Film Review: Tron Legacy

Light CyclesTechnology is the driving force of the 21st century. Who knew back in 1982, when Disney put out the original Tron, that the cheesy effects and garish visual style would stick in audience’s minds to be brought back decades later.

Die-hards like the YouTube sensation ‘Tron guy’ will be delighted to hear the light cycles, neon suits and battling with glowing Frisbees have all returned in glorious digital 3D.

Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn from the first film, but for those unfamiliar with the Tron universe, Legacy eases the viewer in through the eyes of Flynn’s son Sam (Garrett Hadlund).

Sam wants to find out the reason for his dad abandoning him when he was eight years old, and so pays a visit to Flynn’s disused arcade – following a mysterious page his father’s old colleague Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) from the arcade’s back office.

As it turns out, there is a secret door hidden behind the Tron arcade game, which Flynn designed based on his experiences in the first film, and Sam discovers the server which contains ‘The Grid’.

Suddenly, though not unexpectedly, Sam is sucked into ‘The Grid’ through a digitising laser and the visual style shines as a the mostly 2D world suddenly gives way to a 3D digital universe.

The digital world echoes the roads and walkways of the real world, but with a honed precision and slick design which creates the contrast between the levels of perfection in the two worlds, driving the plot.

As Sam is led through this strange new world, the audience has just as little idea what is going on as he does, making the narrative unfold quite naturally.

Despite being a Disney film, the story doesn’t seem contrived or forced, and it’s easy to suspend disbelief as you find yourself thinking, “Of course it could happen, anything’s possible in a computer game.”

It’s the relationship between Kevin and Sam which sells the concept rather than falling into the easy trap of relying on the mind-boggling effects, which is easy to do for even the most mundane modern film – let alone one where motorbikes are appearing out of thin air.

Chances are even if you don’t have a clue what Tron is all about you might have stumbled across light cycles, the brightly coloured motorbike-esque transport on the gaming grid, which have popped up in the likes of Family Guy and South Park, and the original film is reportedly a life-long influence of French disco-pop duo Daft Punk, who score Legacy.

The pounding electronic beats of ‘The Punk’ complete the digitising sensation with the combination of an 85 piece orchestra and the duo’s signature synth pop melodies.

The background characters include a few familiar faces such as Olivia Wilde, of House MD fame, as Quorra, who serves as the love interest for the film – though it being Disney things don’t get particularly far, which is a relief since it keeps the focus on the action, the film’s strength.

In all the film surpasses expectation as a fun, action-packed thrill ride through cyberspace. Routing things with the characters is always Disney’s strength and they don’t disappoint here, director Joseph Kosinski delivers a slick, dynamic and up to date version of the 1982 cult classic.

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Gaming: Spike Video Game Awards Top Picks

Finish the fight...?For those in the know the news is out: Eldar Scrolls V and Mass Effect 3 teaser trailers have both been unleashed on the gaming world, but for everyone else thinking “What on Earth are the Spike VGAs?” and “Why didn’t anyone tell me something was going on?” Here’s a micro-explanation.

The Spike VGAs have been going on for a few years now, they tend to attract a lot of big Hollywood names and the associated glamour, with some previews for upcoming titles thrown in just to keep the gaming part of the name happy.

In the past the Awards have seen  a few unveilings and announcements such as  The Force Unleashed II and Arkham Asylum 2 – Arkham City last year (but more on that later).

There’s plenty of criticism for the awards since they have a lot of live music acts and celebrities and really play into the big franchises borrowed from other genres, but they do occasionally bring some exciting news-bites…which is what we were graced with this year.

On the Sci-fi side of the argument lies a little game called Mass Effect 3:

Earth finally comes into play, not as a dot to orbit around but a battlefield, and things look serious. There’s debate at present whether BioWare will opt for a continuation of Mass Effect 2’s more upbeat action style, slide back towards a more diverse RPG game or progress to something new entirely, since there has been much talk of a spin-off game.

The trailer shows the Reapers decimating Earth, clearly something has to be done but how will the game work? Will you be traversing continents now instead of galaxies? Being Earth-bound might be hard to swallow for some players, though the game has been screaming out for some perspective since it’s inception.

Next up is the return of the Caped Crusader:

 

So the Joker is nowhere to be seen in this trailer, though we know he’s around from the teaser a while ago, but instead we are greeted by Doctor Hugo Strange, who is keeping an eye on the inmates for new Mayor Quincy Sharp – who has taken credit for all your efforts in stopping the Joker in the first game.

The visuals are particularly impressive, though obviously it isn’t in-game footage, and the same brutality as before along with a host of new gadgets and bits and bobs should make this a tremendous game.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the big news for fantasy RPG fans. Take a look at the teaser trailer:

So there isn’t much to go on as of yet, but clearly the game continues the story on after Oblivion and involves dragons. Any fans of Bathesda or previous Elder Scrolls outings will most likely be salavating even though the release is almost a year away, on 11 Novermber next year.

Finally Portal 2 made an appearance:

A real ‘tease’ with this one, Valve are bound to produce a great game, particularly the co-op aspect, but this footage doesn’t really tell us anything about the same, except that it has Valve’s usual sense of humour. Definitely one to watch.

 

James Michael Parry

Gaming: Do we need to get Kinect-ed?


Four years ago the Nintendo Wii broadened gamers’ horizons, getting them up off the sofa and waving their arms around to interact with games with its revolutionary motion-sensitive controls.

Last month Microsoft took the gaming experience a step further with the release of Kinect, an add-on to the incredibly successful Xbox 360 which lets players jump into games in a way they never have before. With a combination of an conventional RGB camera and two motion-tracking sensors, Kinect scans you into the game so every move you make is reflected on screen by your character.

The system, which is compatible with all existing Xbox 360s, was released on 10 November and sold a million units worldwide in the first 10 days after launch. Microsoft is confident to have it in five million homes worldwide by the end of the year. But with so much technology already hanging around widescreen TVs across the land, do people need another device?

There’s plenty of shiny futuristic features to the technology: voice control, hand control of the menus, as well as ‘scanning’, which means that the sensor can be shown a colour, analyse it and then use it in the game, such as the colour of your car in happy-go-lucky racer Kinect Joyride (which is obviously not a copy of any Kart-based franchise on Nintendo’s consoles…).

The camera also works as a normal webcam, allowing video chats via Xbox LIVE, but with webcams as standard for most laptops and Skype facilitating video chatting it’s hardly a unique selling point.

What Microsoft have failed to realise is that it’s the strength of the games which will sell Kinect to the masses, especially their current fanbase, and unfortunately it’s a fairly mixed bag. If things had gone according to plan we might have seen Kinect-enabled Fable III as well as Gears of War 3 but alas it was not to be. Perhaps Microsoft should invest in coming up with an IP which really lends itself to showcasing the technology…?

On top of it all it’s not cheap either – despite claims originally that it would retail around the price of a standard game – Kinect currently RRPs at £129.99 on its own, though it does come with the physically challenging Kinect Adventures, or you can pay £249.99 for a bundle with the new slim Xbox 360 console included as well.

The smart thing to do though is to wait for an established franchise to take the plunge and embrace the technology to show the world what Kinect can really achieve. In the meantime relax, gaming is supposed to be recreation after all. If you want a work out though, there is a certain console from Japan which you can flail your arms at to your hearts content, if you need a clue its name rhymes with ‘money’.