Tron: Legacy is a sequel to the original 1982 sci-fi cult classic Tron. Most of the film takes place in a video game fantasyland which shows off the film’s impressive visual effects. Even though this sequel was made 28 years after the original, thanks to crafty CGI, they bring back two of the same actors. Although the film looks extraordinary, the storyline is not far from ordinary. And since they had 28 years to create this sequel, this should not have been an issue.
In a flashback set in 1989 we see Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a visionary inventor and CEO of ENCOM, speaking to his young son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) before he leaves on his motorcycle. That was the last time Sam would see his father as he mysteriously disappeared after claiming a major breakthrough in his work.
It is now 2010, Sam is an adult and primary shareholder of ENCOM. He has more interest in being a rebel than he does as becoming a CEO. Case-in-point, when Sam breaks into ENCOM’s building and steals the new Operating System just as they were about to release it. Not only that, but he uploads it to the internet for the public to download for free. After watching the film, I fail to see the relevance of this other than showing that Sam is good with computers and is not afraid of authority.
A longtime family friend, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) informs Sam that his father had stopped by his house a couple days before he disappeared with news that he will change the world. Adding to the strangeness, Alan got a page from his father’s arcade from a number that has been disconnected for 20 years. Alan gives Sam the keys to the arcade even though Sam is reluctant about going back.
Despite the fact Sam was not very enthusiastic about going to his father’s old arcade, he does anyway. As he puts his quarter into an old Tron arcade game, but it spits it back out. It is then that he somehow realizes that there is something more to this game cabinet. Behind it is a passage to his father’s secret office. The office that he claimed will change the world as Sam soon finds out. After searching around on his father’s computer, he somehow activates a trigger that transports him into The Grid of Tron.
There are a few things you must know about this new cyberspace. There is no such thing as a world, instead it is referred to as The Grid. Years are referred to as cycles. Humans do not exist, instead they are called users and robot super-humans are programs.
Sam soon finds out that the same computerized world his father invented is also where he has been stuck for the past 20 years. After Sam reunites with his father he is informed on what happened. His father tried to create a perfect world but instead Clu had manifested to destroy him. He is effectively trapped inside The Grid as the portal to escape only is open for a limited amount of time.
The plot of Tron: Legacy is remarkably flat. Scenes either go into great detail about things that do not matter or are ones that even a movie novice could predict. Thankfully, the visual effects were enough to keep you entertained.
Simply put, the visuals were stunning. The alternate universe of Tron was rendered beautifully. You could tell time was spent with the details, from the characters costumes to the trails left by vehicles. The game of discs that were thrown at opponents looked amazing. It baffles me why it was robbed from being nominated for Best Visual Effects at this year’s Oscars. Even though Inception deserved to win that category, this deserved a nomination for their achievement.
Although, the soundtrack is pretty solid, it mostly comprised of typical blockbuster action film style of music up until about an hour into the film. It is then where you really start to hear Daft Punk signature sound of music. Coincidentally, Daft Punk even makes their first cameo appearance around the same time. The soundtrack is easily one of the better qualities of the film.
Sam was way too confident of a character to make the story work. He seems to know everything and question nothing, even in a world of The Grid which normal physics do not apply. For that reason, it is impossible to connect to the character emotionally. This makes it hard to root for the character.
Kudos to the director Joseph Kosinski for keeping Jeff Bridges from the original film in this sequel. The special effects used to de-age him are surprisingly realistic. Jeff Bridges is good but not great here, the script is likely to be blamed for it. However, one cannot help but enjoy him showing glimpses of The Dude from The Big Lebowski, even though the line, “You’re messing with my Zen thing, man”, seems very out of place.
Even though Tron: Legacy had an estimated budget of $170 million, top notch visual effects, soundtrack by Daft Punk, Academy Award winning Jeff Bridges, it forgot an important quality that makes a film great – an engaging storyline. The dialogue was pretty poor thus making the acting sub-par. Let’s hope if they plan on doing another sequel in 2038, that it does not suffer from such critical downfalls.