Mark Reviews Movies

TRON: LEGACY

1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Michael Sheen

MPAA Rating: PG (for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language)

Running Time: 2:07

Release Date: 12/17/10


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Review by Mark Dujsik | December 16, 2010

I would say TRON: Legacy is an insult to its 28-year-old predecessor, but that might permit one to infer that the original TRON is a good movie. It is not, and this dreary sequel is worse.

Where the insult does lie in this resurrection of a franchise that was more popular for its spin-off video game than the movie itself (Time and the technological advances of video game systems has now reversed the focus) is in the department that the original movie actually holds any sort of value. TRON was a breakthrough for how computer animation could be used in the movies, creating an entire (and entirely silly) world inside a computer, full of avatars and programs, polygons and bold colors.

The digital realm gets a graphics card update for the sequel. The vehicles, like gliders and the famous light-cycles, form in midair around the operator as the camera swings around the process. The actors blend with the background more convincingly, and the movie's one worthwhile action set piece adapts the original's cat-and-mouse light-cycle chase to include multiple planes of playing field.

Yet for all the effort of upgrading the computer effects, TRON: Legacy looks terrible. Implementing a color scheme of black on different shades of dark gray with bright neon highlights of blue or red (depending on whether the occupant of the clothes or vehicle is a good guy or a bad guy), the movie is a drab and depressing thing to look at, rendered nearly a smudge with sporadic streaks of primary color shine through the murky lenses of 3-D glasses (worthless in the 2-D prologue and epilogue).

Years after taking over a computer software company, Kevin Flynn (a bearded Jeff Bridges in the present or his younger, digital likeness—stuck in the uncanny valley—in the prologue and as his computer-world avatar) disappeared, leaving his young son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) an orphan. Two decades later, Sam is a hacker, a free information activist (odd, considering the entire plot of the first movie basically revolved around upholding the personal ownership of software), and the biggest shareholder of his father's company.

His dad's old business partner Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) receives a page from the office of Kevin's old arcade, so Sam investigates. Behind an old arcade game (Guess which one), he finds his dad's (not too) secret office and accidentally digitizes himself into the computer world of "the Grid" that his father created.

There Clu (that digital, zombie Bridges), a program Kevin created to look after the Grid while he tended to real life, has taken over, attempting to achieve perfection. How holding gladiatorial games involving glowing Frisbees and wall-creating motorcycles, where the losers explode into bits (or is it bytes?), accomplishes that goal is unclear, but the tyrannical program wants Kevin the Creator's information disk (the iridescent Frisbee everyone in the Grid possesses, which contains all of their knowledge, skills, and experience points). With it, he can escape the digital world and enter the human one, and then it's "game over," the real Kevin bemoans to his boy.

The script by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz is as hollow and inescapably obtuse as the one for the original. The goal is to get Sam out of the Grid and back into the real world to delete Clu from the system; the fake tension arises from Sam, Kevin, and Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a sentient being that evolved within the Grid without any user interface, trying to escape at the same time for no reason except that it creates fake tension. If only the plan had been to get Sam out of the Grid and back into the real world to delete Clu from the system, he could have come back later for dad and his strained love interest.

At least Bridges tosses the pseudo-philosophical musings of his character aside with an occasional, "man," as in, "You're messing with my Zen thing, man," after breaking up a fight at a club (Michael Sheen plays its proprietor in a performance so over-the-top it stops the sequence dead immediately after kicking some life into the movie).

The club's DJs accommodate the fight, full of light-beamed batons and those childish discs again, to music that changes in beats with the brawl itself, so perhaps this is the best and only time to mention the score by Daft Punk (who appropriately play the DJs), the French electronic musicians. No matter how bland and uninspiring TRON: Legacy may look, the music is always there, mixing bombastic fanfare and synthesized tinkles, pings, and chimes into overpowering waves that belie the dramatically static happenings on screen.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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