Sprawling, bloated and confusing, “Tron Legacy” does indeed live up to the legend of its predecessor and, like its big brother, is still a fascinating visual juggernaut.
Picking up more or less in real time from the original, “Legacy” focuses on Sam Flynn (Garret Hedlund), the son of the first film’s hero, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges). Kevin disappeared in 1989 when Sam was just a boy, leaving him to grow up without a father but with a monolithic, Microsoft-like computer company off of which to live.
But Sam is still haunted by both the specter of his father and what the family business has become — just another business looking to line the pockets of its execs and board members.
Sam, acting off a tip from the first film’s Allen Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), ventures to his dad’s old arcade and stumbles upon the entry into the Grid, where Tron, Clu and Sark once fought.
And what he finds is a bit disconcerting: the Grid has grown into a full-fledged high-tech recreation of the real world. And the iron-fist ruler of this world? Clu, one of the first film’s heroes. Clu abducts Sam and forces him into battle with identity discs and lightcycles before Sam escapes and finds …
Of course, he finds his father as well, living in seclusion with the vexing Quorra (Olivia Wilde).
If you’re starting to get lost, you’re right where most of the rest of us are. Didn’t Clu die at the end of the first film, zapping Kevin back into the real world? And where’s Tron?
Basically, here’s the gist of it: Kevin was accidentally sucked back into the Grid and found himself trapped. He recreated Clu with the intention of creating the Grid as a perfect world. Clu, who looks like Bridges if he were sucked into the Polar Express rather than the Grid, goes rogue and targets Kevin as an imperfection impeding his perfect world.
When Sam arrives, Clu sees an opportunity to escape into the real world and, presumably, take it over.
And herein lies the film’s biggest flaws: its story is too dense to be told in such a slipshod manner. We’re thrust back into the Grid and its world, which doesn’t defy gravity and physics so much as knocks their heads together “Three Stooges” style. We’re not prepared to absorb all of the information we’re presented, but we’re so busy being engrossed by the pretty colors that we haven’t really been listening. The effect verges on hyper-stimulation.
But those colors … OK, so they’re mostly orange, blue and black, but man, do they look good. The 3D is spectacular, and the fight sequences, whose centerpiece morphs from disc-to-disc battle to lightcycle race to chase scene, is a sight to behold. So, too, is a “lightplane” sequence later on, which is the most thrilling slo-mo battle you’re ever likely to see.
Other effects, namely the de-aging CG used on Bridges, don’t fare as well, especially in early real-world scenes. They were used to better effect in “X-Men: The Last Stand” a few years back, and it’s puzzling how the film’s big central effects piece is such a failure.
The story throws in a subplot about “Isos,” a group of spontaneously generated programs, but their involvement in the film is convoluted and makes little sense.
It seems that another film is in the works given a small role (with a familiar name) by Cillian Murphy, who is suspiciously uncredited in the film, and the film’s hasty, unresolved ending is more than a hint that there’s more to come.
I recommend “Tron Legacy” for the spectacle and the potential of making this property a real franchise and not just a Disney novelty act for them to dust off every quarter-century or so. It’s a deeply flawed film, but like “Avatar” in 2009, if you focus more on what the movie has to show you and less on what it tells you, you’ll have a good time.