[NOTE: This article is highly speculative, for entertainment purposes only, and not meant to be taken seriously by anyone]
This year, a major movie studio released a big-budget film starring mostly-unknown actors into theaters everywhere. Based on an already-existing property, the film was visually dazzling and went onto gross over $100 million, but was absolutely obliterated by film critics. One of its biggest problems? A male lead who couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag. Of course, I’m describing The Last Airbender, but I fear I may soon also be describing Disney’s upcoming Tron Legacy.
Last night on Twitter I put out the call for responses from people who’d attended Tron Night, a special marketing event in theaters all across the country meant to give people a sneak peak at the film. Jason Seaver linked me to Brian Orndorf’s review of the evening. While Orndorf was mostly dazzled by the proceedings, he did have some choice words to say about the film’s lead actor, Garrett Hedlund:
It’s true that Garrett Hedlund is an enormously limited actor (he’s yet to give a worthwhile performance in anything he’s appeared in), and the footage here reinforces his lack of skill, but the scale of the production is mesmerizing, glazed with a deliriously fitting electro score from Daft Punk.
This jives with other reports I’ve also heard about Hedlund being an absolutely terrible actor. It also jives with my irrationally judgmental take on his acting that I am able to arrive at based on a) his 20-seconds of “acting” in the teaser trailer for Tron Legacy, and b) a brief clip from Tron that was released after Tron Night.
I mean just look at these:
In the teaser (screencapped at the head of this post), at the moment he gets tossed the keys, Hedlund has this amateurish puppy dog look of disappointment in his eyes that recalls the skill and tone of my 7th grade performance as Lazar Wolf in our middle school production of Fiddler on the Roof. Likewise, in the Tron footage with Quora, Hedlund looks as though he’s channeling Keanu Reeves from his worst moments in The Matrix…while on speed.
Like Sam Worthington before him, Hedlund was plucked from obscurity and asked to carry a major motion picture costing in excess of $200 million. But whereas Worthington at least has the rugged screen presence to carry him through each major production he manages to get involved with, Hedlund barely registers, and when he does, it’s as the teenage version of Donnie from The Big Lebowski, a child who’s literally wandered into the middle of a movie and wants to know what’s happening, only with none of the kindness sympathy that Buscemi evokes.
Can a movie succeed with a lead that’s completely wooden and unconvincing? I think Disney will do good business, but it’ll be more for the stunning visuals than for a decent story or compelling lead performance. And like any insubstantial meal, Tron Legacy will leave film reviewers like myself feeling temporarily sated but totally empty inside.