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Tron: Legacy (2010).

February 18, 2011

The Scoop:
Beyond the gorgeous eye candy visual effects and the terrific score by Daft Punk, “Tron: Legacy” is actually a pretty pointless sequel. But it still manages to be an enjoyable one.

Something that has always been puzzling has been Disney’s near disavowal of the original “Tron.” Despite its fervent cult following – and the fact that it’s more popular than just about any Disney film made between the early 1970s and late 1980s – it has no presence in Disney’s theme parks, there has been no DVD release and precious few showings on cable television. And this from a studio that is notorious for exploiting its back catalog relentlessly.

So why do a sequel at all? Well, given the way the world of technology has changed in the intervening 28 years, an update seems obvious. But “Tron: Legacy” is an odd sequel in that it seems to go out of the way to ignore its predecessor.

After a short prologue set in 1987, the action moves to the present day where Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the hotshot programmer hero of the first film, has been missing for 20 years. His son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) now owns his father’s old company, although it is run by a bunch of generic evil corporate types. Following a mysterious signal, Sam gets sucked into digital world inside his father’s old computer and is quickly thrown into a power struggle between his long lost father and his father’s alter ego Clu (a CGI creation based on old footage of Bridges). Sam, Flynn and Flynn’s protegée Quorra (Olivia Wilde) wind up with the challenge of bringing down Clu’s totalitarian regime and, in the process, also stop the evil corporate shenanigans in the real world.

The script is a predictable hodge-podge – there are two screenplay credits and four story credits – that simultaneously draws inspiration from the original film and tries to deny it. Any knowledge of the first movie is completely unnecessary to enjoy this. Not only do the liberal chunks of flashbacks take care of all that exposition, but all the flashbacks are to events that happened after the end of the first “Tron.” This is a completely stand alone film. However, the action is almost an exact rehash of that found in the original story, with some sequences lifted wholesale from that script. With a stronger screenplay, this really could’ve been something else.

Under the direction of Joseph Kosinski, the film is an eye-popping and ear-popping treat. He and production designer Darren Gilford have done a terrific job in updating the dated look of the original for the iPad era. (Granted, in another few decades, “Tron: Legacy” will probably wind up looking as dated as the original, but for now it looks great.) The 3D effects are used sparingly and effectively. And Daft Punk is the ideal group to bring the sound of an entirely digital world to life. All this sensory overload is enough to gloss over the problems in the script and the acting.

Hedlund, who is at the center of the story, makes for a thoroughly bland and generic action hero. The camera just seems to slide right off him and gravitate toward the two far more interesting leads. Bridges is compelling as always, even though he plays Flynn simply as a digital age version of The Dude. The real revelation is Wilde, who successfully makes the leap from television and handles both the drama and the fight scenes equally well. Then there’s Michael Sheen’s terrific extended cameo as Castor, which provides a jolt of energy to the proceedings. His over the top performance recalls Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod in “The Fifth Element.”

As a CGI creation, Clu comes off as awkward. Voiced by Bridges and built from footage of his performance in the 1984 film “Against All Odds,” Clu skirts along the edge of the uncanny valley. His face is an impressive simulation of human expression, but some of the details are just a little off. Probably not enough to be noticed in a home theater viewing, but definitely there on the big screen.

“Tron: Legacy” is an exciting ride, but ultimately one with little substance.

Best Line:
“You’re really messing with my zen thing, man.”

Side Note:
Talk about a tech-heavy production – principal photography lasted 64 days, but post-production took 68 weeks.

Companion Viewing:
“Tron” (1982) and “The Matrix” (1999).

Official site.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

The music video for Daft Punk’s “Derezzed” from the soundtrack:

5 Comments leave one →
  1. tinaw permalink
    February 18, 2011 10:22 am

    I found Clu’s look off-putting as well. My sister (I think it was her) basically said: “[Clu] is a digital representation of Flynn for inside the game. He doesn’t have to look real. ” It makes sense, even if you don’t want it to.

    I was initially upset that in order to get a copy of the original Tron, you’d have to buy the Blu-ray or dvd combo pack, each of which costs over $50. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about it. But now that I’ve had to crack open my blu-ray player, I may break down and get it.

    • February 18, 2011 10:27 am

      I had the same thought your sister did about Clu. And that would make sense, if all the other programs looked the same way. But all the rest are played by human actors who look human, which sort of kills the effect.

  2. tinaw permalink
    February 18, 2011 10:30 am

    Oops, my bad — just checked Amazon. The 4-disc combo costs $29.99, but it doesn’t have the original Tron movie. The 5-disc combo costs $49.99. Oooh . . . now looking. . . You can get a 2-disc blu-ray combo pack, and combine it with Tron classic blu-ray for $41.98. Mmm . . . still sucks.

  3. tinaw permalink
    February 18, 2011 10:32 am

    You’re right about that. In fact, even Bruce Boxleitner’s character looked more real than Clu. It was weird.


  1. Movie-A-Day #338: Tron (1982). « Desuko Movie Spot.

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