As much a sequel as it is a reboot, “Tron Legacy” pulls the audience back into the world of The Grid where some of the art direction and costumes are the same, some of the characters are here again, but that is about all this film shares with the 1982 original film. Director Joseph Kosinski chose to take the world created in Steven Lisberger’s “Tron” and crank it up way past eleven. In a film where even the title is full of itself to epic proportions it would be silly to think that the actual movie did not live up to the promise.
“Legacy” begins seven years after the original where Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has taken his gaming company, Encom, and turned it into a global, open source, software giant. He is on the precipice of a major breakthrough, a revolution in technology that will change the world. He kisses his young son, Sam, goodnight, hops on his Ducati, and is never heard from again. The scene works as a set up, the one problem being the digitally youthified Jeff Bridges, who’s face looks distractingly more akin to character from “Final Fantasy” than the “Starman” of memory. While integral to the plot, the reverse-aged Bridges is the biggest flop for the effects department in an otherwise beautifully rendered world.
We cut ahead twenty years to Sam (Garrett Hedlund), now a devil-may-care millionaire, breaking into Encom for his yearly prank on the company of which he holds a majority share. Angered by his father’s disappearance he takes it out on the Microsoft-analog, accusing them of bastardizing daddy’s ideas, while railing against the old man to Alan (Bruce Boxlietner), Kevin’s former partner and co-founder of Encom. Sam has some hero worship for his father, though blames him for dropping out of the picture without a word’s notice. Hedlund tries to play off the conflicted rebel, but whether he succeeds is immaterial. When Sam goes to Kevin’s old arcade, and is sucked into The Grid, the real star of the show rears its dazzling head.
As an anthropomorphized version of computer science and interconnected networks the world of The Grid is a terrifically interesting idea, and Kosinski, a former effects driven commercial director, creates a magnificently detailed update of the one from the original film. Some of the old favorites like the disc fight, and the Light Bike race are present, but as a whole The Grid 2.0 is a darkly imagined universe more textured than Lisberger’s influential vision. However, the surface of this hugely conceived world is barely scratched by the script.
After Sam is sucked inside his father’s computer, and is forced to battle his way out of the Gaming Arena he meets Clu, a mirror of Kevin Flynn in program form designed to help create the world of The Grid, but ended up becoming a dictator over the digital landscape. Rallying the Programs, as the denizens of The Grid are called, against the Users, as those who control the Programs from the real world are dubbed, Clu has raised up mankind as some sort of evil oppressors to these binary beings. His main target though, is the elder Flynn, who has gone into hiding, and has been saddled with the bombastic title of The Creator.
Though never overt, the script by “Lost” veterans Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, tosses in some pretty heavy religious themes as Clu wages war on his Creator, and by proxy the Son of the Creator, Sam. As a man Kevin Flynn created a world of technology, one that rebelled against him, and is quite literally trying to kill its own God. Unfortunately this, along with many other themes, is never fully explored in the picture. There are so many ideas floating around Kitsis and Horowitz’s script that the film would flounder if Kosinski did not push past each one with the speed of an action potential, not letting the audience notice they are being ushered right past some pretty interesting stuff.
Also glossed over without a notice are the performances throughout the picture, which are scattered to say the least. Jeff Bridges seems to be channeling a little too much Jeff Bridges, who in recent interviews seems to live in a fun, hippy dream world of Credence Clearwater Revival records and Transcendental Meditation. Focused more on the effects than anything his actors did it, Kosinski must have let Bridges adlib most of his lines because Flynn utters pure nonsense like, “You’re really ruining my Zen, man.” Michael Sheen is similarly unfettered channeling the Thin White Duke as his portrayal of Zeus, an androgynous owner of a nightclub for The Grid elite. As the obligatory female lead Olivia Wilde does her job looking pretty, though, like Garrett Hedlund’s Sam, her Quorra takes such a back seat to the actual setting of the movie the young actors have trouble standing out.
If The GridKosinski creates is the vehicle in which the audience is riding, Daft Punk’s score is the engine. There is hardly a moment in the film not dominated by the French dance music duo’s hefty beats, and along with the seamless melding of Cinematographer Claudio Miranda’s photography and the digital work of Quantum Creation FX, the picture flies by without a moment’s rest. So fast, in fact that there is hardly time to define the rules of The Grid, and subsequently it seems like Kosinski makes them up as he goes along.
But all of this comes in hindsight. While viewing the picture there is little to complain about. “Tron Legacy” is a visually spectacular thrill machine tailor made for the Sci-Fi nerd crowd who can point out all of the places the film steals from George Lucas. If the script is full of holes, and a little confusing so what? The Grid has enough material to warrant enough sequels to finally figure out what an Iso is, or what really happened to Tron, or why Jeff Bridges was allowed to write his own dialogue – a mystery so confounding as to make the whole experience supremely entertaining. It is like watching the Dude in Cyber-Space, and if that is not something you want to see, then I don’t want to know you.
El Luchador Rating:
Review By: Paul S. Myers (a.k.a. El Luchador)