Saturday, December 18, 2010

The dreaded R word

Like many of you, I've spent the second half of 2010 in full-on anticipation mode for Tron: Legacy.

In fact, I first saw the "new" trailer -- the one that expanded on the teasers we saw nearly a year ago -- on an IMAX screen before Inception. The timing worked out perfectly -- I had spent the first half of the year anticipating Inception, and Tron: Legacy immediately filled the anticipation vacuum. In fact, I remember exactly the shot in the trailer that sent me over the top -- a rear-view of a light cycle, with Daft Punk's "The Game Has Changed" (for those of you who, like me, bought the soundtrack last week off for $3.99) playing thunderously and spine-tinglingly in the background.

But if Tron: Legacy is not all we're cracking it up to be, I can't say I'll be surprised. See, my last three weeks have represented the tempered expectations of a dirty little word starting with the letter R:


Not the reshoots you read around this summer, in which Brad Bird and a couple others were brought in to flesh out the "characters, emotion and theme," leading to what director Joseph Kosinski referred to as six new minutes of footage in the film's first 20 minutes.

No, these are reshoots that may or may not have occurred over Thanksgiving. That's right, just three weeks before the movie was set to come out.

Uh oh.

The "may not" part of that equation is key. I have no verifiable source for this information -- at least not yet. If there were such 11th hour reshoots, it'll probably come out in the postmortem, if reasons for the film's failure need to be discovered. For now, I've only got a friend of mine to go on. Let's call him Paul.

I spent Thanksgiving with Paul, and when Paul and I get together, we always do a quick and dirty recap of what we've seen, what we have yet to see, and what we're excited to see. Tron: Legacy inevitably came up during that last part. However, Paul had information that I didn't -- he said that the movie was in reshoots. As in, right now. As in, Jeff Bridges and Garrett Hedlund were, at that very moment, acting against a green screen somewhere in greater Los Angeles.

I'd been saving up that tidbit to write about on the blog today, but thought I needed to be able to back up my claims. I'm not what you would call a journalist anymore, but I'm also not a blatant spreader of lies. So when I saw Paul again last night, I asked him what his source was for this information. At which point he told me he had been at a car dealer -- to buy, or to get repairs on his vehicle, I'm not sure -- and heard another customer talking. Clearly I'm not a journalist anymore, because I don't remember the details of a story that was told to me last night -- I can't remember whether Paul was talking to the guy himself, or heard this guy talking to an employee at the car dealership, or heard this guy talking on his cell. Whatever the case was, this guy had said something about "starting reshoots for Tron on Monday." As in Monday November 29th, 18 days before Tron: Legacy was scheduled to take theaters by storm.

Uh oh.

It's pretty obvious that reshoots are never a good sign. But when they occur months before the film is going to be released, like this summer's reshoots occurred, it's much easier to spin that as something positive, or at least non-negative. Interviewed this summer, Kosinski said "Being able to go in surgically and touch little things just helped bring the movie to the next level." And the fanboy commentators were all on board for that positive spin, especially given the fine pedigree of Pixar vet Brad Bird.

These new theoretical reshoots, which I am neither confirming nor denying, would clearly be an act of desperation, prompted by the sub-par response from test audiences. They have the potential to improve the movie, but they also have the potential to make it seem a lot choppier, especially if the actors have undergone noticeable physical changes since principal photography. Much has been made about how there is a digitally created younger version of Jeff Bridges in this movie, but with only a couple weeks between these theoretical reshoots and the film's debut, no digital touching up would seem possible.

All this really means is that like so many other event movies, Tron: Legacy is not going to rewrite everything we understand about the movies. It'll probably be cool in parts, and it'll probably suck in parts. All we can really hope is that it's cool in more parts than it sucks.

And if it sucks in more parts, well, we should hardly be surprised about that either. It's just the nature of the beast with big Hollywood popcorn movies -- the high probability of suckitude. Lots of big-budget movies before Tron: Legacy have sucked, and lots will suck afterward. And life will go on.

Looks like my wife and I are already downgrading it from "must see together" status. We've secured someone to watch our son on either Monday or Tuesday night, but we now think that a better use of that date night would be to go out for dinner and a drink, and enjoy each other's company. It's not a paid babysitter situation, so we don't have to worry about whether Tron is good enough to justify the cost of a sitter. We just have to worry if it's a better use of our time than spending quality adult time away from the baby, enjoying each other's company like we once did, while getting a little tipsy and indulging in some yummy food.

Not matter how good Tron: Legacy is, I'm going to say "Probably not" on that one.


Daddy Geek Boy said...

I must jump in to set the record straight on a few things here.

First, I know there were reshoots on Tron Legacy that occurred this year, but I think it would be nearly impossible for them to be done three weeks before the movie is released.

You have to account for shooting, processing, editing, FX, sound mix and the actual creation of the prints--all of which take time. As far as I could tell, the reshoots happened earlier this summer.

I also have to disagree with the notion that reshoots means a movie is in trouble. It's true that you find the movie in the editing and sometimes in editing, you realize that embellishments need to be made...or shots picked up. A lot of movies reshoot, just not all of them have the level of attention as Tron.

Vancetastic said...


That was my same thought when I first heard about it. Instead of causing me to doubt the story, however, it made me think that the prospects for Tron were really dire indeed. (Are you calling Paul a liar? Ha ha.)

Because I chose to believe the story, that also made me think that the reshoots in this case HAD to be bad news for the movie, coming an almost impossibly short amount of time before the film's release. I agree that in general reshoots may be no worse than a person re-working a term paper prior to the deadline, having recognized that he/she started out on the wrong path. In some cases that might be a mistake, but in other cases it might be the paper's saving grace.

Thaddeus said...

Thanks for the review, Vance! The Tron 2 trailer looked cool, but I decided to wait for the reviews. I'm obviously happier for it, because Tron 2 sounds inferior to an original that was fun, but hardly riveting.

As to you and Daddy: my standards change when it comes to big-budget flix. So much money is sunk into production and marketing that seeing a poor effort, late shooting or no, is worse than some guy with a term paper deadline.

The producers are supposed to financially responsible and are putting something out to the public; the student is pursuing an academic goal privately. When big budget movies show a lack of concern for dialogue, roles, and story, I just hate the waste. When it's very bad, it's "massive waste," like running a shower for hours but not getting in...

Obviously, it's better to realize a movie needs help and make reshoots as needed. But when a finished movie still looks like it needs an overhaul, I'm surprised at the bad bets made by business people, and how ineffective artists can be when offered a nice big pile of $ to make a movie. "Primer" was great and it cost less than 10k, I think...