Tron Legacy

How long before CGI puts actors out of work?

Much like its ground-breaking 1982 predecessor, Tron Legacy is a visually extravagant, sonically stunning feast for the eyes and ears, and while these strengths are self-evident near enough from minute one, this entertaining sequel is marred by the very same flaws as the original; an undercooked plot which presents compelling ideas though never follows through adequately, resulting in an exhilarating if emotionally hollow experience which, given the chasm of expectation that a 28-year wait musters, is disappointing. Nevertheless, Legacy is ultimately winning popcorn entertainment, and one of the best 3D rides yet.

In 1989, renowned software engineer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) goes missing, leaving behind his young son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), who then becomes the controlling shareholder of his company, ENCOM. However, he has little interest in running the company, and it is only when he learns from his father’s most trusted colleague, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), that a strange pager message has emanated from Kevin’s old arcade, that he displays anything other than pronounced apathy. At the arcade, however, he finds himself transported into The Grid, the very artificial computer world his father built, and with the help of computer program Quorra (Olivia Wilde), must locate his father who is incarcerated by a malevolent program called Clu (resembling Kevin’s younger self), and escape The Grid once and for all.

While in many regards a superior film to the original Tron, there was certainly the potential for this to also be a smart and emotionally rewarding continuation of Kevin Flynn’s story; early scenes in which Sam sabotages his company’s HQ in the dead of night evoke a brooding, noir-ish tone not unlike that of The Dark Knight, though this soon enough evaporates once he enters The Grid, and, ostensibly, the gorgeous eye candy is on full display. Following the formula of the original film fairly rigidly, Sam then engages in several exciting disc battles and light cycle races, before coming to understand the circumstances of his father’s capture.

The action, of course, doesn’t disappoint; first-time director Joseph Kosinski seriously impresses with several adrenaline-infused fight scenes, abetted by the eye-wateringly gorgeous visual effects, and Daft Punk’s Oscar-worthy soundtrack, which pumps so much soul into a film which, regrettably, is itself lacking the emotional thrust which the music itself is so clearly overflowing with. For the purposes of action, however, this is negligible; Daft Punk’s work here helps generate some of the most thrilling action sequences I’ve seen in several years.

The problems arise, however, when Legacy has pretensions to actually having much of a plot; once Sam meets up with a now-aged Kevin, the film’s superlative set-pieces take a backseat to overly verbose dialogues, though this would be forgiveable had the film ever adequately exploited the emotional stakes, that is to say, of a father and son reuniting after a two-decade absence. There’s never that big moment when the two make a misty-eyed reunion; instead neither seems particularly ecstatic to see the other, and in turn this cripples the emotional involvement of those crucial final scenes.

The other elements are so uniformly strong, however, that its clinical coldness does not obstruct the film’s presence as a pulsing – if bloated – entertainment. No more need be said about the quality of the action, but there’s a certain campy, space opera-esque charm to the scenes in The Grid, such as when Sam visits a club hosted by Michael Sheen’s character, who manages a staggering Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie impression and pleasantly hams it up. While the visual effects dazzle – a CGI recreation of Bridges is especially impressive if a little uncanny – Daft Punk’s soundtrack gives the film the soul that its disappointingly opaque script doesn’t.

Tron Legacy doesn’t massively improve on the original film in ways that it could have, but it is a more watchable experience precisely because the original has not aged particularly well, and because the statuesque presence of Jeff Bridges accounts for so much here, refined to an almost God-like presence (while exuding more than a whiff of The Dude). As an eye-melting light show, it’ll thrill you for most of its 127-minute runtime, though you’ll likely forget most of that mid-section padding the second you leave the cinema


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