Derezzing Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy features Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), son of the long-missing star of the first film Kevin Flynn (reprised by Jeff Bridges). In searching for his father, Sam finds himself digitized into “The Grid,” a digital world ruled by his father’s own creation, the program CLU (also reprised by Jeff Bridges with layers of CGI caked on). In his adventure, Sam finds himself working with the beautiful Quorra (Olivia Wilde), and the two work together with the elder Flynn to defeat CLU and escape back to the real world.

This film is pure eye candy. The visuals are spectacular. The action scenes, particularly the disc and lightcycle games, are a captivating joy ride.

The overall plot is pretty simple, with the son unknowingly following in the father’s footsteps. Unfortunately, this leads to Sam feeling shallow and forced. Sure, he has to fight his way back to the real world, because that’s what he’s supposed to do and it’s what dear old dad did nearly thirty years ago. However the character lacks any real motivation or reason  to return home, aside from his pet dog. Given the choice between an aimless reality or a digital frontier of endless possibility and wonder with dear old dad and the lovely Olivia Wilde, I can’t say I see why the rush. Still, I enjoy his brash, headstrong and still capable nature. As a simple hero character, he’s fun to watch.

Unfortunately, the film feels half baked as far as its story and characters go. Possibly due to having a first-time feature film director Joseph Kosinski (not my first choice for rebooting a franchise with such pop culture steam yet mainstream fragility). Many characters and the world seemed incomplete, even beyond Sam’s lack of motivation. Kevin Flynn’s god-like abilities as the user creator are widely inconsistent, illogically strengthened or weakened where ever the plot needs. Jeff Bridges’ other character, CLU, seems overly tyrannical, and his justification of creating the perfect system makes no sense given his end goal.

The film opens up new plot tangents that it soon forgets with short-lived character appearances. With the franchise using this movie to branch off into cartoons, games, comics and possible future films, it makes sense to leave an openness. Yet the unfinished feel of a few plot lines and holes makes the film look like Swiss cheese.

Add to that some poor pacing past the halfway point. This two-hour film should have been one and a half had it done away with much of the unneeded exposition and flashbacks, as well as the aforementioned plot tangents.

Probably the most unfulfilled prospect of the film is Tron himself, who receives little actual screen time (while still performed by a de-aged Bruce Boxleitner). To be honest, the film is far more “Flynn Legacy” than it is “Tron,” but that is one of the issues when making a sequel that doesn’t really involve the original’s titular character. Still, what bit of Tron is in the movie is slapped together, as if someone realized toward the end that they forgot about that Tron guy in the first movie.

So why do I like it? Because it’s fun. It’s a captivating spectacle. The graphics for the most part (being some awkward de-aged Jeff Bridges moments) are top of the line. The disc games and lightcycle races take the viewer on a roller coaster ride, just as much as in the original. The overall look of the neon-lit techno post-apocalyptic dream land that is The Grid is visually stunning and a blast to explore in the film. Even the costuming with skin-tight uniforms covered in armored bits with built-in nightlights are really cool. All the amazing visuals are accompanied by a spectacular soundtrack by Daft Punk, and it’s truly one of the most fitting and well-matched soundtracks for a movie I’ve heard in a while.

But ultimately, I believe it’s the gravitas the film builds up for itself. Even if it’s not much of Tron’s legacy, it’s still building upon and adding to the mythos of the original. I am disappointed the digital world doesn’t maintain the metaphor of programs actually being programs that accomplish computer tasks. However, the digital world in itself is a stunning masterpiece with so many thematic possibilities (so many that they didn’t need random plot tangents). The film does play on modern sensibilities of the digital realm, with open source versus protected software and the freedom of information. These notable issues in today’s world gain a certain weight when the objects of the digital are given flesh and blood.

Tron: Legacy is essentially what I expected going into it – a hi-tech fantasy adventure with amazing visuals and music. Unfortunately the plot and the characters are underbaked, an afterthought to revisiting the digital world that made the first film such a hit. Perhaps future visitations to the franchise will flesh it out in a more thought-out fashion. In the mean time, this spectical is entertaining enough to please my baser enjoyment (thank you, Olivia Wilde), and I hope that someday, someone finds the epic that is waiting to be told with all of this.

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