In Defense Of: TRON: Legacy (2010)

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Like the original film, Legacy is packed with grand ideas and imagery, only this time around everyone involved is able to really capitalize on it. The original film’s games return here, unfettered from the restraints of the early 1980s, and give Legacy some of its coolest sequences: The Disc Wars that lead Sam into a tense one-on-one battle with Rinzler in an ever-changing environment and the Light Cycle sequence in which Sam and several other programs are forced to clash with Clu himself. It’s stylish and fun, demonstrative of how far we’ve come since 1982, and it doesn’t even stop there, with scenes like a brawl in the End of Line club or an aerial dogfight near the end of the film standing as further action beats that are both electric and propulsive.

For how good Legacy looks and for how visually creative it can be, it is, of course, still not without a few faults. As mentioned earlier, the narrative is a bit undercooked and undermined by Sam’s general lack of presence as a character worth investing in, and that’s not something that should be ignored. As great as the computer animation looks throughout the majority of the film, the de-aging effect used to bring a younger Jeff Bridges to life stands out, chiefly in the opening scene set in the real world, where it looks just as creepy as it did back in 2010. Of course, even that deserves a bit of credit, as the work done here and in several other films has only been improved upon in the years since.

Even further, despite being the titular character, Tron himself is woefully under-utilized. Outside of a few brief glimpses in flashback form, Tron spends the entirety of the film masked, relatively silent, and repurposed as Rinzler. Even after he finally redeems himself and overcomes Clu’s programming, uttering his great “I fight for the users” line before crashing his Light Jet into Clu’s, he’s essentially discarded from the plot, left sinking into the Sea of Simulation never to be seen again.

It’s pretty disappointing, primarily because it’s emblematic of how much Legacy put in place for another sequel to pick up and carry forward that may never be fulfilled. From Cillian Murphy’s Edward Dillinger, Jr., son of the original film’s villainous Dillinger, being a part of ENCOM to the ramifications of Quorra’s presence in the real world by the end of the film, there’s a lot left hanging, which wouldn’t be so big a problem were TRON 3 actually going to happen, but since it isn’t – at least not anytime soon – it’s hard not to be frustrated with the lack of resolution left behind by Legacy.

That said, if there’s something people will always likely (and positively) remember about the film, it’s Daft Punk’s work in scoring it. For all of its neat action scenes and slick imagery, the true pulse that gives Legacy its personality is born from what the dynamic duo deliver from beginning to end. Whether it’s the thumping opening moments that build to the reveal of the film’s primary theme, the pulsating “Derezzed” battle at the End of Line club, the Light Cycle game, Flynn’s final sacrifice, or even the end credits, Legacy’s score is loaded with memorable moments throughout its entire runtime, and if there’s a true crime associated with TRON 3’s nonexistence, it’s that we’re being robbed of seeing how the pair could build on all the stellar work they did here.

For now, it seems that TRON as a brand is no longer in Disney’s interest, which is unsurprising considering they could subsist on their animated efforts, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel until the end of time, but disappointing regardless due to the fact that Legacy shifted the franchise as a whole into a position where anything is possible. It has its issues, sure, and one can easily dismiss it for falling into the style over substance trap the original film fell victim to, but it’s hard not to enjoy when that style looks so good, especially when it’s delivered by a group of people – from Kosinski and his team of visual artists right down to Daft Punk – whose passion for the material shines through so brightly.

Over six years since its release, TRON: Legacy deserves a better, well, legacy all its own, particularly as it almost seems like a miracle it exists in the first place, and if it’s been a while since you’ve taken a trip to the Grid, consider that it may just be time for a return visit.

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