Sunday, 19 June 2011

Breaking Bad and Tron Legacy

Have been watching Breaking Bad Season 2 and Tron legacy.

Breaking Bad has had a lot of praise and its wonderful. The writing is in character and plot is excellent and surprising, is always intrigued by its world, which is important for a TV show. The acting is terrific, especially in small details and looks that often propel the narrative, character weakness in these looks, in small narrative loose ends, always seeming to lead to bad ends.

The fun of the show is watching the incremental details and blind spots that a person has will lead them to staggeringly awful decisions. The choice of a terminal cancer patient Walt saying to himself I'm doing this for a good reason, to give my family money when I die, even though creating pure crystal meth, starts off disturbing, and gets increasingly twisted, as the details of how to set yourself up as a supplier is far more work than imagined, leading to lies, death, a need to feel important. Walt's pride is horrific, as he refuses help that would have stopped the dealer sitution from occuring, or given him an early out, then increasingly pushes his dealer partner Jesse into darker dealer enforcment situations, which Walt refuses to get involved in directly, leading to many deaths and ruined lives. And so many lies.

The irony of the characters keep coming up. Walt's wife, Skylar, who he lies to keep his business from, is as proud, annoying and as headstrong as he is, is a very funny take on the normal character. Watching these two fight is always fun as neither of them are capable of backing down, only beatign a tactical retreat, and they tend to be in action showing the weakness of the other. the weakness of both is rage that the world seemingly doesn't live up to their warped standards, adn that they both feel left behind by the world. Both always act as if they are the rational ones but neither truly are.

Jessie, Walt's partner, begins to slowly become the sympathetic character of the show. He's a weak man, addicted to crystal meth, trying to survive, not that ambitious and initially annoying. But he is driven by Walt to succeed, being pushed into increasingly awful situations by the partnership until he's a shell of a man by the end of season 2.

The show si terrific in all these details. And its has Danny Trejo's head but on top of a tortoise.

I've also been watching Burn Notice. There's not much to say about that beyond its loads of fun. Well-written acted and engaging entertainment, with no pretensions.

Tron Legacy is a fun, silly movie that's far better directed than it is written.

It was written by two guys who wrote for Lost and shares with Lost the useless hero and the attitude of we don't need to answer many questions raised, if in fact any. The crippling aspect of the film is in its story beats, which rips off Matrix Revolutions consistently and badly (a virtual world under threat causing problems for the real world, machine evolution, everything ultimately is tied to duality of a soul and finding purpose from that).

Tron Legacy takes place about 30 years after Tron and is about the mystery of the Jeff Bridges character disappearing from the world and his son trying to find him. After an appalling first few minutes of info dump to link Tron to its sequel, the story of the son searching for his father settles down to the the most solid aspect of the film, taking us from the real world, to the world of Tron, its battles, its power structures. All those elements, even if startlingly unoriginal in every plot point, are solid. Even as the film goes a bit crazy, after the son finds Jeff Bridges in Tron, this element remains solid.

Not that its well written in character. The lead actor Garret Hedlund, who plays the son, struggles with some appalling character work inflicted upon him by the writers. His character is pouty, more than a bit dumb, never listens, never has any real plan, leading to a lack of direction for the film. Its a staggeringly awful peice of writing development scene to scene but the actor, while not able to make the character unique, manages to at least overcome the writing and make the character work within the film. But its leaves the film stranded in a set of sequences without any narative momentum or core, without an interesting goal. Jeff Bridges isn't given much interesting scenes to play either, as the mysterious lost father, who is found and who changes his mind about every ten minutes but being a terrific actor, hides it with eccentricity. So the lack of centre for the film is a major problem. That's the downside. Plus the plot of the virtual characters getting ready to come into the real world to kill us all. That's a dumb plot device that's difficult to overcome.

And yet I like the film. The director Jospeh Kosinski has a good eye, is the main power behind keeping the film working. He seems to be aware of the flaws in script and tries to sell the concepts visually, to use images and cinematic technique to sell the simple idea of a magic techno world. Despite Tron being almost one-note in visual idea, a computer world always stays a computer world, he kept the visuals intereresting and varied by changing perspective, by revealing the Tron world and shadings slowly, knowing to use a strong series of images when there's a dodgy plot turn coming (such as the end and the army of Tron soldiers, which looks so good you forget the dumbness of the idea behind it). He sold the real world and the world of Tron as related to each other in interesting ways, liking architecture, the villains in almost CEO type glass guildings compared to dungeon-like dwellings of the creators of the technology in both worlds. The lack of directoon within the characters is made interesting by how he frames them, making their confusion seem more interesting within the world than it should be. Despite there being no real plot or character development in this area, the journey the lead character takes is sold beatifully by visual information, by the changes in location, pacing of scenes, styles of landscape. The idea of Jeff Bridges fighting another younger version of himself within Tron, of being a soul cut in half, is a non-event narratively, as not much time is spent with either Bridges character but Bridges and the way Kosinski shoots Bridges throughout suggests an intriguing connection and disaffection, a lack of centre to both characters. The finale to this beat works only visually, as the plot reasons seem dull but the idea of a person inegrating two parts of his soul are fascinating.

Tron Legacy almost works as a silent movie. None of the dialogue is worth a damn but the visuals are always intriguing and suggest a more developed and fascinating world beyond the limits of the writers. Its best to view it the way you would view the theatrical cut of Fincher's Alien 3. (the Alien 3workprint cut solves many of these problems but elaboration and detail) Yes there are lots of problems, the narrative starts and stops but lok at how the director sets up shots, places people within landscape, is in love with the visual aspects. So I recommend it, but be aware that its more about the start of a promising director rather than a successful film on the whole.

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