Joseph Kosinski’s Tron Legacy

I took a revisit trip to the world of Tron Legacy this weekend and it’s just… even better than I remembered it, and I was already blown away when I saw it in theatres way back when. Front and centre you have all of this ridiculously beautiful technicolor eye candy in the online world of a The Grid, stunning cyberpunk costume design, dazzling ballets of movement all set to the thundering, glorious, hellbent, super sonic galaxy of sound provided by Daft Punk’s unbelievable original score. But beneath that there’s also an incredibly clever, very poignant and intuitive script full of ideas, themes and nuance that I suppose can get lost in the sound and fury of surface level spectacle or just flew over my head (I was only 16 when this came out) at the time, but make no mistake: this film is anything but style over substance. I would almost compare this to Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 in the sense that director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion) takes a beloved, dusty old analog classic from the 80’s and not only revamps it in terms of style and technical innovation but blasts open the pod bay doors of world building, thematics and expands on the lore exponentially. Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn has been stuck in the digital matrix of his own making for decades after trying to pioneer it as a new frontier, leaving his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) a troubled orphan and his Vancouver based Encom company in the hands of ruthless number crunchers with former friend and board member Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) powerless to do anything. Sam is eventually propelled into the hypnotic world of the grid to join forces with rogue program Cora (Olivia Wilde) and reunite with his father (Bridges) to fight against his tulpa Clu (a CGI Bridges) who plans to launch an attack on the real world and escape through the one remaining portal with a legion program army. There is an entire universe of visual design, colour scheme and motion on display here as Sam competes in the deadly bike races, lethal ultimate frisbee matches and darts all over the grid’s map from Clu’s thunderous gladiatorial stadium to the dark, mysterious outlands where his father hides out in a tranquil, purgatorial abode high atop a digital cliff. It goes without saying that Daft Punk’s score is some of the most spellbinding, beautiful electronic music ever laid over a film and gives it much of it’s personality. But something I missed before is the sheer imagination, poignancy in the father sun relationship and the immersive nature of this world, not just a kaleidoscopic realm of flash and dazzle, but one with rhyme, reason and genuine inspiration put into the inspired idea of ‘Isomorphic Algorithms ‘, basically anomalous, sentient programs birthed of organic energy independent of human creation, both a ghost in the machine and new race of beings sprung forth from the depths of infinite server space. This concept resonated greatly with me and apparently with Jeff Bridges too, because his line delivery, charisma and energy when describing this miraculous discovery is up there with the best work he has ever done, so too is the character progression from fledgling, prodigious programmer in the 80’s Tron to godlike, pseudo hippie, compassionate father we see here. Tron Legacy is truly a magnificent film on every level, on all fronts and one that shows true artistic inspiration and thematic resonance in striving to pioneer new frontiers and discover new life, put together in one iridescent SciFi action opus that has aged gorgeously and only gotten better with time.

-Nate Hill

Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion 


Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion is slightly flawed Sci-Fi heaven, a film that could have easily been perfect if it weren’t for a few snags, chief among them being over-length and lack of clear plotting. There’s so much going on in the realm of visual and auditory stimuli though that one can let oneself just get wrapped up in the pure music video style rhythm of it. Speaking of music, the film only really exists to serve the absolute banger of an electronic score from M83, a gorgeous album packed with sonic synths, beautiful thundering beats and celestial interludes complete with angelic vocals from Susanne Sundfor. Kosinski pulled a similar stunt with Tron: Legacy, hiring Daft Punk to whip up a soundtrack that outshines the actual film itself, and while that’s certainly the case with Oblivion as well, there’s much fun to be had in other aspects, particularly visually. Tom Cruise is Jack, steward and caretaker of a small piece of the earth’s surface after an alien ambush forced most of the human race to run off to one of Jupiter’s moons. Collecting data and doing routine scope checks on his sleek hover bike, he’s a curious fellow who begins to see the lapses in logic and believes there’s something else at play other than survival, a notion that his partner (Andrea Riseborough) and dispatch handler Sally (a sly Melissa Leo proves that one can still be effective when skyping in one’s performance). Jack is haunted by visions of a beautifully mysterious girl he’s never met (Olga Kurylenko) and pursued by dangerous surface dwelling scavengers led by Morgan Freeman and Jamie Lannister. The film’s story is a cool one indeed and has a whopper of a twist, but the pacing and exposition just can’t seem to get itself out of a slight muddle and impart these events to us in a clear, unhindered fashion, a kink that no doubt could have been worked out with a little more time spent in the editing room. The aesthetic production design is a wonder, calling to mind everything from Half Life 2 to Portal while retaining it’s own unique, modernized look (I want that glass sky pool/deck so bad). It’s all about that score though folks, and it’s an album for the ages, bringing to life a film that otherwise just wouldn’t have been as memorable. 

-Nate Hill