The world has changed considerably since Disney’s original TRON was released in 1982. So has its star, Jeff Bridges, you may know his character as Flynn. That didn’t stop the folks at Disney from attempting to graphically recreate a younger face for him, in the film’s sequel, titled TRON: Legacy. For most of the film, this younger face is on a character named Clu. Clu is a program made to run a digital world in some other dimension when Flynn, the creator of that world, can’t be there himself as he has to go back and forth between this reality, and that.
But this young face is also used in the film’s opening scene, what is meant to be Flynn, many many years ago, telling a story to his young son. The camera weaves, and shadows are thrown, and we can’t get a good look at Flynn until right before the scene ends, when he steps into the light. And we finally see what a poor graphic it is, a reminder that technology isn’t quite there yet. It’s strange that first time director Joseph Kosinski choose to maneuver the scene in that way, considering the endless bounty of imagination, and jaw-dropping graphics to follow.
After this opening, the film jumps forward a number of years, and we’re introduced to a grown-up Sam, son of Flynn who went missing the night he told his son that story so many years ago. Sam, played by Garrett Hedlund, is clearly of the same intelligence of his father, as we witness him play a dangerous and hi-tech prank on the company his father created, and for which he still owns the majority of shares. Through a mysterious page (yes, a page, as in pager), he’s led back to his father’s arcade where he finds the equipment used to head to ‘the grid’ (the name of this digital world).
Accidentally, he’s zapped into the grid, and dropped in the middle of a society being tossed around by a Nazi-like regime. Sam is immediately forced to play a number of dangerous games to protect his life, and he is eventually saved by his father’s protege, Quorra (Olivia Wilde). Quorra, Sam, and Flynn reunite and set out to return back home through a rapidly closing portal back to reality, while at the same time, fending off Clu and TRON, who have turned against their creator, Flynn.
It’s all a bit confusing. Especially considering the fact Disney had 25 years to make sense of it all, or at least get a good grip on it before a sequel was churned out. Much less, for a sequel that means so much financially to the corporation. But unfortunately, the ideas tossed around in TRON: Legacy are as ridiculous and nonsensical as ever. It’s as if the filmmakers, Kosinski in particular, and the six people credited for story and screenplay decided to show all their cards. Full transparency: the plot is flawed, and incongruous, terms and explanations are thrown around without making any real effort to help the audience make sense of what they’re seeing. But with these facts acknowledged, they were free to do whatever they pleased. And a lot of it is pretty damn cool.
The special effects are the star of the show, of course. And minus Flynn’s plastic doll face, they’re spectacular. The 3D is, at times, so efficient, you’ll forget you’re wearing those stupid glasses. The imagination and fantasy behind what you see on screen rival any in recent film history. Disney has created a world of their own, and it’s beautiful. Parts look like what the world would look like if Apple was given full artistic license to do what they please. The buildings and decorations frequently look like what Frank Lloyd Wright might have done, had he been a minimalist from the future.
With all this eye candy, there’s a score to accompany it by electonica team Daft Punk. It’s absolutely perfect for the feel of the movie, with deep bass, and soaring orchestral pieces when called for. I hope to see it mentioned come Oscar time. When it comes to acting, it’s clear that Mr. Bridges is doing all that he can (as he should just coming off an Oscar win), but he’s constrained by an incredibly flat script that feels like one of those YouTube compilation videos of horrible one-liners.
Hedlund is similarly limited by the things he’s forced to say, and unfortunately, he’s the primary source of the distractingly bad dialog. It isn’t, of course, his fault. And at least he had more to do than his eventual love interest. It seems Ms. Wilde wasn’t asked to do much more than look good in a skin-tight body suit. And she does that very well. There are, however, some pleasing cameos to look out for. These include Cillian Murphy, and Michael Sheen playing a flaming homosexual owner of a dance club.
You’d think Disney would have allocated just a bit more of its rumored three hundred million dollar budget for a decent script. It’s disappointing. TRON is sure to make a ton of money. And since it, and films like Avatar are the bread and butter of studios, moviegoers are basically saying they don’t care about well written stories. However, the demographic that TRON: Legacy is primed for probably won’t care. And maybe you shouldn’t either.
If you choose to see TRON: Legacy, leave your brain at home, and be ready to watch what boils down to a great dramatic Daft Punk music video.