I didn’t really have any lofty hopes for TRON: Legacy. My generation missed the bandwagon for sci-fi action adventure movies that dominated theatres in the late 1970s and early ’80s. For many people my age, we remember films like the original TRON from Saturday afternoon television viewing or on the worn out VHS tapes rented in the twilight of the ’80s. I remember enjoying TRON when I first saw it, but a more recent viewing confirmed what I had suspected: it wasn’t a very good movie. The plot was scatter-shot and the effects, though revolutionary for the time, don’t hold up well at all. Still, for me the original TRON has a certain charm about it that can’t easily be placed. As a result, my viewing of TRON: Legacy was mostly unburdened by childhood nostalgia, the only thing that had skewed my expectations about the film was the monstrous marketing campaign that Disney employed.
Spoilers to follow.
TRON: Legacy is a sequel in the loosest sense of the term. The concepts from the original film serve to inform the story, and while there is continuity between the two movies, most other connections basically amount to fan service. That said, if I hadn’t seen the original film so recently, the plot of the new film would have been nearly incomprehensible. Even with the aid of flashbacks and entire scenes devoted to exposition, it’s likely that TRON: Legacy will confound and confuse more than a few people. For those who want the short version: Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) must find and rescue his father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), from the computer world in which he is trapped. Kevin’s misguided digital clone CLU, a creation gone haywire, is hellbent on stopping Sam and invading the real world.
The first three quarters of the movie are by and large incredibly entertaining. TRON: Legacy is at its best when it isn’t bogged down trying to explain itself to the audience. The game scenes are exactly what they should be: a digital colosseum of disc-based and light-vehicular mayhem rendered in stunning 3D. It’s pure spectacle, and with the aid of Daft Punk’s booming soundtrack these sequences are easily the highlight of the film. Despite the digital playing field, de-resolution means death. As a result, the disc wars and lightcycle battle are imbued with a real sense of danger and tension.
I only wish the rest of TRON: Legacy could have been so compelling. There are plot holes big enough to fly a plane…. errr… recognizer through and easily some of the cheesiest “I can’t believe they wrote this, let alone allowed an actor to utter it” lines I’ve ever heard. The finale of the film utterly falls to pieces, losing all its steam with yet more exposition and some incredibly strange and ultimately unsatisfying character decisions. And what of the eponymous TRON? Bruce Boxleitner does briefly reprise the role of TRON (de-aged 30 years in the same way Jeff Bridges was for CLU), appearing in a flashback never to be seen again. The character does reappear in the last few minutes, but never actually reveals himself. It seemed pointless to setup what could have been a great character moment and then not pay it off. I literally shrugged my shoulders in the theatre.
Jeff Bridges’ middle-aged Kevin Flynn feels more like a reprisal of the Dude from The Big Lebowski. Flynn is a tech-hippie god, who can literally create and alter the world as he sees fit, but instead spends most of the film stunned and dazed, saying “man” at the end of his sentences. Garrett Hedlund is a passable lead — he’s actually far more charismatic than the trailers let on. My one complaint is that Sam is way out of his depth in the Grid. Hedlund plays it way too cocksure for someone who almost gets derezzed in literally every scene. Olivia Wilde’s Quorra serves as a guide and go-between for Sam and his father, a pixelated-pixie of sorts… in skintight leather. Most other characters in the film feel lost or pointless — Castor (Michael Sheen) feels particularly out of place. Sheen obviously had a lot of fun with the part, but his flamboyant club owner character doesn’t serve any real purpose other than comic relief.
TRON: Legacy is a spectacle to be sure, just check your brain at the door if you’re expecting anything more. This sequel — that nobody ever really asked for — is worth seeing, but only if you plan to watch it in 3D in a giant theatre with a killer sound system. This is not a movie to be discovered or even bothered with on home video.
But who cares what we think? What ultimately matters is what this guy thinks of the movie.