Making a list of a sci-fi cult classics wouldn’t be complete without phrases like “disc wars,” “light cycles” and “the grid.” Of course, I am referring to “Tron,” a 1982 hit that has only gained more popularity as time has gone on. Being a pioneer in integrating live action with computer-animated graphics, “Tron” set the standard for visual effects in its time.
Now, nearly 30 years later, we have a sequel that takes a few of the original characters and throws them into an updated version of the alternate digital universe. For the sequel, Walt Disney Pictures has given relative newcomer Joseph Kosinski a massive budget of $200 million to bring this story to the big screen.
The movie opens years after the original “Tron” ended and we see Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has built a massive video game empire and has a successful company. One night, he is telling his 7-year-old son, Sam, tales of the gladiator-like games that happen in the grid and many other exciting adventures. As he leaves to head out for work, he promises Sam that he will take him into the game someday. Kevin Flynn leaves for work and is never seen or heard from again. Twenty years later, we see that Sam has grown up and has major authority issues. After a small run-in with the authorities, he is told by his father’s best friend, Alan (Bruce Boxleitner), that there was a page from his father’s old office at the arcade. When Sam (Garrett Hedlund) goes to investigate, he is zapped into the digital world his dad told him about 20 years ago.
Thrown into a strange world and facing life and death scenarios, he comes into contact with CLU, a program created in Kevin Flynn’s image to help run the digital world when he was in the real world. Now, CLU is the ultimate ruler and doing everything in his power to rid the grid of all who stand in his way. Luckily, Sam is rescued from the clutches of CLU by Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a young, spunky program that is all courage and heart. She takes Sam to a secret location where he finds his dad. Reunited at last, it’s a flurry of emotions and Sam finds out that he has a very limited amount of time to go back through the portal to the real world before it closes for good. Now, it’s a race against the clock to find people to help them get to the gateway and they must avoid CLU and his army if they hope to make it out.
Now, there are many different aspects of this movie to explore: the characters, the story, the music and the visuals. Jeff Bridges returning as Kevin Flynn was a must and he really helps tie the two movies together. His relationship with his son Sam is one of the main plot points. Bridges, although much more reserved in “Tron: Legacy,” has the same essence as he had in the original. Hedlund does well as the young and adventurous Sam Flynn; full of vigor and spirit, he brings a new viewpoint to the film. Wilde as Quorra is fun and spontaneous, full of a thirst for life and new experiences. One of the stand-out performances by a featured character is Michael Sheen as Castor, manager of the “End of the Line Club” in the Grid. He has one of the most out-there characters and seems to be channeling David Bowie for most of his scenes. But the energy and wackiness he uses to portray Castor was a highlight of the film for me.
The music and score is by French electronic music duo Daft Punk and just like the amazing score by Hans Zimmer in “Inception,” this upbeat and sometimes techno mix really lends itself to the sleek, dark landscapes and action sequences in the movie. They provide just the right mix of adrenaline pumping sound to match the intense action scenes. The music truly is an extension to the film and blends seamlessly into each scene. The members of Daft Punk also have a cameo in the film as the DJs in the nightclub scene.
The biggest difference in this film from the original is the massive leap in the special effects. Although the first “Tron” was a technological marvel for its time, this film has giant leaps forward from the last. The large-scale computer animated sets and vehicles are just amazingly stream-lined and sleek. Another big difference in the world’s overall design is the darkness. I took it as the Grid’s decent into darkness as CLU’s power and evil influences grows. One of the most heart-pounding scenes involves the light cycle race, the fast paced zooming around a glass floor arena with laser light ribbon trails is just amazing to behold. The disk wars in raised boxed arenas are a treat for the eyes as well. The flash of light as the disk bounces off the floor, walls and then right through the contenders is great.
Just like “Avatar” last year, this film is a step ahead of most 3D films out right now. Although the landscapes aren’t as bright and vibrant as the lands of Pandora, the electronic city-scapes can be just as awe-inspiring. I can’t talk about the special effects without mentioning young Jeff Bridges; it’s amazing that they can make him look 30 years younger and although it’s very realistic, there was still something eerie about seeing him. I found it a bit distracting because I was focusing on watching him speak and it just seemed a bit off to me.
The storyline is pretty simple, which is a positive and negative at the same time. It is good for people who haven’t seen the original to quickly understand the world and what’s going on, but the flipside of that is that it isn’t really as engaging as most movie buffs or fans of the original would have liked. While 1982’s “Tron” was mostly a mission of discovery and taking down the M.C.P. (Master Control Program), this film is mostly an escape movie. Once Sam finds himself in the digital world, he is working towards finding his way out. I find it acceptable in the fact that they are planning a sequel to “Tron: Legacy” and therefore they have time to wrap up holes in the story and make it a bit more complex the next time around. I also saw a lot of nods to movies like “The Matrix,” “Minority Report” and “Logan’s Run.”
“Tron: Legacy” is a visual treat with cutting-edge special effects and great 3D that really mesh well with the cinematography, but is slightly lacking in story development. However, if you’re looking for a fun movie to see this holiday season, check out “Tron: Legacy” in theaters Dec. 17.
“Tron: Legacy” is being released in IMAX 3D and is rated PG for sci-fi action and brief mild language. For more background information about “Tron: Legacy,” you can check out my review of the advance preview night they did in October HERE.
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