The very fact TRON: Legacy exists defies the financially fuelled logic which governs Hollywood. A $200 million budgeted sequel to an original which did middling business in 1982, “TRON: Legacy” is a visually stunning depiction of the primitive cyberspace audiences first encountered in TRON. Directed by first timer Joseph Kosinski, the movie is a dazzling slice of eye candy, utilizing some of the sharpest digitalized production design I’ve ever seen. If only the screenplay was of the same revelatory standard. The narrative at the heart of TRON: Legacy is very forgettable, propelling its characters through some rather clichéd and familiar genre beats. The performances are all generally of a high calibre, but with such an uninspired script guiding the way, it becomes almost impossible for TRON: Legacy to be anything more than a moderately diverting but mostly unremarkable blockbuster.
Emotionally scarred by the sudden disappearance of his father Kevin (Jeff Bridges), Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) has focused most of his youth on messing with the ENCOM Corporation, the company once proudly headed by his dad, but now in a greed driven and almost unrecognisable state. Sam’s actions disturb old family friend Alan (Bruce Boxleitner), who in turn has some news for the 27 year-old orphan. Following Alan’s cryptic predictions that his father might indeed have returned, Sam ends up rummaging through Kevin’s old workspace, and before long finds himself accidentally zapped into the world of the Grid. On arrival it becomes clear that the Grid is no paradise, the world being overseen by a tyrant program named CLU (Jeff Bridges). With the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde) Sam narrowly evades CLU’s clutches, and is reunited with a peaceful Kevin. Kevin has been hiding because of important knowledge he possesses, information that CLU has spent a vast amount of time searching for. Realizing that he needs to get his father back to the real world, Sam makes for the exit portal, but it quickly transpires things aren’t going to be so simple. CLU himself is keen to leave his digital domain and pay Earth a visit, something that would spell disaster for humanity. With the aid of Quorra and Kevin, Sam decides to prevent CLU from ever being able to make the trip, combating the rogue program in as aggressive a fashion as possible.
The CGI on display in TRON: Legacy is wonderful, the world is filled with crisp detail and inventive designs. Kosinski and company have done a marvellous job visualizing the landscapes first envisioned 28-years ago, defying even the highest expectations with their inspired work on this project. Certainly as the characters move through the neon bathed world of the Grid it’s easy to see where the massive budget went, it’s all up there onscreen to be absorbed and marvelled at. The momentous FX work evidenced here is clearly the film’s most boast worthy asset.
Garret Hedlund is a bland leading man, but elsewhere the rest of the cast shine. Jeff Bridges is a delight as an elderly Kevin, his portrayal is equal parts Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Dude from The Big Lebowksi. Bridges brings some nifty comedic touches to the film, and finds enough heart to make his strained dynamic with Hedlund work. It’s fabulous work from an actor who we’ve come to expect nothing less from. Olivia Wilde also does some interesting stuff as Quorra, playing up the character’s childlike sense of wonderment over the obvious sex appeal her spandex clad figure generates. Again despite Hedlund’s lack of emotion, Wilde turns their relationship into a rather sweet and touching affair, Quorra’s consistently well intentioned actions also helping to forge a positive connection with the audience. Bridges also voices CLU effectively (even if the de-ageing process exhibited on his noggin is generally unconvincing), whilst Michael Sheen camps it up but entertains thoroughly as a berserk nightclub owner
The screenplay (credited to four different scribes) isn’t memorable, bad dialogue and pedestrian storytelling hurting TRON: Legacy quite notably. The father/son relationship at the film’s heart is successfully conveyed, but the actual plot rumbles along with little originality or flair. Several individual set-pieces recall Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, whilst the actual narrative relies on clichés and some irritating story contrivances. One in particular during the climax is incredibly irksome, the movie depending on a random reversal of character allegiance to resolve the conflict. Stuff like this damages TRON: Legacy badly, its lack of fresh sci-fi perspective reducing the product’s overall value. Had TRON: Legacy provided a script as brilliant as its visuals I have no doubt it would be on course to become a genre classic, as it stands it’s just a lavish time filler.
Most of the action plays out successfully, although there are a few notable exceptions, namely an airborne battle near the picture’s climax. This scene becomes too bogged down in quick cuts and flashy colours to properly register or excite. However the film’s reinterpretations of the gladiatorial games featured in the 1982 original are excellent, both in terms of adrenaline fuelled thrills and massive scope. Similarly a fast paced combat sequence set in a nightclub also scores high, Kosinski blending in Daft Punk’s phenomenal soundtrack superbly during this interlude.
TRON: Legacy is worthier than your average blockbuster, although I’d strongly argue we had it better last Christmas with Avatar. The production looks awesome, and I do genuinely appreciate the heightened standard of acting found within. However TRON: Legacy still suffers heavily from a sub-par script, a fault that renders the potentially great merely decent.
DIRECTOR: JOSEPH KOSINSKI
CAST: JEFF BRIDGES, GARRETT HEDLUND, OLIVIA WILDE, BRUCE BOXLEITNER, MICHAEL SHEEN
RUNTIME: 127 MINS APPROX