Azn Badger's Blog

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Thoughts On Tron Legacy

I went to see Tron: Legacy in theaters today.

No, I didn’t watch it in 3D, and no; I was not at all excited to see it.

The original Tron was a movie that I never really had any sort of love for.

Sure, it was an astounding technical/visual achievement for it’s time, but that doesn’t mean it was all that good a movie.

To be perfectly honest, even as a kid I found the original Tron to be a muddled, confusing, and downright boring film.

“Boring” is a powerful word when used to describe a film consisting entirely of flashing lights and pretty colors.

As I sat in the theater today, I couldn’t help but feel that this Tron for the new generation; seemed to share many of the problems of it’s predecessor.

The film wasn’t bad, it was just sort of mediocre; and horribly paced to boot.

If ever there was a film that lost it’s way in the second half, it would be Tron: Legacy.

The basic plot of the film involves Jeff Bridges’ character from the previous film, Kevin Flynn; becoming trapped inside the digital realm of his own design, The Grid.

While doing whatever the fuck he does in there, he creates a digital program copy of himself, named Clu; and instills within him a “simple” directive of creating a perfect world.

As seemingly all computer-to-man exchanges seem to turn out, Clu ends up obeying this command to a fault, going so far as to usurp his creators position of power to achieve his goal.

It’s a fairly interesting set-up, that sadly is introduced to us far too late in the game to garner any significance to the audience; nor does it amount to any sort of dramatic pay-off.

Make no mistake: Tron is not a writer’s film.

Anyway, as you may have guessed, the little tidbit of the plot I just gave you is not something made apparent to the audience right off the bat.

Instead, we get treated to an introductory segment wherein our would-be protagonist, (he kind of gets shoved to the side… As does everyone else once THE PLOT gets dropped on us in the second act) Kevin Flynn’s son, Sam, (Garrett Hedlund) shows off for the 3D cameras through a series of EXTREME activities.

Truth be told, I found myself snickering through all of this, (as well as most of the film) as I couldn’t help but feel that it was the filmmaker’s way of justifying Sam’s physical prowess during the action sequences in the grid.

We see him ride his motorcycle, WRECKLESSLY, thereby showing he can drive a light cycle.

We see him do some hood jumping over cop cars that looks curiously like free-running, showing he’s not a feeb.

And on top of that, we see him do some fancy computer hacking, showing he is indeed computer literate enough to solve the mystery needed to START THE FUCKING MOVIE.

The reason I found this humorous, was the fact that I kept wanting them to show us a scene of him playing some Ultimate Frisbee in the park, y’know; to justify his awesomeness in Discs of Tron.

I’m jus’ sayin’, if you’re gonna’ take the time to cover your bases so artificially, you might as well cover them all.

Just so we can all say I talked about the plot, (Tron has a plot?  Since when?) the whole thing starts out sentimental and heartfelt, then it turns into a chaotic mess of (decent) action scenes, then THE PLOT comes crashing down, stopping the film’s momentum dead in it’s tracks.

From there we lose any sort of affinity we might have had for any of the characters, Michael Sheen acts faggy, and the whole thing ends with an anti-climactic bang.

Without exagerrating, the story progression felt like it was written by a 5 year old with A.D.D.

People, places, and essential plot devices seem to manifest at will, all in an attempt to streamline the process of getting the characters from point A to point B.

Despite the convenient nature of The Grid’s layout in regards to the central plot, it amazes me that somehow the film is still boring, and manages to throw us in the doldrums for more than half it’s running time.

Rest assured, most of the breadcrumbs of dramatic tension that the film attempts to sprinkle in the early goings are either ignored, or… No, actually they were all pretty much ignored.

Anyway, from an acting standpoint, I felt that everyone did alright with what the script had to offer.

Jeff Bridges was “fun,” I guess.

His retro dude-isms were decidedly out of place, and therefore worthy of a smile or 2, but for the most part his character, along with most everyone else; felt anemic and devoid of any real character.

Even so, Jeff Bridges has an inherent inviting aura of gravitas to him, so it’s hard for me to say anything bad about his performance.

I will say this though:

The digital mask used to portray Clu as a young Jeff Bridges was a pretty decent likeness, especially in profile and from over the shoulder, but the lips of the damn thing just looked wrong to me.

A friend of mine and I were joking that the “Digital Bridges” bore a resemblance to Bill Maher, such that we both felt Maher should’ve been cast in the part.

It was most apparent when he was speaking, particularly when yelling, (watch out for the speech sequence, he looks like shit…) but otherwise it was a decent attempt.

Good try, but we haven’t breached the uncanny valley just yet folks.

I feel it’s worth mentioning, that Michael Sheen will likely go down in history as the foremost authority on playing faggy Brits.

Seriously man, take one look at the man’s imdb, and you’re likely to find like 20 fuckin’ listings of him playing “Faggy Brit #4.”

While it may sound like I’m making fun of him, (I am) one should also note that Sheen’s just happens to be the only real notable performance in the entire film.

Watch out for all the cut-backs to him during the nightclub sequence, his posing and dancing were truly inspired.

And faggy.

Moving on, coming into Tron, Garrett Hedlund was an unknown item to me.

Despite having just seen him as one of the lead actors in a multi-million dollar film, I have to say, the man is still a nobody in my book.

‘Nuff said.

Olivia Wilde’s performance in the film was decently entertaining, bearing a wide-eyed inquisitiveness that made her a bit more endearing than most characters; however her place in the plot was somewhat lost to me.

She was apparently of vital importance to the story, as well as to the human world outside The Grid, however the explanation as to why felt inadequate.

Oh well, maybe I just couldn’t hear it over the FUCKING DAFT PUNK MUSIC!

That’s right folks, Daft Punk did the music for Tron: Legacy!

Not only that, they’re also in the fucking movie!

Did I mention Daft Punk did the music for Tron: Legacy!?

In case you couldn’t tell, the above statements were an example of sarcasm on the part of the Azn Badger.

Daft Punk’s score for Tron: Legacy is actually quite good.

There are some fairly inspired themes, particularly in the film’s quieter moments, and the whole score gels well with the aesthetic of the movie quite nicely.

My only real issue with the soundtrack, is probably more the fault of the editor and the director than Daft Punk, and that’s the fact that, like Inception; I felt the soundtrack held too large a presence in the film.

Much like anything in this world, if you pollute your film with too much music, no matter how beautiful; it will end up being detrimental in the long run.

Anyway, let’s get to the one part of this review that I’m sure everyone is here for:

The visuals.

Tron: Legacy is a very handsome film.

The artistic design is striking and beautiful, as well as imaginative and inventive to a fault.

The color palette is decidedly bleak for the most part, with black (as opposed to white in the first film) being a constant in most of the designs, and other colors being used as a highlight.

Rest assured, in classic Star Wars fashion: Red = Bad, Blue = Good.

To the credit of the digital artists, I found myself genuinely at a loss when it came to determining which props and sets were real, and which were digital.

Unlike in George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, wherein the sets bore an artificiality to them that made the actors “pop” out from them, many of the railings, floors, and walls in The Grid were lit/rendered with such attention to detail and texture, that I honestly couldn’t tell if they were real or fake.

Speaking of texture, I want to thank the design team of Tron: Legacy for going the extra mile to design actual costumes for virtually all of the characters in the movie.

You all probably know how I feel about the upcoming Green Lantern movie, and how silly the digital Lantern suit looks to me; so it comes as a surprise to me that Tron would contain actual physical costumes, and quite good ones at that.

Everyone sort of looks like Dark Knight Batman/ninjas in The Grid, and while that doesn’t really do it for me personally, I have to say; they were stunningly well-designed.

On that note, the whole film has a very cohesive look to it that was clearly meant to reflect the orderliness of a computer system, however the metaphor seems to have stopped there.

Many of the design choices, while all wonderful to look at, are a little bit silly; even by sci-fi/fantasy standards.

In the world of The Grid, there are drunk hobo “programs,” (in the form of people wandering the “streets”) and there are dance clubs.

The streets of The Grid are perpetually covered in puddles of “water,” and programs carry umbrellas to shield themselves from “rain.”

Not only that, planes in The Grid show a tendency to stall when pushed too hard.

They’re little things, I know; but purposeful oversights to an imagined world’s continuity for the sake of art always make me giggle just a little.

In summary:

Tron: Legacy is a fantastical visual experience, just don’t expect any sort of depth to it… Or any entertainment value above the level of “mediocre.”

Well designed and imagined, the film is simply lacking in the one area that usually matters most in any film:

Writing.

That being said, if you do go see Tron: Legacy, make sure to look out for shades of Star Wars in Jeff Bridges costuming, as well as some of the events during the films final act.

When Jeff Bridges told his son to hop on the gun of their escape craft, I nearly cracked up waiting for him to tell the kid, “Don’t get cocky!” while he was shooting down TIE fighters, er, I mean “Tron Planes.”

Anyway, thanks for reading!

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Best Boss Music #7: Einhänder

Einhänder was Squaresoft’s first and only scrolling shooting game.

Released in 1998 on the Playstation, the game represented a rare foray into the action genre for Squaresoft.

Despite the companies’ reputation for producing almost exclusively RPG games, the late 90’s represented a wonderful era of experimentation and change in the types of games Square would produce.

Pictured: A game we won't be talking about.

During this time Square would branch out and produce a great number of quality games across a myriad of genres.

Tobal No. 1 and 2,

How come we didn't get this awesome cover art in the U.S.?

Bushido Blade 1 and 2,

Pictured: Why Bushido Blade was the shit.

as well the Namco collaborative project, Ehrgeiz, represented Square’s first 3D fighting games.

Pictured: The only reasons any of you fanboy fuckers remember the mediocrity that was Ehrgeiz.

Parasite Eve 1 and 2 turned the RPG genre on it’s head with it’s modern and horror infused plot, as well as it’s hybrid real-time, turn-based combat system.

Oh yeah, and boobies.

Brave Fencer Musashi was one of Square’s first (and best) attempts to create a Zelda-style dungeon crawling adventure game.

I fuckin' LOVED this game. Never beat it though...

And Einhänder, was one of the finest space shooters ever made.

The game was absolutely gorgeous, with spectacular art design, wonderful atmosphere, and an especially noteworthy soundtrack by Kenichiro Fukui.

The basic story of the game was that, in the future, mankind expands it’s civilization to the moon, which at some point sparks a war between the people of the Earth, and the people of the Moon.

The player takes control of the moon-based pilot of a special, wasp shaped plane with a giant manipulator arm for snatching and using enemy weapons, or “Gun Pods.”

Essentially, the game represents a suicide run on the part of the player, wherein they are expected to destroy as many enemy facilities as possible to force the end of the war.

By the end of the game however, the player is faced with the unfortunate task of having to fight for their lives against their fellow soldiers, the reasoning behind which being that they were in fact expected to die on their suicide run on Earth.

"Can't you even die right!?" I'll never get tired of Revolver Ocelot quotes...

Einhänder was presented in a beautifully well-executed 2.5D format.

Essentially, the entire game takes place on a horizontal scrolling, 2D plane, while the graphics and camera angles are rendered in 3D polygons, resulting in a number of dynamic angles that do little to disrupt the relatively simple nature of the gameplay.

Thankfully the camera is in fact better than Superman 64.

At the outset of the game, the player is given the choice of 1 of 3 different “Einhänder” planes, the word being German for “Single-Handed.”

The Endymion FRS Mk. II was a larger plane that could house 3 Gun Pods at any given time, but could only operate one of them at a time.

The Endymion FRS Mk. III was a plane recommended for beginners, as it fielded 2 machine guns by default, as opposed to the normal 1, and it could only hold and operate 1 Gun Pod at a time, limiting the complexity of the gameplay.

And the Astraea FGA Mk. I, was a beastly powerhouse of a machine that could operate 2 Gun Pods at any time, making it the most difficult to pilot, but by far the cream of the crop in my opinion.

Trust me there’s a reason they put the Astraea on the cover.

Throughout the game, the player is faced with the task of battling enemies, while properly managing their Gun Pod arsenal from situation to situation.

Gun Pods could be mounted on the top or bottom of the plane, (or both when using the Astraea) and came in a huge number of varieties, with each having limited ammo so as to require the player to switch them out constantly.

Weapon types ranged from machine guns like the common Vulcan, and it’s overpowered cousin, the Juno, to oddities like the Riot lightning gun, and the defensive chaff gun, the Hedgehog.

Several Gun Pods could only be unlocked by meeting certain conditions, such as killing all of the enemies in a particular scene, or defeating certain bosses in certain ways.

In fact, there were many secrets and branching paths in the game depending upon the player’s performance, resulting in a rare shooter that had the potential to play out differently every time.

Unlike this game, where you can bet on dieing pretty much every time.

Like any other scrolling shooter, bosses were plentiful and spectacular throughout.

Many bosses had weaknesses and could be taken out relatively quickly, (especially when using the ridiculously overpowered Grenade) though in most cases this was ideal, as many of the bosses had variable patterns depending upon the types of damage inflicted on them.

Of course we all know the best damage, is Collateral Damage.

All the bosses in the game had multiple damage quadrants, resulting in interesting scenarios wherein the player would have to quickly decipher which spots made for the most effective targets.

Some of my favorite bosses in the game were the games first boss, a massive elephant like whats-it,

The spider-legged mid-boss of level 3, which could be insanely difficult if not taken out quickly,

KILL IT. NOOOOOOWWWW.

the giant bipedal monkey robot from level 5 that makes Doom noises when it roars,

and the giant satellite that serves as the game’s second to last boss.

PIG FUCKER of a boss. But awesome music, so all is forgiven.

Of course, none of these boss battles would be half as great if not for the game’s amazing soundtrack.

The game doesn’t have a singular boss theme, though in this case I think I would call the first boss theme, “Shudder” the Best Boss Music in Einhänder:

Ah hell, here’s the rest of the boss themes I just listed, in order:
Warning

Madness

and closest runner-up to Shudder, Thermosphere

Much of Einhänder universe uses German and Greek mythological terms, and as such, the game has an appropriately German techno-esque soundtrack.

Pictured: The physical embodiment of German Techno.

The atmosphere is moody, energetic, and undeniably futuristic, giving the game an uncommon sense of drama and urgency for a space shooter.

The game was incredibly difficult, using the annoying-as-fuck “back to the checkpoint every death” system of Gradius, and yet it was packed to the rim with so many beautiful sights and sounds that it was hard to put down.

Einhänder is one of those games that I find myself playing again every few years, and I scarcely believe I will ever get tired of it.

I wouldn’t be lying if I said Einhänder reminded me of Axelay at times.

That’s probably the biggest complement I can give to a space shooter.

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