TRON: Legacy (2010)
Thinkin’ it probably helps be a fan of the original, but it’s as awesome as it could have been without just being light cycles for two hours.
TRON: Legacy takes place some 20-odd years after our boy Kevin Flynn liberated The Grid from the evil MCP, took back his rightful place as The Big Cheese over at ENCOM, had a son and then disappeared off the face of the Earth, never to be heard from again. Then one day Flynn’s 27-year-old son gets a tip that his Pops is still alive, so he hits up his dad’s old arcade, stumbles upon a secret office, starts pushing buttons and finds himself sucked into The Grid. Even though this is his maiden voyage, it’s pretty evident from the start that shit has gone awry in this digital Colosseum, and with the help of a saucy little program with a funky haircut, he sets out to rescue his dad from his own creation before the computers take over and kill off all us imperfect users.
If none of this is making sense, you may very well hate this movie. It’s a direct continuation of the first TRON and it doesn’t do a great job of catching the uninitiated up to speed because (here’s my take on it) if you’re going to see a sequel to a movie, one might assume that you’ve seen the original beforehand. Not the most user-friendly way to set up a story, and it probably would have worked too if Disney hadn’t been plugging this like James Cameron on a crack binge, but since I was on the level, the transition was pretty smooth.
Then again, the story was never exactly the biggest selling point of this franchise to begin with. In terms of integrating movies with video games, TRON is the holy grail of storylines because it puts you in a game of its own instead of unsuccessfully trying to adapt a best-selling game that typically has no place being turned into a movie anyway. But from a more general storytelling standpoint, the eye candy helps. When push comes to shove, Legacy is pretty much a rehashing of everything that went down in ’82 with Flynn, Jr. encountering everything his dad did when he first got lasered into the system, Flynn, Sr. trying to bring down the very thing he created without getting derezzed, and that’s about it.
The characters are good enough even if there isn’t a whole lot of substantial development to be found amongst any of ’em, the dialogue has its moments but it’s nothing to write home about, and some of the story’s finer points don’t quite get the attention they deserve until I was watching Jeff Bridges display Professor X-like qualities with a very “WTF?” expression on my face as I wondered where I was when that got explained. All the same, it was fine for what it was back in ’82 and it’s fine for what it is 28 years later, but let’s just get to the biggest selling point of the franchise – The Grid.
All the neon-on-black was cool as hell back when Billy Mitchell got his first Atari, but as much as I can sit here and defend how the original’s special effects still hold up surprisingly well, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at that movie the same way again after this. I somehow ended up seeing this in IMAX 3D, and for once, I’m kinda glad it worked out that way ’cause this baby looks so, so nice. From the slick new jumpsuits that make Michael Keaton’s Batman getup look like a goddamn Snuggie, to the way programs shatter into cubed rain when derezzed by an identity disc, the Wow Factor is through the roof and director Joseph Kosinski never lets it up.
It’s all in the details, folks, and the details make for one stunningly realized digital frontier. The only drawback of it all is that since the action scenes are so effing boss, it makes all the chitchat in the middle stand out like a sore thum. But make no mistake, the action scenes are very. effing. boss. Can’t exactly do justice to an eight-tiered, gravity-defying identity disc battle royale, then a two-tiered, five-on-five light cycle match, and lastly a five-on-one light flyer dog fight without seeing it for yourself, but trust me, they’re totally insane and it’s a visual upgrade like you wouldn’t believe.
And that’s what TRON‘s all about: jaw-dropping, eye-popping, uber-stylish, original geekout fun that you can’t get anywhere else. It might be lacking on other areas, but as much as I was waiting to be disappointed from the moment I sat down, I can’t believe what a freakin’ time I had watching this thing.
But the acting ain’t half bad either. Never seen Garrett Hedlund in anything before, but he’s quite watchable and non-irritating as Sam Flynn; never seen Olivia Wilde in anything before, but she’s quite watchable and non-irritating as Kevin Flynn’s apprentice, Quorra; Michael Sheen is annoying as fuck and should have been written out entirely as Grid guru/albino Ziggy Stardust/emcee of the most dumbass club on the block, Zuse; Bruce Boxleitner is pretty solid here as Flynn’s old co-worker, Alan Bradley, and he briefly gets to kick a whole lot of ass as Tron; and Jeff Bridges is the man as usual. Bridges reprises his role here as system creator Kevin Flynn and he also gets a fancy new face lift to play the evil program version of his younger self, Clu.
The only problem with Clu is the same problem I’ve got with all the characters in those CG efforts that Robert Zemeckis keeps churning out: it’s just creepy how realistic he looks. Other than that, Clu’s a pretty decent bad guy, but Kevin Flynn is where it’s at. This time around he not only has a sweet beard, but he’s got powers over The Grid like Neo and has a Zen-like temperament that brought me right back to his days as The Dude. Not to say that Flynn is on the same par as either of these badasses at their best, but he’s got all the best lines that brought some unexpected levity to the mix and reminded me why Flynn was so sweet in the first place. Such is the power of Jeff Bridges.
No idea why Cillian Murphy showed up for all of five seconds though, that was odd.
So, as a fanboy, TRON: Legacy delivers the goods and then some. Wish I could weigh in on how it would gel with someone who’s just going off the trailers, but despite how badly it’s been getting shellacked by the critics right now, I really thought it was a damn entertaining way to kill two hours. As usual, I wish there was more action to be had, but (hopefully) that’s what the next sequel is for. At least give us a good video game to play with in the meantime.
And how about that Daft Punk soundtrack? Freakin’ perfect, man.