become a full-blown craze.

Of course, Disney loves a good craze, especially one that means they can sell a wide variety of cheaply-manufactured trinkets (I'm not really bagging on them for it, if they weren't a company making money, they wouldn't also be making art. Anyway, that's a discussion for another time).

Now I'm a long way from being part of the target market for these things, but I could see why kids might think it was fun to wear a rubber band that can become shaped like Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, like these:

Naturally, they didn't stop there, though. Now there's Disney bands shaped like princesses, Muppets, villains, Pirates, Cars cars, Toy Story toys, and lots more.

And I can even see why a kid visiting Walt Disney World would be into getting a band shaped like one of icons of the various parks, like these (though Epcot's Spaceship Earth is not terribly different than the traditional rubber band shape of "round"):

But... what are these? If you can't guess, let me show you the packaging for them.

That's right, rubber bands shaped like the various kids of transportation around Disney World... including a bus.

A bus is not a silly band. A bus is a mundane band.

Also... series 1?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review: Tron: Legacy

Visually-invigorating with some great action sequences, this movie is built around big ideas, but fails to deliver on either engrossing plot or characters you ever really care about.

Now guess if that's my review of the new Tron: Legacy or the original Tron from 1982. ANSWER: It doesn't matter, it applies to both.

Why did we get a Tron sequel at all nearly twenty years after the lackluster original? I'm guessing partly because the first film had both an inspiring premise (even though it never quite lived up to it), and was like nothing we'd ever seen before (or since, really - sure, we've gotten very used to computer-generated images since then, but Tron still had a visual flair that sets it apart).

The other reason... the reason I really suspect Tron nostalgia as stuck around as much as it has? I think it has less to do with the original movie than it does with the classic Tron stand-up videogame that could be found in any self-respecting arcade in the 80s. A coin-operated classic, featuring four mini-games inspired by the movie. The cone was my area of expertise, the tanks my least-favorite.

Oh, and Tron Guy, of course, has kept the flame alive. I think Tron-guys needs little Tron lights in his glasses, don't you? Or maybe in the mustache?

Anyway, I was going to review the new movie, wasn't I? OK: The first hour of Tron: Legacy entertains pretty well. It's faced-paced, includes a pair of great action sequences (light cycles and Frisbees Death Match, both warmed over from the original), and at times favors creating a rich, moody atmosphere over plot which works surprisingly well. Unfortunately, the second half of the movie slows way down, introduces plot points that make little sense, and has a climax that hinges on a change-of-heart from a key character that comes from absolutely no where at all.

In short, it's a pretty mess.

Tron: Legacy does have a few things going for it. Jeff Bridges is a great and enormously charismatic actor. I saw this movie only a few days apart from seeing the Coen Brother's wonderful True Grit, and it's hard to believe this is even the same actor, he's so versatile. As said above, the visuals really are great, as is the score by techno-robots Daft Punk.

I can save you the cost of admission, though, and give you the best thing about Tron:Legacy for free right here on the blog, though:

There. You're welcome.