Do Programs Dream of Electric Users?
Although hesitating to call Tron: Legacy a score for Team Originality, I'm sure its Disney's riskiest gamble in some time. A studio that never met a property it didn't try to bleed dry, Disney's decision to sequelize the 1982 fringe hit Tron is something of a head-scratcher. On the one hand, here's an ideal opportunity to show off some serious tech and haul a world devised in the '80s into the new millennium. On the other hand, as far as story and ideas go, Tron: Legacy has nothing on its elder and keeps fair distance from the forefront of creativity. But with its sound and visual fury, this sequel at least wows the audience in one way, which is better than underwhelming viewers in all aspects.
When computer impresario Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) last saw his son Sam, he stood on the verge of a technological breakthrough. Unfortunately, twenty years and a missing dad have shaped Sam (Garrett Hedlund) into the brooding, antisocial prankster he is now. However, all it takes is getting sucked into a digitized world of sentient computer programs for Sam to get the skinny on what his pop's been up to for the past couple of decades. Kevin Flynn is not only alive and well, he's at war with Clu (a de-aged Bridges), a doppleganger bent on virtual world domination. But with some assistance from Flynn's fetching protege Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Sam braves the system head-on, setting his sights on taking down Clu and bringing his father back to the real world.
The original Tron came about when humanity was amusingly cheery about what computers could do. Even at that early stage of the great technology race, someone thought enough to see bits and bytes as real characters, each mainframe they inhabit a universe unto itself. That Tron explored these concepts while pushing special effects boundaries resulted in a real sense of wonder few films are lucky to achieve. This brings us to Tron: Legacy, which doesn't stick as closely to its thematic guns but still delivers enough to amaze us. Some soul-searching goes on here, for Flynn's arch nemesis is essentially his delusions of grandeur run amok, but adhering to the norm at the multiplex lately, spectacle is the name of the game. Be you a Tron loyalist or total newbie, there may be a slighted feeling when it comes to story. Fortunately, that won't dampen the visual buzz the film's creators worked darn hard to leave you with.
Hokey as the original's eye candy looks nearly thirty years down the road, there's nothing goofy about Tron: Legacy's wizardry. Everything director Joseph Kosinski does to make his world look, feel, and sound epic seems executed with gusto to spare. The picture's digital wonderland feels truly limitless, with all manner of adventures to be had or battles waged on the horizon. The overall design is instantly eye-catching, and an electronica feast for the ears -- courtesy of tehno gurus Daft Punk -- drives Sam and crew's fight against the power over the soundtrack. Actingwise, Tron: Legacy doesn't give its cast much to do exept run from Point A to Point B, but the roles are done well enough. In casting figures to follow on a thinly-plotted quest, the flick could've done worse. Bridges weaves effortlessly between playing the embattled Flynn to the embittered Clu, reminding us about his value in modern acting. Hedlund comes across as an alright hero, and Wilde is pleasing to look at.
Not the sort of film you'd usually associate with the holidays, Tron: Legacy helps Christmas 2010 arrive with a big bada-boom. While the little ones laugh themselves silly at Yogi Bear, big brother and the folks can enjoy a groovy, effects-driven ride that skews mature without getting graphic. Be prepared to fork over a small fortune for your family's 3D surcharge, but if there's one movie worth splurging on in this department, it's Tron: Legacy.
MY RATING: *** (out of ****)
(Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and rated "PG" for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language.)