2 out of 5 stars (has some good moments, but is mostly bad)
In 1986, Disney released Tron, a film about a computer programmer (Jeff Bridges) getting zapped inside of a computer game and his quest to escape it. Though the story and characters were criticized for their generic nature, the visuals pushed the boundaries for what could be done with a computer at that time, earning critical acclaim as well as a devoted cult fan base that waited hungrily for a sequel. Their wish was granted in 2010 with Tron: Legacy, a film that suffers from the exact same problems as the original. The visuals were top-notch in 2010 (and look fine to this day), but the story is ho-hum and the characters are forgettable. Tron: Legacy should entertain fans of the previous film, but will likely confuse or bore anyone else.
The film follows adrenaline junkie Sam Flynn (an emotionless Garrett Hedlund), son of legendary video game developer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges reprising his role). Sam spends his days parachuting off of buildings and being angsty about dad disappearing on him 20 years ago. Because I’m sure that the 10 year-old boys this movie appeals to will totally identify with a 20-something with daddy issues. Anyway, Sam receives an unexpected visit from stand-in father figure Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner also returning) who informs him that a call was placed from his dad’s old office. Because this number has been disconnected for 20 years, Sam decides to check the office out and see what’s going on.
Once there, he discovers the old Tron console along with the laser that blasted dad into the game all those years ago. After putting 2 and 2 together, Sam blasts himself into the game and starts on a quest to find Kevin and bring him home. Along the way, Sam befriends a program named Quorra (Olivia Wilde doing the best that she can) and discovers another named Clu (also Jeff Bridges), who has nefarious plans for the game world.
The best thing about this movie is its visual style. The visuals in the game are immediately eye-catching and unique. I can admire the work that went into creating the world of Tron, as it likely took thousands of man hours to make everything look as cool as it does. The action sequences are decently exciting, especially the motorcycle race frequently teased in the trailers.
Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t have much else going for it. Jeff Bridges is having fun revisiting his character as well as playing a villain, easily standing out among the cast. Unfortunately, the movie falls on newcomer Hedlund, who is unable to properly emote any of his lines. I believe his extreme sports obsession, but could not buy him as a computer hacker in the slightest. Also, Sam doesn’t seem very happy upon finding his dad, the supposed emotional moment of the film. The two of them have a fun conversation, but I never get the sense that the character is excited to see his father again. Hedlund has gone on to star in other films (his most recent being Pan, a financial embarrassment), but it is hard to tell if he or the script is to blame for his characterization. Wilde does okay in her role, but this is her least engaging performance.
Though Hedlund isn’t exactly the next James Dean, the script he is given doesn’t give him a lot to work with. After a decently tense opening act, the movie drops the potential “thriller” aspect in exchange for a predictable sci-fi narrative. It’s as if the filmmakers put 95% of their time and effort into the world of Tron, and the other 5% into creating an interesting story within it. Sam’s character arc is generic and predictable, and the religious metaphors near the end of the film are insultingly obvious. I like the idea of a world within a computer, but this movie simply doesn’t do anything unique with it.
Disney seriously needs to revamp its live-action division, as many of their recent efforts (Maleficent, Into the Woods) have had fascinating ideas and great marketing, but fallen short of their potential. A third film in this series was planned due to surprising box office success, but was cancelled after the financial embarrassment known as Tomorrowland (a film whose biggest detriment was its overly mysterious marketing campaign). It was no classic, but it was a fun family action movie with a great message and cast (George Clooney, Hugh Laurie)
All in all, Tron: Legacy is a visually appealing, yet thematically dead movie that fails to meet its complete potential. Rent it if you want some decent action, skip it otherwise.
Rated PG for Sequences of Sci-Fi Action Violence and Brief Mild Language