STARRING: Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges,
Bruce Boxleitner, Olivia Wilde, Beau Garrett
2010, 125 Minutes, Directed by:
almost impossible to consider it’s been 28 years since Disney’s
TRON provided a
new language of special effects to the industry, bonding scruffy visual
peculiarity to a story of awkward heroism, set inside a forbidding digital
landscape of programs at war.
Though a box office underperformer in 1982, TRON
developed into a sizable cult hit over the years, boosted by the retro smooch of
its groundbreaking use of CGI and endearing quarter-fingering arcade appeal.
TRON: Legacy is most certainly a continuation of the original, yet the new
picture endeavors to find its own footing as an epic of unreality, creating an
immense electronic realm of peril to encourage a fresh generation of TRON
Troubled since the day his father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), disappeared
without a trace, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) has made it his life’s work to cause
chaos at the ENCOM Corporation, raising the concern of family friend, Alan
Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner). Chasing a mysterious indication of his father’s
return, Sam instead finds himself zapped onto The Grid, the highly developed
computer world born from Kevin’s imagination and expertise.
Facing the wrath of
evil program CLU (an effect voiced by Bridges) and his deadly henchman Rinzler,
Sam is rescued by Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and brought to Kevin, who’s become a
fallen deity within his creation, snapped out of his fog by the appearance of
his abandoned son. With CLU desperate to take possession of Kevin’s identity
disc, Sam hunts for a way off The Grid, desperate to return his father back to
the real world.
No longer a Herculean effort of rotoscoping and refrigerator-sized computer
assistance, the world of TRON has been exhaustively modernized for today’s savvy
audiences. The metropolis of The Grid has been handed a sleek Apple polish,
extended far beyond the technological limits of 1982, realized here as a
developed community of gamers and warriors living inside a throbbing cityscape
of towers and arenas.
It’s a thankless task to sequelize TRON, yet director
Joseph Kosinski (making his feature-length debut) finds majestic inspiration in
the digital world, bestowing Legacy with a breathtaking sense of scale and
mystery, augmented in the film’s victorious 3D and IMAX enlargements. This is a
striking feature, designed as a glowing, seamless tribute to the original
picture’s duct-taped and fuzzy color aesthetic, cleaning up The Grid for 2010,
creating an innovative sensation of discovery for the audience to enjoy as Sam
plunges further into CLU’s domain.
The entire production deserves admiration, as
the tech credits are unstoppable here, gifting the screen a dynamic wonderland
to absorb, once again challenging and redefining visual effect limitations along
the way. Legacy isn’t simply eye candy, it’s Wonka’s entire factory.
Of course, not everything looks ideal . . .
"The very fact that there's a sequel to TRON, and it happens to
satisfy, is reason enough to rejoice!"
The CLU effect (also viewed in flashback
scenes involving Kevin) is an ambitious stab at mo-cap realism that doesn’t
quite fool the eye, giving away the artifice whenever the character opens his
mouth. Cynics may cry failure, but I found the effort captured the pioneer
spirit of the original film perfectly, pushing digital representation to
inspiring heights, setting the foundation for future pictures to build on. CLU
remains a striking enemy throughout Legacy, despite a villainous master plan a
little on the convoluted side.
Legacy is a sequel, despite Disney’s attempts to distance the film from its 1982
forefather. Fandom is rewarded with lustrous vehicle upgrades, with Recognizers
and Light Cycles crisply swooshing across the screen, while the deadly games at
the heart of TRON are reworked thrillingly, highlighting Sam’s struggle to stay
alive through furious Disc War matches, eventually facing the enigmatic Rinzler
in a gravity-defying showdown that’s a million miles away from the jai alai
contests of before. Legacy shows a stiffness in pace at times, dealing with an
extraordinary amount of exposition and mythmaking to marry the two pictures, but
the action and pursuit beats are adorned with a marvelous amount of luminous
smash-mouth style, permitting Legacy a propulsive energy to carry through to the
Also returning for duty is Jeff Bridges, found here as Kevin trapped in a
shell-shocked state, watching as his intentions to further humanity have turned
against him in the form of his malevolent digital double. Bridges is the anchor
of humanity in Legacy, instilling the film with humor and marquee poise as the
character awakens from his Zen coma, confronted by Sam and the life he left
behind to pursue his controversial vision, slowly reverting to his hippy-dippy
sense of response once the threat is amplified.
Also fairing well is Hedlund,
who deploys his monosyllabic charisma acceptably as the emotionally frayed hero,
and Wilde, making for a spunky, gumball-eyed sidekick and a flexible warrior.
Sneaking in here to steal a few scenes and add his own visual fireworks display
is Michael Sheen, hamming it up as Castor, flamboyant owner of the thumping End
of Line Club.
Sadly, actress Cindy Morgan, who played the dual role of Lora/Yori in the first
film, has been left out of the new adventure. Her presence is sorely missed.
Providing their special electro fingerprint is Daft Punk, scoring the stuffing
out of Legacy with stirring themes and teeth-rattling bass encouragement. The
score is by far the most triumphant element of the picture, evoking the digital
environments with vigorous aural cues that immediately place mood and cinematic
scope. It’s a transcendent soundscape from synth masters, befitting an expansive
It’s difficult to understand how Legacy will be received by younger viewers,
possibly unaware that this sequel is actually a sequel at all. The tender family
drama at the core of the picture opens up universal appeal substantially,
humanizing the stylized iciness of the visual scheme. However, much of the plot
is rooted in the 1982 film, which is a catnip proposition for fans, but could
leave some out in the cold, unable to fully participate in the extravaganza.
It’s an unusual movie-going situation to be facing, with such a tremendous divide
in time between installments, but the very fact that there’s a sequel to TRON,
and it happens to satisfy, is reason enough to rejoice.
- Brian Orndorf