TRON: Legacy (2010)

ImageDirected by Joseph Kosinski, Written by Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitis, Brian Klugman, and Lee Sternthal, Rated PG-13, 126 minutes.

In the early days of the blockbuster, before a time when prequels, sequels, and remakes flooded our silver screens, there was a little movie that nobody saw named TRON. With its fantastic special effects and slow, episodic plot, TRON only appealed to the hopelessly nerdy and needlessly curious. A King Arthur-styled quest with neon lights, the film would go on to have a huge influence of the era’s burgeoning video game culture, while the only thing that transferred to film were the fantastic effects, which still look pretty cool. 

Its sequel, TRON: Legacy, raises some interesting questions about our relationship with computer programs, asking who’s controlling who. But in this cold, effects heavy adventure film, the dry scripting and beautiful effects answer with a resounding “computers.”

For those not in the know, the first ten minutes or so give a run down of the first film. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) plays a software engineer, who mysteriously disappeared in the late-80s. Twenty-five years later, Flynn’s son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), is following in father’s footsteps as a hacker to Flynn’s former bosses at ENCOM.

After successfully sabotaging the release of ENCOM’s latest operating system, Sam gets a message to meet his father’s old partner at the site of Kevin’s last known whereabouts, Flynn’s arcade. It is there that Sam meets the fate of his father and ends up inside a video game at the arcade.

Sam’s navigation of the innards of a video game are just as eye-popping as Kevin’s. The bright lights, beautifully staged sets and computer generated constructs drive the film. Much like last year’s under-appreciated Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, TRON: Legacy uses CGI to create images that look deservedly otherworldly, showing off the creativity and even artfulness of the form, creating an immersive experience more compelling than the film’s characters.

Much like TRON, it’s late to the game sequel tries to cover a lot of ground. While TRON falters in its inclusion of an episodic quest plot, Legacy does so by filling in holes with exposition, cluing us in to what happened last time (Kevin fought for a control of a computer program), where Kevin’s been (in the game, living like a god), and finally, what if the program gained sentience (still unsure, but it’d be bad).

The performances remain stagnant and robotic, meaning no one is having any fun. And given that Sam is supposed to be some sort of rebel, his lack of Han Solo-like charm makes him difficult to tolerate. The beautiful Olivia Wilde does very little to cover his tracks, playing some sort of confused android. The world of TRON excites the viewer, but these characters keep us at a distance. Cold and robotic, Kosinski never gives them a moment to take in the sights, let alone have fun with them.

Grade: C+

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