Tron: Legacy (2010) – Film Review

Although Disney has had more than enough success when it comes to its animated filmography, the iconic production company has seemingly always struggled with its live-action endeavours. As aside from ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise, many of Disney’s attempts to kick-off a live-action film series such as: ‘John Carter’, ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ and ‘Tomorrowland’ have all been relative flops (with the exception of their remakes of animated classics). ‘Tron: Legacy’, the action-packed sequel to the ground-breaking cult sci-fi: ‘Tron’ from 1982, is a slight improvement in this area, yet still results in a film more focused on style-over-substance.

After the tech-savvy ‘Sam Flynn’ begins looking into his father’s disappearance. He soon finds himself pulled into a digital world where his father has been trapped for over twenty years. All while the malevolent program: ‘CLU’, who rules ‘The Grid’, plans to prevent the pair’s escape and take the real world for himself.

Being set in a virtual world, nearly every-scene within ‘Tron: Legacy’ takes place in fully CGI locations, and although most of the film’s CGI effects do hold-up well and are visually appealing. The digital world of: ‘The Grid’ does begin to feel quite unvaried after a point, as whilst it may look unique at first glance, the illuminated buildings and vehicles throughout the city of: ‘Tron’ feel fairly repetitive despite the film’s variety of different locations. In fact, its the film’s CGI visuals that actually made ‘Tron: Legacy’ the most expensive film ever made by a first-time director at the time of its release, with the costume budget alone costing over £10 million.

Garrett Hudlund portrays the film’s protagonist: ‘Sam’, alongside the supporting cast of Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde and also Michael Sheen in a small role. Who all give decent performances despite their dull characters, as ‘Tron: Legacy’s story and characters follow many of the same-beats as any-other sci-fi adventure. However, easily the worst element of the film when it comes to its characters is the film’s antagonist. Known only as ‘CLU’, a corrupt program created by Jeff Bridges’ character: ‘Kevin Flynn’ as a digital copy of himself, this villain not only suffers from a barley-developed motivation but also due to him being a program which doesn’t age, the film utilises CGI to make Jeff Bridges appear a similar age to that of his in the original film, which is one of the few CGI effects that really hasn’t aged-well, appearing almost laughably-bad at points.

Claudio Miranda handles the cinematography throughout ‘Tron: Legacy’, and although the film definitely puts far more of an emphasis on its CGI effects than its cinematography, there are still a fair amount of interesting shots including plenty of stunning wide-shots to display the true scale of the digital world. The cinematography also makes great use out of the film’s few sleek futuristic sets despite their very limited screen-time, most notably: ‘Flynn’s Safehouse’ located on the edge of: ‘The Grid’.

The original score for the film is actually composed by the techno band: ‘Daft Punk’, whose type of music does suitably fit the sci-fi genre, and whilst some tracks do feel a little too similar to an actual techno album in my opinion. For the most part, the soundtrack does back-up the film’s narrative and adventurous tone very effectively. ‘Daft Punk’ themselves even make a short cameo within the film as a pair of DJs in the ‘End of Line’ nightclub, wearing their iconic helmets as they play one of the film’s most memorable tracks.

Another great aspect of: ‘Tron: Legacy’ is certainly its action set-pieces, as although many of the action scenes throughout the film aren’t anything incredibly inventive. The original: ‘Tron’ did introduce the creative concepts of: ‘Identity/Light Disks’ and ‘Light Cycles’, both of which return in the sequel and result in plenty of thrilling and fast-paced action sequences as ‘Sam’ is thrown-into an array of gladiator-esque challenges near the beginning of the film. The various costumes worn by the characters who live within ‘The Grid’ are also worth a quick mention, as most of the characters wear a ‘Light Suit’, which usually feature fluorescent-like glowing strips that illuminate each suit in a range of colours, which never fails to be visually-striking.

‘Tron: Legacy’ overall is by no means a terrible film, when it comes to Disney’s other ventures into live-action, ‘Tron: Legacy’ could even be seen as a success for some. But with its fairly by-the-numbers story, bland characters and onslaught of over-done clichés, this sci-fi sequel ends-up becoming more of a display for its impressive CGI visuals and electronic original score rather than an exhilarating sci-fi odyssey. A low 6/10 from me. If you’re a fan of the original: ‘Tron’ I feel you will surely enjoy this follow-up, if not, maybe look elsewhere for your fill of original science fiction.

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Bumblebee (2018) – Film Review

Serving as both a prequel to Michael Bay’s iconic ‘Transformers’ franchise as well as a kind of soft-reboot for the film series as a whole, ‘Bumblebee’ is a fresh take on the sci-fi/action film series. But going off the back of its outstanding reviews and director Travis Scott’s other film: ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ on my initial watch, I was expecting a little more.

On the run from his alien home-world: ‘Cybertron’ in the year of 1987, ‘Bumblebee’ manages to find refuge through a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Where  ‘Charlie’, on the edge of turning eighteen and trying to find her place in the world, discovers him, battle-scarred and broken.

Whilst the film is definitely an improvement over Michael Bay’s other various attempts at the shape-shifting machines, ‘Bumblebee’ isn’t overall anything outstanding. Mostly been a very comedic sci-fi action-adventure with a few emotional moments thrown in. This version almost seems to be leaning more towards the iconic cartoon series from 1984 to 1987, as many of the ‘Transformer’s designs are ripped straight from the beloved TV show, even featuring a few cameos from classic characters.

Hailee Steinfeld and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. both portray young characters who attempt to help ‘Bumblebee’ finish his mission throughout the film, and while their characters: ‘Charlie’ and ‘Memo’ only really get a basic amount of development. They are likeable and serve their purpose within the story. A member of the cast I wasn’t aware of at first however, was the infamous John Cena. Who actually portrays one of the main antagonists of the film, aside from the ‘Decepticons’ themselves, and despite his mostly decent performance throughout the film, I simply just couldn’t take seriously. Mostly due to his ‘meme’ status and internet reputation.

Luckily the colourful visuals throughout the film definitely add to the cinematography by Enrique Chediak, as although the cinematography isn’t bad by any means, the cinematography is mostly generic for an action flick like this. But due to the great lighting and colour palette, ‘Bumblebee’ is easily the most visually appealing entry in the blockbuster franchise, ditching the ugly Michael Bay blue and orange colour palette in exchange for more of a summer-like feel for nearly the entirety of its runtime.

The original score by Dario Marianelli is your generic score for an action flick, with some heroic tones alongside it. The soundtrack isn’t really anything memorable, and despite also not being anything amazing, I think I still prefer the original score for the 2007 ‘Transformers’ film by Steve Jablonsky, which has since gone down in film as the main theme for the ‘Transformers’.

The action throughout the film is fun for the most part, not simply being another constant barrage of explosions and actually trying to utilize the various ‘Transformers’ abilities in different ways. However, it still doesn’t quite reach the level of fun the original cartoon series had, always feeling a little toned down. One compliment I can give the film however, is the comedy. As again whilst not landing every joke, the film does have it’s fair share of funny moments, which did give me a short chuckle at times, and not simply just a sigh or a cringe as many of Michael Bay’s extremely poor attempts at humour did.

It’s definitely a pleasant surprise to have an entry in the ‘Transformers’ franchise that isn’t simply just explosions and loud noises from start-to-finish, with a great visual appeal and plenty of humour throughout, I could see most having a lot of fun with this film, especially families. However, it might be that I simply don’t have a huge love for these characters, but I although I found it enjoyable whilst watching, it wasn’t super memorable for me personally. A decent 6/10 overall.

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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – Film Review

One of the most insane action blockbusters and best soft-reboots I’ve seen in a cinema for quite some-time, as ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ delivers on nearly every aspect of what you would want from both an action film, and a ‘Mad Max’ sequel. As the great cast of Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, alongside talented director George Miller, bring us an absolute visual feast which is sure to please any viewer in search of a unique and exciting thrill-ride.

Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a woman (Furiosa) rebels against a tyrannical ruler in search of her original homeland with the aid of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a rogue drifter named: ‘Max‘.

From five minutes into the runtime, to five minutes after the film is over, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is truly a thrilling experience. Utilizing incredible stunts, plenty of action scenes and attractive locations/sets throughout the story, the film always manages to feel gritty and real (despite having an incredibly over-the-top tone). Surprisingly, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ was even confirmed to be a sequel to the original: ‘Mad Max’ trilogy, meaning the film actually continues the story (in a way) from: ‘Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome’, and although I’m not a huge fan of the original films, this does make me excited for the future of this franchise if we can expect this kind of quality.

The whole cast of Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Rosie Alice Huntington-Whiteley and Hugh Keays-Byrne are all excellent within their roles, with Nicholas Hoult as: ‘Hux’ and Hugh Keays-Byrne as the intimidating antagonist: ‘Immortan Joe’ being my two personal favourites. As all of the characters are fairly likeable and somewhat interesting despite not being given much characterisation throughout the narrative.

The cinematography by Jon Seale really helps elevate many of the scenes throughout the film however, as the film makes brilliant use of a variety of wide-shots, all which look absolutely fantastic. Director George Miller also really pushes the film’s varied and overly-bright colour palette, giving each the desert a bright orange and blue look to make it more visually appealing, which later contrasts with the dark blue of the swamplands or the harsh red and orange when the characters are inside the vicious sandstorm.

‘Junkie XL’ or Thomas Holkenborg lends his hand to the original score for the film, utilizing amazing guitar rifts to sound as if the soundtrack had been ripped straight from a classic rock album. Backing-up many of the fast-paced action scenes perfectly, which was surprising as this composer’s other scores are usually very forgettable. The original score is even given reference within the film, as we later see the character: ‘Coma-Doof Warrior’ who plays an electric guitar.

Of course the easiest criticism of: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is its lack of story and developed characters, and although the film definitely does have a fairly simplistic story and relativity weak characters. I’d argue this works to the film’s benefit, as the film does have plenty of great world-building, and fills the majority of it’s runtime with exactly what it’s audience desires to see, which is obviously the main goal of the film. As the film never pretends to be something that it isn’t. Another element of the film I don’t personally like is the editing, as although I understand the need to have quick editing to keep-up with the film’s fast-pacing and action. Most of the editing throughout the film feels very chaotic and even slightly messy at points, coming off as a distraction from what’s on-screen more than anything else.

I really adore ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, as although it may not be a masterpiece when it comes to filmmaking. It’s definitely up there with some of the best action flicks of this decade. As some unbelievable action scenes and stunts, a brilliant cast, and some outstanding cinematography, leave ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ a true breath of fresh air for the action genre, despite the film’s pretty basic story and bizarre editing choices. Overall, a solid 8/10. Very well-deserved, and I can’t wait until George Miller brings us another exciting instalment in this franchise.

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