Category Archives: cyberpunk

A Tale of Two Trons

I was never that big of a fan of the original Tron, yeah, I know, blasphemy, and I have to turn in my nerd license. Other than the cool (at the time) effects and the arcade game “Discs of Tron,” which I enjoyed on an almost daily basis for hours on just a few quarters, it never really did much for me.

The thing about Tron, is that like the cyberpunk work of the legendary William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, contemporary to the flick, it’s an idea, a fictional concept, that has been washed away by reality. The world of ‘the grid’ is over, like the rocketships and rayguns of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, it no longer even makes sense. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, or this sequel, mind you, it just raises the suspension of disbelief a hundredfold is all. Trust me – Gibson, Sterling, Rogers and Gordon all still rock my world in a major way – it’s just harder to do these days.

What I remember and respect most about the original Tron is its simplicity of style. A true grid world accessible and relatable to the videogames of the time was realized and endeared itself to a generation. That’s a real feat. It was visually exciting and forward-thinking for its time, and even today remains a very unique vision, separating it from much of its science fiction competition.

I also remember the music, a Journey song “Only Solutions,” that I liked – at a time when I wasn’t all that fond of Journey. Of course, life with The Bride has changed that. I like Journey and she likes comics – the concessions of love. The soundtrack however was mostly composed by the wonderful Wendy Carlos (formerly Walter Carlos), one of the first musicians to seriously work with the synthesizer as the next wave in sound. The soundtrack is memorable for that sound. Daft Punk more than does the job for the new century in the sequel. I recommend both soundtracks highly.

If 1982’s Tron posits a world called The Grid where programs compete in videogames for their users, the sequel Tron: Legacy represents a current day return to that world. Shortly after the events of the first movie, Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges, makes it big in the computer and videogame industry, and then after beginning to act erratically, disappears, leaving his son, Sam, alone.

Sam gets a page from his Dad and returns to Dad’s arcade, and in a flourish of 1980s nostalgia, punctuated by vintage videogames, Eurythmics music, as well as Journey, in a nod to this film’s predecessor, he ends up in The Grid. This is a much darker Grid, and a world that exhibits every strength today’s CGI special effects can avail. In this, the hype is true. This is the movie that 3D and IMAX were made for, it’s just a shame that not all of it is in 3D. As cool as these visuals are, the half 3D, half 2D of it damages it. All or nothing, I say.

As I said, this is a very dark film. Dark in the same way Disney’s Return to Oz was to MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, so in some ways it’s not a good thing. The idea of a sequel to Tron is essentially a return to a world of wonder, a world of adventure, a world we enjoyed. This new fascist Grid, under the thumb of Flynn’s evil computer counterpart Clu is not a happy place. The problem, spoiler alert, is that even though the good guys win at the end, we never actually see anything but the bad place.

Rather than this dark vision with spectacular effects, I think I would have much rather seen a remake. It’s been almost thirty years after all, and one of the legitimate reasons to remake a film is that the special effects have gotten better – and they surely have. The Light Cycles are amazing and realistic. The Recognizers are gigantic and menacing. And Clu, wow, let me tell you about Clu. Clu is a haunting CGI effect of the younger Jeff Bridges from 1982. This ‘effect’ is both stunning and disturbing.

Cast-wise, it’s fun to see Bruce Boxleitner as Alan once again, Garret Hedlund is promising in his first major role, and Olivia Wilde is definitely someone to watch. Jeff Bridges, mostly as his older current age self, is the unfortunate weak link. He seems to channel The Dude from The Big Lebowski to the point of ridiculousness. While humorous, it pulls me completely out of the film whenever he does it. And it even ruins the strong dramatic moments like when he finally connects with his estranged son. Sorry, The Dude is one of my heroes, but he doesn’t belong in Tron.

Like Avatar, this is a film you must see for the special effects at least once. In this case, the 3D and the IMAX are worth it, even though I have railed against their cost and worth before. It seems to be doing well so I suppose a sequel is possible – maybe we’ll see more of Dillinger’s kid, which I’m sure all the Tron nerds wanted as well. Despite my reservations, Tron: Legacy is recommended, and don’t forget to check out the original too, first if possible.

Bookmark and Share
Advertisements

True Blood: Everything Is Broken

In the pre-credit teaser of this episode we get our first look at the vampire law enforcement/military. They are very Robocop, very Starship Troopers, and very old school cyberpunk, and of course, they are armed with silver. My first thought is ‘kewl,’ but my second thought is ‘how do you keep something like that a secret?’ I’m all for secret empires and ages-old illuminati and the like, but whoa.

“Everything Is Broken,” title derived from the Bob Dylan tune that closes the episode, is written by Alexander Woo, who also wrote the less than satisfactory episode “It Hurts Me Too” from earlier this season. We open on Russell cradling what’s left of Talbot and then move to a vampirically erotic shower scene with Bill and Sookie. Nice juxtaposition. The chatter between them, about what normal couples do, is fun and charming.

When Sam suggested to Tara that she see a shrink, I nearly snarfed Coke through my nose. I think the last thing this show needs is a psychologist creeping around Bon Temps. They would have to commit the whole town! Crazy aside, it’s a good episode for other things. Bill and Sookie get some, Lafayette and Jesus get some, and Sam’s brother gets some.

Eric rats Russell out to The Authority (not the comic, although that’s the first thing I think of when I type that). Full confession, baby. Only the result is not what he hoped. They leave him high and dry. Russell is too hot to handle, so if something is to be done, Eric has to do it himself.

Bill gets to visit fairyland. I have to wonder at the logic of this however. After Sookie’s blood saved his life, there was a weird effect where he could momentarily stand the sunlight. Here, he goes to that watery place of light near the cemetery and the hostess says he’s there because he has Sookie’s blood. But now, hasn’t Bill had Sookie’s blood before this? Why hasn’t this come up before this?

Franklin! He sure scared the crap out of Tara, but we knew he wouldn’t be gone long. Lesson learned for folks not in the know, like Tara – you must stake or decapitate a vampire or they just ain’t dead. Stake in the heart, or head off body, or there’s just no true death.

And finally, Russell takes his war public and worldwide – wow and holy crap – in one of the best cliffhangers on television in quite some time. I cannot wait for the next episode!

Bookmark and Share

XChange

HOLLYWOOD VS. CYBERPUNK

A Video Review of XChange

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Hollywood hates cyberpunk. Look at The Matrix, Johnny Mnemonic and the classic Blade Runner. They are the exceptions. Everything else they crap on. Hollywood is so good at doing this. They take a brilliant cyberpunk science fiction concept, make a movie of it and make it completely unwatchable.

Here is XChange. It is set in a future where mind transference technology exists and is used for travel. You live in New York and need to attend a meeting in San Francisco so you send your mind to a body in San Fran – fast and easy. It beats airline food.

Now imagine all the cool things that go with that. Anonymity of meeting new people in a strange city. Letting your trainer take your body and work out while you do paperwork with his. And of course the nightmare and the plot of this film, a terrorist absconding with your body while you use his.

This is exactly what happens to businessman Toffler who is off to find his hijacked body in New York where this just becomes standard sci-fi action fare. The dull talents of Stephen the lesser Baldwin don’t help. His casting may have been part of that Hollywood hate I mentioned.

This could have been so good but is simply mediocre with some cool special effects. It’s a shame. I wish I could exchange XChange.

Armitage III

A Video Review of “Armitage III: The Polymatrix”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

This is typical anime; cyberpunk, robots, chicks with big eyes and blood and guts. What sets Armitage III apart from the rest is the Americanization of the flick. It’s not just dubbed, it’s dubbed by star voices. Rather than the regular crew of folks who always dub these things this one has employed the celebrity vocal skills of Elizabeth Berkley (Showgirls and “Saved by the Bell”) and Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys and “24”).

The problem with celebrity dubbing is that sometimes a voice is too familiar. Sutherland’s character is black-haired so I had a problem associating the voice with the character with his voice. I had similar difficulties with Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Alec Baldwin.

The only thing that takes you out of the flick is the disproportion of the leads. Sutherland is portrayed very realistically while Berkley is your typical petite scantily clad anime babe with big eyes. It may be the style but it becomes most irritating after awhile.

The story involves a serial killer offing robot women on Mars with Sutherland and Berkley as the officers investigating. Even with the cyberpunk and ultraviolent anime trappings this has the distinct feel of an American buddy cop movie. Good story, great characters and involving story, all around a well done piece.