reviews\ Dec 16, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Tron: Legacy Review


When the original Tron released in 1982, the computer generated effects wowed audiences who had never seen visual effects like that before. Tron was ahead of its time, a film so outlandish and forward thinking, it couldn't even be nominated for a Special Effects Oscar because the Academy thought computer effects were cheating. It also acted as a reinterpretation of the computer age for a generation, a visual manifestation of the zeros and ones that people were just beginning to tinker with. Small wonder it went on to become a cult classic.

That's what makes Tron: Legacy so exciting. A sequel and franchise reboot for Disney and series creator Steve Lisberger, Tron: Legacy is a return to the story of Kevin Flynn, Tron, and Clu nearly 30 years after the original. A visual masterpiece, does it matter if Tron: Legacy has a fantastic or well-acted plot? Arguably, no, as this movie is a “style over substance” mentality taken almost as far as you can go, and while the story makes very little sense, Tron: Legacy is a film well worth seeing.

Tron: Legacy is understandable at its core. In 1989, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the hero of the original Tron, has taken over his computer company Encom. He's a good father, a rich man, and one of the most influential persons in the country. One night, he disappears, never to be seen for 20 years. Leaving his son Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) with the owning share of Encom, Sam is now a jaded, deep-voiced 27-year-old man too disaffected to watch over the state of the company. A huge fusion between Activision and Microsoft, Encom is a big nasty corporation, and Sam pops up yearly to cause some big nasty prank on the company.

After leaking Encom's next big OS onto the net, Sam is contacted by Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), a programmer friend of Kevin Flynn, as well as the creator of Tron. Bradley had received a page from Flynn (thank God he still sleeps with the pager next to him!), and Sam ends up going to his father's old arcade, where he finds and enters the world of The Grid.

For the next hour or so, Sam finds his father, the now rebellious program Clu (also played by Bridges, albeit oddly CGI), the sexy Quorra (Olivia Wilde), and is inundated with information about digital life forms, light cycle races, and more. The story never exactly falls apart, but it never entirely makes sense. Sure, we're talking about a film where people are sucked into computer programs, so basic suspension of disbelief is expected, but things occur that defy understanding. The silly romances, the random “if he does that, he'll die,” the totally expected and non-surprising cameos and more add up to make the movie feel sillier than it could have been.

The acting in the film isn't much better. Hedlund is unfortunately bland, clearly the latest in a string of generic young guys with deep voices who will become the heroic lead of the franchise. While the guy does a perfectly fine job with the role, the character is so boring that you don't care what happens to him. Wilde is much better at the capable and wide-eyed Quorra, but her character makes silly decisions and is the center of certain plot points that only function to meddle with focus. I do have to say I love Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn. While his version of Clu is played as a CGI man with some anger issues, Kevin has become an old surfer dude who practices new-age cyber tricks. Between calling his son “man” or exclaiming “awesome” and other 80's lingo, he's a very likable guy, and everything generally brightens up when he's in the picture. All of the other bit roles are mostly blah.

So there you go, the plot isn't that great, and has mostly forgettable acting.

On the other hand, Director Joseph Kosinski is better known for some of his Halo 3 and Gears of War advertisements than he is his films, so it is understandable that the story elements wouldn't quite come together. Visually, Tron is stunning, and it may very well have Kosinski to thank. Once we enter the world of the Grid, we see a universe in shades of grays and blacks, with these bold blue and orange highlights bringing everything to life. It's a gorgeous film, and while the story may not make any sense, the visuals work perfectly. Each of the fight sequences are swirls of neon lines and circular swoops, and the light cycle races and later dog fights are enthralling. As something to experience, Tron: Legacy builds on the CGI foundation of its predecessor, and kicks it up to the next level, and for two hours viewers will be treated to an amazing light show.

Major props are given to French house band Daft Punk. As the composers of 24-tracks of the film's soundtrack, Tron: Legacy throbs and pulses with music that is both hyper contemporary, yet riffs on the moods and tones of classic video games. Daft Punk does a superb job at creating and underlying drive for the film. Again, while the acting and story leads a lot to be desired, if you come in with your expectations at the door and your disbelief suspended, Tron: Legacy is entertaining as a sensory overload.

Considering the film is done in 3D, there are some questions viewers will want to ask themselves before they pop on over to the theater. First of all, I saw the film in 3D, and while many of the effects are very impressive, they don't necessarily change a whole lot with what is already a very visually impressive film. When 3D is used in a movie, generally there is a dimming effect, and Tron: Legacy is dark enough as it stands. When it becomes difficult to see things, I would have rather had a 2D screening, but that's just me.

Finally, don't expect this to be the last of the franchise. Plenty of small touches litter the film, including a cameo of one unnamed A-list actor who is quickly introduced with enough importance to apply some relevance, and then quickly forgotten. It's a shame that Disney and co. had to go about treating the film as the start of a new franchise, as Tron is a good enough film to stand up on it's own. I think there would be enough interest in another sequel, but to treat it like this is a disappointment.

Anticipation for a new sequel or not, I find Tron: Legacy to a highly entertaining and enthralling film to watch. Treat it just as it is, a mindless and beautiful film, and you'll get more than you expected.


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