I’m on the record about not caring much for the original Tron. I watched the sequel with trepidation, and while it’s essentially the same movie as its predecessor, with many of the same flaws, it gets enough right to be a marked improvement.
Things start in the mid-1980s, where a not-entirely-believable CGI version of young Jeff Bridges reprises his role as computer wiz Kevin Flynn. Flynn is telling his son Sam about the world inside computers, and how he’s made a computer version of himself to make that world perfect. Faster than you can say “hubris”, Kevin goes into the computer world and never comes out, leaving Sam to grow up into an underachiever with Daddy issues.
The night that Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) breaks into his father’s company, Encom, and steals the latest operating system to distribute it for free, he gets a message from his dad’s old chum Alan (Bruce Boxleitner, returning from the original). Alan claims to have gotten a page from the long-vanished Kevin, coming from the old Flynn arcade. (Nice bit of 1980s nostalgia when Sam fires up all the old arcade games, including the one time Journey’s “Separate Ways” has not made me wish I was deaf.) Soon enough Sam gets zorched into the computer world, where he finds that his dad’s plans for a perfect world went just a wee bit awry. Sam and Kevin team up with a new type of program called an “iso” (Olivia Wilde), and along the way they meet Ziggy Stardust (don’t ask).
What Tron: Legacy has going for it is the benefit of modern movie technology – as eye candy goes, it’s the best I’ve seen in quite some time. The computer world has been very successfully updated, though the jury is still out on whether light-cycles should be able to curve or have right-angles only. Except for the ill-advised scenes in the “real” world, the CGI version of young Jeff Bridges works well – in the computer world his plastic-looking skin texture and bobble-headedness come off as sinister rather than silly. And kudos must go to Daft Punk’s excellent score, which works so perfectly that you can simply groove on it while you say, “Ooooh, shiny!” at the visuals.
Which is good, because Tron: Legacy suffers from much of the same story problems as its predecessor. The biggest problem is that we have no reason to care about what goes on. Yes, it’s sad that Sam lost his father at such a young age but neither the script nor Hedlund (who seems to have been cast for his ability to wear black skintight latex) give the character any weight. Similarly, the two main plot threads – to stop Kevin’s computer alter ego Clu and to get the “iso” program to safety – don’t resonate because there’s no reason to care about this in the “real” world. We’re told of the importance and Kevin insists that the “iso” program can change everything, but what reason do we have to believe him? And would that change be good, considering how his attempts to make a perfect computer world turned out? As in the original movie, the “games” sections are the highlight, yet they do nothing for the plot.
Fortunately, aside from Hedlund the actors are game and give it their all. Bridges gives a fine performance as the weary, older Flynn who’s achieved a Lebowski-ish Zen attitude to cope with being trapped in the computer world. Olivia Wilde does her best with a role that’s more a McGuffin than an actual character, and Michael Sheen has a ton of fun with his brief but memorable scene as that Ziggy Stardust guy.
The blu-ray is drop-dead gorgeous visually and aurally, and full of extras as well. The set includes a DVD if that’s your fancy, also loaded with extras. If you’re a fan of the original, or simply in need of some good eye candy, you can’t go wrong.