TRON: Legacy Review

(2.5 STARS)

TRON: Legacy is a film essentially devoid of any surprises. Anyone who has seen the original TRON will likely go in expecting something great-looking, great-sounding, and incredibly goofy. And that’s precisely what this film is. The plot is laughable, but there is some fun to be had. The visual effects, however, are the reason to see this film. Accompanied by the blaring electronic sounds of Daft Punk’s great score, they arguably make the film worth the price of admission, even if the storyline isn’t up to snuff.

Twenty years after the events of the first film, we meet Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), orphaned son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who disappeared shortly after becoming CEO of Encom and creating the Grid, a place that’s like cyberspace brought to life, where users and programs can interact with one another. Everyone, including Sam, has pretty much assumed Kevin is dead, until one night when Kevin’s former partner, Alan (Bruce Boxleitner), informs Sam of a page he received from Kevin. Sam goes to the old arcade to investigate, and he is accidently transported to the Grid, where his father has become a reclusive, Jedi-like figure, and his electronic alter ego, Clu (also Bridges), has taken to ruling the Grid with an iron fist. With the help of his father’s protégé, Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Sam has to discover how to get home and, more importantly, make sure Clu doesn’t find out how.

I understand why Disney felt TRON was a film worthy of a sequel at this time. It might seem odd, since the original came out over 25 years ago and is nothing more than a cult film at this point, but the advancements in special effects over the years mean the time has come for another shot at creating this virtual world. It’s a lot darker than it was in 1982, but it’s also a lot more expansive and full of more complex imagery than the original.

The sound is also just fantastic. Daft Punk’s much-hyped score—which is, at times, reminiscent of Hans Zimmer’s incredible Inception score—is very electronic. It does a great job at getting the blood pumping during the film’s action sequences—the best of which is an upgrade of the original’s memorable “games” sequence. Everything about this sequence—the disc battle, the thrilling bike chase, and the ultimate introduction of Clu and reunion between Sam and Kevin—represents the film’s best and most engaging material.

Ultimately, however, the film settles in a very so-what fashion. Like the original, TRON: Legacy only loses momentum as it goes on, until it finally reaches a long-overdue, almost laughable conclusion. The dialogue is often clunky, and there’s one scene, featuring an extended cameo by Michael Sheen, that’s nails-on-a-chalkboard awful. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, be sure to take a bathroom break when you see Sheen for the first time. His presence is just excruciating.

The film’s acting is mostly unmemorable. Garrett Hedlund is charismatic enough, but he doesn’t really bring anything special to the role of Sam. Olivia Wilde looks great in tight clothes, but her character is a little on the annoying side. Jeff Bridges unsurprisingly gives the film’s best performance, though his computer-enhanced work as Clu is a bit over-the-top. As Kevin, however, he has all the energy of his 1982 self combined with the weariness of a man trapped for over 20 years.

It’s hard to say I was disappointed by TRON: Legacy as, like I said, it’s pretty much exactly what I thought it would be. However, I did hope to give it a solid recommendation, and I’m just not sure I want to do that. I whole-heartedly recommend the soundtrack, and I think those in the mood for some mindless fun will be satisfied. But anyone who, like me, prefers an engaging storyline to a hollow piece of eye candy will likely find themselves a little underwhelmed by TRON: Legacy.

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