© 2010 Ray Wong
28 years in the making, the sequel to the original box-office flop and cult classic, TRON, finally makes it to the theaters.
After returning from the digital world, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) gained a true appreciation of the technology and started his company, ENCOM, which gradually becomes the world's largest technology empire. However, he disappeared 17 years ago, leaving his 10-year-old son basically an orphan. Now 27, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is still the largest shareholder of ENCOM, which is run by businessmen who only want the status quo, not the innovation. Sam couldn't care less.
Family friend and his father's business partner, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), tells Sam he's received a mysterious page originating from Kevin's old office. Sam goes to the arcade, which has been abandoned for years, to investigate. By initiating a process, he finds himself digitized into a strange digital world. After surviving a series of brutal games, Sam declares he's not a program, but a user. He's brought to the leader of the world. At first Sam thinks the leader is his father, but realizes later his name is Clu (Jeff Bridges), a program made from his father's image.
Sam is saved by mysterious Quorra (Olivia Wilde), who tells her Kevin Flynn is in hiding off the grid. Father and son soon reunite. Sam learns that Kevin, the original program Tron (Bruce Boxleitner), and Clu set out to create a perfect system, but some went wrong. Clu lures Sam to the digital world to try to find Kevin, who holds the key to the outside world. Clu is determined to unleash his army to the real world.
Jeff Bridges (True Grit) reprises his role as Kevin Flynn after almost 30 years. He's older and wiser, and his character is, too. And more Zen-like. Bridges plays a man who's been trapped in a world he created "forever." His performance is subdued and understated, which lacks the dramatic power of his second role as the program Clu. 30 years younger and created by CGI, Clu is eerily realistic but unreal at the same time. Bridges gives a more sinister and aggressive performance via motion capture.
As Sam Flynn, Garrett Hedlund (Death Sentence) has the thankless job of playing the unwilling hero. His character is both active and passive at the same time. Hedlund does what he can with the emotionally distant character. Most of the time, he only needs to react to what is happening around him, instead of taking charge. Olivia Wilde (The Next Three Days) fares better as the strong heroine, Quorra. Her character is more proactive and Wilde does a good job making us care, even though we know she's "just a computer program."
The supporting cast seems to have a good time making this film. Bruce Boxleitner (Shadows in Paradise) gives us a welcome return of Alan Bradley and the original Tron (again, via CGI). James Frain (True Blood) is creepy as Clu's right-hand man. Beau Garrett (Ivory) is weirdly gorgeous as the program GEM, and stunt actor Anis Cheurfa (The Green Hornet) has some great moves as a game fighter Rinzler. But the scene stealer is Michael Sheen (Beautiful Boy), who chews his scenes with flair and panache as Cantor/Zuse.
The screenplay by Edward Kitsis (LOST) and Adam Horowitz (LOST) follows the original TRON, but only to a certain extent. They focus the story on the father-son arc, and that gives it an emotional weight. However, what is missing is the wonderment of the original with regard to the technology. What's great about the original is that it was a fairytale about the digital world -- we actually get to see how computers work within the realm of that fantasy. Here, all that is lost. What's left is just mumble-jumble about a perfect system, but we never get to see it at work. The plot is full with holes and stakes are not as high as they should be. After Sam finds his father, the tension is almost gone -- all they need to do is to get out and take control. Boring!
The dialogue and plot movement are also convoluted. In the original, there is a rhyme and reason for the games, for example. There's no explanation here: Sam's plunged right into the games. The plot requires a huge dose of suspension of disbelief, and it's a fantasy!
What saves the film is the direction of newcomer Joseph Kosinski (The Black Hole). He has a great visual style and the production is slick and exciting. The color palette is heavy on black and blue with a splash of neon, however, which gets tiring after a while. The constant action and loud music can get tiring, too, but at least Kosinski keeps everything moving. The visuals are stunning and some of the action sequences are spectacular. On the other hand, that's also a problem for the film: the digital world is too sophisticated and slick for us to believe it's actually electronic.
Sad to say, TRON Legacy is a disappointment for fans of the original. It lacks the imagination and originality. It lacks the geek-worthy inside jokes of how computers work (seriously, no exploration of the Internet and the "social network" phenomenon?) It misses the mark on many fronts. It'd hardly leave a legacy as the original did.
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Michael Sheen, Anis Cheurfa
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writers: Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz
Distributor: Walt Disney
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of sci-fi violence and brief mind language
Running Time: 127 minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 9
Editing – 8
Production – 9
Total – 7.8 out of 10