Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Opens Friday, December 17th, 2010 (Rated PG)
Run Time: 2 hours 6 minutes
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Gerrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
"Tron: Legacy" is a true sequel to the 1982 cult hit "Tron" from Disney, and aptly named: The word "legacy" is very fitting and creates an air of nostalgia. The first film is often laughed at as a movie ahead of it's time in concept, with severely lacking special effects, even for the time. However, it was actually a box-office hit, and even was nominated for 2 Academy Awards for Costume Design and Sound. The question I have as we enter this latest film is: who is this picture intended for? If you are looking to "Tron: Legacy" as a "remake" of some kind, you would be wrong. In fact, you may not be able to follow portions of the new movie without having seen the first film...a brave and bold move, since it has been nearly 30 years from the release of the first film. So here's what we need to know heading into Tron: Legacy.
Tron 1.0. The hero of our first movie is Kevin Flynn, a computer hacker who gets sucked into the digital mainframe known as "The Grid". The mainframe is for his company, Encom, controlled by the Master Control Program (MCP). The MCP is an artificial intelligence computer that has grown even smarter than it's creators.
The compelling part of "Tron" is that the electronic world of computers is actually a place one can go...human representatives inside the mainframe that act as programs. These "programs" appear similar to their "user", who is the "real person" on the outside world who created said program. Confused yet?
Flynn had created a program called "CLU" which was designed to infiltrate the MCP and create the "perfect system". This is a key thing to remember heading into Tron: Legacy. Also, the program known as "Tron" is a highly intelligent program that was able to resist the MCP...Tron's human User was Alan, who was one of Flynn's closest friends. In the end, they end up destroying the MCP, and we see that with the MCP gone, they were able to create a better environment inside the mainframe (known as "The Grid").
Tron 2.0. All that set up leads us to the new film. We learn that Flynn went on to be highly successful at Encom, and had a young son. He tells his son stories and tales from inside "The Grid", and about the hero Tron. He then disappears, and is not heard from again. Flash forward several years, and Flynn's son Sam is now a rebellious teenager with serious daddy issues. Still involved in Encom, old friend Alan receives a pager message (yes pager) from Flynn's old arcade, which has been shut down for several years. When Sam investigates the arcade, he himself is transported into The Grid. The villian is actually CLU...the program Flynn created to create the perfect system, who still exists and seeks perfection inside The Grid. If you've guessed that the original Flynn is somewhere in The Grid, you were right.
The original Tron was high-concept, a real theme of man vs. machine/computer. I rewatched the original recently and was left thinking of the incredible potential the film had, but how poorly executed it was. It was a great concept, and touched on what could have been a real imaginative fantasy world. I had high hopes that the new Tron movie would realize this potential, now that the special effects are so much better. Sadly, it fell into the same trap as the original.
That trap is the limitations of imagination and creativity more than anything. By design, everything we see is a program, and Flynn's benefit has been that he was the master programmer...he could think outside of the program's limitations. But with that comes...limitations. We see all the original Tron "games" such as the cycles, brought to us now on multiple levels and in 3D. These scenes are cool, but something was missing. Perhaps a human element?
End of Line. Fans of the original Tron can be prepared for some great inside references and nods to the original film. The plot of the new film makes sense in context of the Tron-verse, and I was surprised that Jeff Bridges plays more than a cameo...He is the star of the film in more ways than one. In fact, the technological breakthrough of Tron: Legacy has little to do with the numerous action sequences...the best part of the film is that CLU, created in 1982 by Flynn, actually is represented inside The Grid by a young Jeff Bridges. It is quite possibly the best "lifelike" performance by a CG character, and opens up the possibilities of what can be done with other movie franchises. Can you imagine if George Lucas sees this film, and has the confidence that he could pull off another Star Wars movie starring Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill circa 1983?
So Tron: Legacy goes on way too long, and just falls flat for reasons I'm not sure of. The action sequences were plentiful, just not very imaginative or creative. We don't get a lot of depth of character, however it was very cool to see the young Jeff Bridges in such a technologically savvy movie. It even sets up parameters for future Tron films.
So within minutes of watching Tron: Legacy, the nostalgia factor wears off. Sometimes less is more, and I wish current Hollywood "blockbusters" could take notice. The new Tron had a bigger budget and the benefit of nearly 30 years of technological advances, yet was no more compelling than the original film. Someone in the first Tron film said, that the problem with technology is that the more they think, the less we'll have to...I just wish that wasn't true.
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