Review: Tron Legacy

All the pieces have been put in place for 1982 cult classic “Tron” to reinvent itself as a moder-day sci-fi epic. Between Disney sinking hundreds of millions into “Tron: Legacy,” marketing it like the must-see event of the year and then securing a PG rating to make sure anyone and everyone could see it, the film just had to follow through with results. As a technical marvel and stylistic art project emphasizing light, color, sound and symmetry mixed with all kinds of action, “Legacy” shines.

Then there’s the script, which might be more formidable a foe than the film’s antagonist, Clu, a digital (literally) replica of Jeff Bridges from the ’80s. Anyway, the script has some familiar/classic story elements that could and should work at the sci-fi level, but don’t reach their full cathartic potential. The challenge was to write a movie that would appeal to fans, but mostly modern audiences who need to be caught up on a film concept 28 years old and who also demand some depth to their eye candy these days.

Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who earned their chops writing episodes of “Lost,” end up lapsing more and more into explanation and exposition instead of letting character-developing moments blossom. Events also move quickly to get us to the major action sequences. Good thing those are an effective detour from pondering the story.

Almost three decades later, the film naturally focuses on not Flynn — owner of massively successful software company Encom — but his 27-year-old son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), a rebellious young Bruce Wayne type who has forsaken his ownership in Encom for a life of, well, nothing but basically motorcycle riding. Reason is because his father disappeared when he was a kid, which left him orphaned. When Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), Flynn’s old partner, tells Sam he received a page from his father’s old office, Sam becomes intrigued as to what happened to his father. He goes to the office at the old arcade and is sucked into the grid, where that replica program of his father, called Clu, has been running a dictatorship of sorts.

Hedlund works as a protagonist with his Christian Bale-ish looks and voice (my last reference to anything “Batman”) and emotional capability, if only we had a chance to watch his character evolve in some way. The story sets up a typical transformative hero’s journey, but Sam’s only real lesson is to be patient and not reckless. He accepts the world of the grid easily because his father told him about it, which lessens the tension of the film significantly. We like Sam and his take-charge attitude, but there’s no empathy, per se, though Hedlund shows promise. Olivia Wilde’s Quorra, a program who is a disciple of the actual Flynn who is stuck in exile, was surprisingly well-written with an innocence and cute sense of humor as well as action co-star ability.

However, the “big decision” climax with these characters that is supposed to move us in some way doesn’t tug or conflict us in the end and like a “check engine” light, it means something’s wrong, even if you can’t totally pinpoint what.

Also newer to the game in all senses, director Joseph Kosinski demonstrates a heck of an eye. The production design of “Tron: Legacy” is unparalleled in terms of cohesion with all the elements working together under a dominant teal/white/orange theme. “Avatar” aside, there might not be a more visually entrancing design for a science fiction film. The lighting, the costumes — the lighting on the costumes — all very meticulously calculated, but sleek and fluid in their appeal. Kosinski enjoys stepping back to create some symmetrical tableaus and show off the various shapes of the film. The action sequences are pretty and have a definite pop in 3D. The build up to these action scenes could have been more effective in that “ooooh, this gonna be cooool” way, but otherwise he does the film no injustices.

Disc Wars and the light cycle scenes don’t disappoint either. These modern re-imaginings of the ingenious grid games invented by original “Tron” creators Steve Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird are sleek and exciting without losing the explosiveness that a more realistic and PG-13 or higher action flick would deliver. As “Legacy” moves from visual spectacle to the next, despite the quickness, there are times when you feel like you’re experiencing an epic, like Sam’s visit to the club where Zeus (Michael Sheen) runs things with a white-haired quirkiness, a decisive turning point in the film. Great side characters always help create the feeling of a journey and “Legacy” does capture it though fleetingly in this scene, boosted heavily by the score from electronica rockers Daft Punk.

But while I could pick apart the issues with the story, “Tron: Legacy” is all kinds of cool. The 1982 film didn’t do any of these story/character things any better either, so that’s not a standard you can hold the film to by any means. “Tron” was only fresher because it was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. What makes “Legacy” jump out is the vision and the vibe of the film, so unique with an originality that so many action films don’t have these days. It’s a shame, because with all that going for it, “Legacy” should suck in all kinds of new fans and become a sci-fi phenomenon, but it comes up a notch short in the story department. Still, it won’t disappoint in terms of visually glorious entertainment.

3.5/5 Stars

Tron: Legacy
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Written by Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthan, Steve Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird (characters)
Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment