Review: Tron: Legacy
PLOT: Twenty years after Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the CEO of ENCOM International, disappears, his son Sam (Garret Hedlund) finds himself sucked into a mysterious computer world, ruled by CLU, his father's doppleganger, who rules with an iron fist. Forced into gladiatorial combat, Sam escapes with the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a beautiful warrior, who also happens to be the real Kevin Flynn's confidante and protector. Reunited with his father at last, Sam makes a desperate attempt to get back to the real world before CLU, and his army can use the portal back to Earth to start an invasion, where CLU can enforce his cruel, genocidal vision.
REVIEW: Well, by this point I'm sure everyone reading this has already had their fill of TRON: LEGACY reviews. I've been reading them pretty religiously myself, but the numerous mixed reviews had me walk into the film with a certain degree of trepidation. Yet, I think reading those early reviews actually added to my enjoyment of the film, as I didn't walk in expecting the game changer a lot of my peers might have expected after the brilliant trailers and comic-con footage.
To be sure, TRON: LEGACY is not a perfect film. Far from it actually. The script is very weak, and it basically seems that the writers took the scripts for BATMAN BEGINS, STAR WARS, TRON, and even THE BIG LEBOWSKI, chucked them in a blender and called the result TRON: LEGACY. Thematically no new ground is broken whatsoever. Sam Flynn as played by Garret Hedlund is basically Bruce Wayne-lite. He's a child of privilege, having grown up without parents, and mentored by a kindly, pseudo father-figure (with Bruce Boxleitner's Alan Bradley filling in for Alfred).
Like Wayne, the trappings of wealth don't interest him whatsoever, with him feeling more of an obligation to do good. While Wayne fought crime as Batman, Flynn fights his own corporation's greed by playing pranks, and leaking the source code for his company's multi-billion dollar OS onto the net in order to make it free for whomever wants it.
The first twenty minutes of TRON: LEGACY really made me wonder if director Joseph Kosinski was aware how dangerously close he was getting to plagiarizing Christopher Nolan's BATMAN films, with even the cinematography being reminiscent of Wally Pfister's work on BEGINS, and THE DARK KNIGHT. Yet, even in these early scenes, TRON: LEGACY was entertaining. Hedlund, while no Christian Bale, made a likable hero, and it was great seeing Boxleitner again (I was a huge BABYLON 5 geek back in the day).
But then, about twenty-five minutes in, Sam hits the Grid, and the film explodes into full 3D, sucking us into the TRON universe. At this point, what began as a BATMAN BEGINS ripoff became something else entirely. As weak as the screenplay is, visually TRON: LEGACY is a perfect film. You've NEVER seen 3D like you've seen here, and visually it may be even more impressive than the game-changing AVATAR. Every single frame of the film once it hits The Grid is gorgeous, and you could literally take any frame from the film and pass it off as a fine piece of modern art.
And the music- don't even get me started! The idea to have Daft Punk score LEGACY is inspired, and rarely have I seen a film where the music so perfectly complements what you're seeing on-screen. By the same token, if you were to strip away the Daft Punk score, I have a feeling TRON would have imploded, as the music is essential. Even in a film like INCEPTION, where the music plays an important role, I'd say it's responsible for about 25% of the film's success. Here, the DAFT PUNK score goes about 50/50 with Kosinski's visuals. It's almost like a techno-musical, especially once we hit the incredible “Derezzed” scene, where Sam, Quorra, and Flynn fight their way through a nightclub full of opponents, with Daft Punk themselves appear on-screen mixing the tracks. The effect is incredible, and without a doubt this whole sequence is one of the cinematic high points of 2010.
Which makes the tragedy of the TRON: LEGACY screenplay all the more tragic. If as much care had been put into the script as went into the visuals, this might have been a masterpiece. But as it stands, it's still a very unique action-adventure and a heck of a lot of fun. In addition to Hedlund, TRON features a lot of other fine performances, the highlight of which is Olvia Wilde as the precocious, kindly, somewhat naive, but still resourceful and ferocious Quorra. Between this and her upcoming turn in COWBOYS & ALIENS, this is going to be a big year for Wilde, and throughout this film I truly felt like I was watching the birth of a superstar.
As for Jeff Bridges, he's likely going to be a very controversial character. Forget his character from the first TRON, as the guy he's playing here is NOT the same Kevin Flynn. Granted, it's probably been about a decade since I last saw TRON, but I don't remember him being so “Dude”-like. Essentially, he's re-creating The Dude from BIG LEBOWSKI, and while I can understand that sticking in some folks' crawl, I was surprisingly OK with it, even when he tells Sam at one point that he's “going to knock on the sky to see what it sounds like”. Obviously Bridges is having fun playing a sort of Obi-Wan Lebowski, and I had fun watching him. Less successful is Bridges' other part, as the villainous CLU. His performance is OK, but the FX process to make Bridges resemble the way he looked in 1982 isn't quite there yet, and is the only special effect that doesn't entirely work.
As for the other returning TRON player, Boxleitner, he's got a pretty tiny role, and hardcore TRON fans may not like the way the titular TRON is dealt with here, in a way that seems almost like an afterthought. The other noteworthy performance comes from Michael Sheen, channelling David Bowie circa-Ziggy Stardust as club-owner Zeus. My only complaint about Sheen is that I wish he was in it more, as he adds a little levity to what's a surprisingly dark ride for a PG Disney flick.
Suffice to say, TRON: LEGACY is a profoundly flawed film as far as character development, and story goes. But as a visual experience, it comes damn close to fully compensating for it's shortcomings on the page. Let's face it, the original TRON, while fun to a child of the eighties, is no classic. It's not MEGAFORCE, but it's not STAR WARS either. It's a fun, if dated film, and TRON:LEGACY improves on it by a wide margin. The ending naturally paves the way for a sequel (as does a big name cameo early in the film who I suspect might be the next film's antagonist), and if this pull in big bucks, I have faith that another instalment might actually really take this to the next level. Visually they've got TRON down cold. Now, all they need to do is buckle-down, churn out a great script, and then we'll really have something.