Garrett Hedlund as Sam Flynn
Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn / Clu 2.0
Olivia Wilde as Quorra
Michael Sheen as Castor
Bruce Boxleitner as Alan Bradley
Beau Garrett as Jem
James Frain as Jarvis
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Despite some story and pacing problems, “TRON: Legacy” delivers in action, visual effects, and musical score. Fans of the original film as well as new fans should enjoy it.
This is the sequel to the 1982 film “TRON.”
Twenty-one years ago, Encom CEO and game designer Kevin Flynn disappeared off of the face of the earth. Nobody knows what happened to him or where he went to. Flynn mysteriously left behind his prospering company and his young son Sam.
Years later, Sam has grown up into a troubled young man with a lack of direction. But when Alan Bradley tells Sam that he has received a page from Kevin’s old arcade, Sam goes to check it out. There he finds a hidden room with his father’s old computer equipment. He also inadvertently activates a laser that zaps him into a computer.
Once inside the computer, he finds himself in the computerized world of the Grid which was created by his father. There he meets personified versions of programs. Unfortunately, they’re hostile to those they deem as new programs and they immediately throw him into a series of games. But Sam must first survive the games if he’s to discover what happened to his father.
“TRON: Legacy” is rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language.
I’m a big “TRON” fan. I loved the movies as a kid. I had the toys and the books. I actually still have my Light Cycle and Flynn figure from the ’80s! One of my elementary school yearbook photos actually shows me wearing a TRON shirt (Mom didn’t realize it was picture day.) So yes, I’m a major TRON geek. But even I will admit that watching the 1982 film years later, it has a bunch of flaws. But I don’t care, it’s a cult favorite of mine. So it was with a ton of anticipation that I viewed “TRON: Legacy.”
I’ll be honest, “TRON: Legacy” is not a perfect film, but it does enough right that I enjoyed it. First and foremost, this is a beautiful looking film. The production design is fantastic. The costumes, sets, ships, make-up, and everything else is stunning. It has hints of the original film all over the place. You get the dark world highlighted by glowing elements. We also get the familiar Light Cycles and Recognizer, too, but everything is taken to a more modernized level.
I also really loved the action scenes. They took all of the familiar games from the first movie and amped them up. The disc battles are incredibly cool and well choreographed. They also throw in new elements like multiple discs, inverted gravity, and more. The Light Cycle battle is also spectacular. They could have had two hours of that and I would have been happy. Again, they take the chase from the first movie and make it more complex by adding multiple levels, letting the Cycles jump, and more. They also add some new vehicles, most notably the Light Jets. We’re treated to a fun aerial battle in the finale that is a beauty to behold.
I had never heard of Daft Punk before “TRON: Legacy,” but I have to say that their score is one of the best of the year. The music has a pulse pounding beat that adds an extra level of excitement to every action scene. Their sound also has a techno-feel that is entirely appropriate for this computer world. I have a feeling that this score will feel less dated in 20 years than the one in the original film.
As for the cast, Jeff Bridges constantly amazes me. Last week, I saw him as a grizzled old US Marshall in “True Grit.” This week, I see him as both the program Clu and the user Kevin Flynn in the middle of one of the biggest sci-fi films of the year. I’m convinced that there’s nothing he can’t do in film. The dual role is pretty exciting though it is a mixed bag, but the thing I liked best about it was the religious parallel. We have a sort of God (Flynn) vs Satan (Clu) relationship. It’s the creation turning on the creator story. It’s a deep theme for a Disney sci-fi film, but I got it and I liked it.
Garrett Hedlund is adequate as Sam Flynn. He lacks the charisma of Kevin Flynn in the first film, but his character has had a harder life. You wouldn’t expect him to be cracking jokes the entire time. Still, I wished he freaked out a little more about being stuck in the computer world than he does. That being said, I think I liked the idea of the character more than the actual performance of Sam Flynn. He truly goes through Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.” We see him reject his destiny, get pulled into the ‘supernatural’ world, get help from the ‘goddess,’ and eventually become master of both worlds. All of the “Hero’s Journey” steps are here, so I appreciated that element of the script.
The aforementioned ‘goddess’ is Quorra who is played by Olivia Wilde. She’s a lot of fun because she has a lot more life in her than the other programs. She laughs, is curious, and is fiercely loyal to Kevin Flynn. She’s a bright spot among the cast. The other secondary characters also have moments to shine. Michael Sheen channels his inner David Bowie as Castor while Beau Garrett is incredibly sexy as Jem. The two shake things up a bit in TRON’s version of the “Star Wars” cantina. Also look for a cameo in the early scenes in the boardroom by a very familiar face as the son of Dillinger. It definitely looks like they’re putting the pieces in place for a sequel.
I’ll also add that I took my 5 and 9-year-old sons and my 11-year-old daughter to this movie, and they all enjoyed it. Boys will like the action while girls will like the strong female character of Quorra. Dads will like both. I think this is one that the whole family can enjoy.
What Didn’t Work:
One of the biggest risks of “TRON: Legacy” was de-aging Jeff Bridges into the character of Clu. In some respects it works. He’s a bit fake looking, especially when blown up on a massive IMAX screen, but that’s OK. He’s a computer program and a lesser copy of Kevin Flynn. If he looks like a Frankenstein creation, it’s appropriate for the character. On the other hand, it’s incredibly distracting. I kept focusing on the effects and not what the character was doing or saying. It’s also a shame that this is the weakest visual effect in the film. Gollum looked more realistic.
I think “TRON: Legacy” also had a number of lost opportunities. They hint at a resistance in the film, but they never go beyond the hints. Then there’s the sub-plot of what happened to the original TRON program. I found that a very interesting aspect of the story but it was never fully explored. After all, the movie is named after him, right? They hint that this will be explored in a sequel if there is one, but it still wasn’t satisfying.
While a lot of people gripe about 3D movies, I’m actually a fan of them. I like the effect when it’s used properly. “TRON: Legacy” is a perfect film to use the effect, but I was quite surprised that the 3D didn’t enhance the movie as much as I thought it would. Yeah, it makes the Light Cycle and disc scenes more fun, but any time there’s no action on the screen, the 3D effect loses its touch. It doesn’t help matters that all of the scenes in the real world are 2D. You get so used to seeing the picture in 2D, then when it switches over to 3-D in the computer world, you almost don’t notice. The original film also had a trippy sequence when Kevin Flynn was sucked into the computer world. I expected something similar here, but there wasn’t. It’s just like ‘blip!’, he’s in the computer world. Again, it’s a lost opportunity.
But the biggest problem of “TRON: Legacy” is the pacing. Any scene where there’s not action is incredibly slow. And with a two-hour running time, there are a lot of slow scenes. We get treated to almost non-stop action when Sam is pulled into the computer, then a lot at the end. It’s all the middle portion of the film where it gets really, really slow. My three kids all liked it though and didn’t get antsy in the slow parts. That’s saying a lot, so maybe it’s just me.
Finally, the ending is satisfying in some respects and not in others. I can’t discuss it without getting into spoilers, but I would have liked to see the ending tweaked a bit.
The Bottom Line:
As a “TRON” fan, I was happy with this sequel which, by all rights, I never expected to see made. I enjoyed it and my kids enjoyed it. I certainly hope it kicks off a string of sequels from Disney. Yeah, it’s not a perfect film but it is an enjoyable one.