Review: Tron: Legacy
PLOT: Arcade owner Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) disappeared at the pinnacle of his success, leaving his young son Sam (Garrett Hudlund) alone. After receiving a pager message, Sam finds his way into the data stream and finds his father working against forces he created. A mysterious program called Quorra (Olivia Wilde) may be the key to it all.
REVIEW: I saw the original TRON as a little kid wearing footie pajamas. I got to visit the set and wear Rinzler's (Anis Cheurfa) helmet. I've ooh'd and ahh'd along with the rest of you while footage was played at Comic Con and checked out the price of the custom made lightcycles on eBay, just in case I won the lottery. And like many of you, I started to get a bit worried by the sheer amount of studio lead up to the film. Early press days, 20 minutes of footage screened over and over, pop-up stores, something released every other day online...it started to seem like overkill. So when I sat down to watch TRON: LEGACY, I admit, I was worried. But it's TRON, right?
Visually, it was absolutely gorgeous. I mean, just mind-numbingly beautiful. The lightcycle races (you've seen some of it already) had me on the edge of my seat. The games, involving throwing discs to derezz your opponent, were so good I'd sell my soul to play them in a video game. Like AVATAR, there will be people experiencing withdrawal depression. And like AVATAR, the 3D actually works. It makes sense. It looks good. And this is coming from someone who gets migraines from those stupid glasses. The first few times you see a young Jeff Bridges with the lines all digitally removed from his face, your mind will be blown...at least until half way through the film.
My only complaint about the visuals is that they overplayed their hand with young Jeff. We still haven't overcome the whole 'uncanny valley' thing. (Look it up on Wikipedia.) The eyes are still all wrong and using another person's body gave the movement a hint of Voldo from SOUL CALIBER. A few shots would have been an elegant sufficiency. It would have kept us wanting. But back to the prettiness. The End of the Line club that has shown up at Comic Con and been revealed in pictures was stunning. (Look for a cameo by Steven Lisberger in the scenes there.) I can't say enough about how the film looked. But hey, it's TRON, right?
For a fan of the original film, the moment Sam walks into Flynn's Arcade and Journey starts playing was almost tear-provoking. I heard applause and it wasn't just from me. I practically squealed with happiness. Seeing Kevin Flynn again...seeing Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) and Clu...it was like the first moments of THE PHANTOM MENACE. 'I can't believe this is actually happening! Am I really seeing this all these years later?' And then the story kicks in. Sam is looking for his dad. He gets a pager message. He enters a room no one else knows about and gets pulled into the world of TRON. He's magically (alright, not magically, but certainly surprisingly) extra, extra good at games he's dropped in the middle of. Good enough to beat programs that have been playing forever. A program named Quorra (Olivia Wilde) just happens to appear at precisely the right moment to help him.
Look, I like the writers' idea that Clu is Kevin's son just as much as Sam. I like a lot of the ideas, like the iso programs that developed by themselves. I liked ideas I can't reveal because they're spoilers. I just think that all of the things they put in are not going to be understood by people who haven't seen the first film. And there it is. I've spoken to a bunch of people who were at the screening who hadn't. They were bored. Not because it wasn't shiny. Not because they don't like sci-fi. Because they got tired of trying to figure out what the hell was happening. There is a reveal at the end of the film that not one of these people understood. I almost missed it myself, since it was bogged down in other ideas and events. But...but it's TRON, right? I want to forgive it all. I still had fun. Here is my feeling. The only way this story would work is in a TV series. More time to explain, more room to flesh it all out. I'm not saying we should have one. I'm just saying that it would have worked better.
(Speaking of PHANTOM MENACE, there were more STAR WARS references than I could count. I mean, just look at the poster! There was a moment when Kevin tells Sam to take over the gun in the turret in their ship. After Sam gets a hit, I actually expected Kevin to say, 'Great kid. Don't get cocky.')
But it's TRON. And Jeff Bridges was fantastic. No matter what issues I had with the story, it's freaking Jeff Bridges. They let him speak like Jeff Bridges. I could watch that man comb his beard and be riveted. Olivia Wilde was just adorable. Michael Sheen out shined the End of the Line club with his cane-wielding performance. Hedlund was really the only weak spot, performance-wise. He's lovely to look at. He's not a bad actor. I just don't think he carried the film. And though this is a really mild spoiler, I have to say it. Not. Enough. Bruce. Boxleitner. Why would you get him back and not use him more? He's TRON!
So as you can see, I'm totally torn. I love so much about the film. I haven't even mentioned the phenomenal score by Daft Punk. I'm not normally a fan but I would listen to this all day, every day. They could not have found anyone more perfect. I loved the way it looked except for the over-Jeffing. I loved the performances except for Garrett. I loved returning to the world, except for the plot issues. But it's TRON, right? If you're a fan like me, it's worth seeing for both the nostalgia and the debate you're going to have after the film. If you're not, it's worth seeing for the visuals. I'm going back to see it again, but I'm still going to critique it post-viewing. And I still want a lightcycle.