Movie ReviewsRating: 4 of 5 yaps

Tron Legacy

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.

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19 Responses to “Tron Legacy”

  1. […] of the sequel is light-years ahead, the film’s overall look matches the sparkly-clean look of “Tron Legacy.” Yes, it still sports the same silly Atari-level graphics (at least by comparison to today’s […]

  2. […] “Tron: Legacy” (Walt Disney) Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague […]

  3. […] several decent songs, Hedlund’s rich sexy baritone that almost got me to pay full price for “Tron: Legacy” and in Meester’s charming performance. Meester has a gorgeous face and pleasant voice, and […]

  4. Rob Donoho says:

    I completely agree with Joe on Tron Legacy. The story is confusing and at times frustrating due to consistency of the plot but allow all that to be secondary. Sit back and enjoy the fantastic effects. It is fun to watch.

  5. Rick C says:

    I remember playing the arcade game as a kid and i look foward to going to see this film

  6. Since I am not a huge video game fan of the games that involve a lot of violence and movement and the fact I have to close my eyes during previews when they show the roller coaster effect of getting food and drinks from the concession stand, this movie was a little hard for me to watch. I get dizzy very easy and there are a lot of scenes in this one to cause that effect. It was just like being inside a big video game. I know my sons and grandsons will love it but for me it wasn’t that good of movie!

  7. CharlieV says:

    This movie was only great because of it’s heritage and spectacular special effects. However, gotta see it again at the IMAX!

  8. easily in my top 5 faves of the year! i had such a fun time watching this! didnt want the GAMES part of the movie to end! also: BEST DISNEY CASTLE INTRO EVER!

  9. Tron was my favorite movie of 2010. That said, a lot of that lies in the fact that I was a HUGE fan of the original, it was a big part of my childhood, and I also remember TRON as the first video game that cost $.50, double the norm, and only a few nanoseconds of game play compared with Pac-man! LOL

    Just found your blog, and looking forward to supporting an Indiana based review site! Keep up the great work!!!

  10. James says:

    I thought the special effects and soundtrack were amazing but the story was lackluster to say the least. Then again, I wasn’t too disapppointed because I didn’t go to see this expecting it to be some Oscar-worthy story.

  11. Eric Merlau says:

    You can see where they spent most of their $170 million budget….special effects. The visuals where stunning. As to the script, I think they took what was leftover of the budget or whatever they found in their pockets on laundry day and outsourced the script writing to India. Or a community college creative writing class.

  12. Jennifer Wattam says:

    Let me first start off by saying I’m a HUGE Tron geek. Loved the first Tron and essentially loved Legacy. I loved the visuals and the acting, "fight" scenes, light bikes, etc. However, I thought the story line was a bit meh. And I could not stop looking at the young Jeff Bridges mouth. Eesh!

  13. Jake Bray says:

    WTF no review for Narnia psh

  14. Nick Rogers says:

    I could be wrong. But when the MCP got wiped out at the end of "Tron," I figured that was the end of that as a system and Grid 2.0 in "Legacy" was a whole new ball of wax. As for the hooded figure, I guess there are some other things to consider: For a ruthless warrior, he seems a little slow on the draw, which is probably purposeful. Note how he backs off when he draws blood — recognizing a user for the first time in however long. And I’d guess maybe he was just reprogrammed by Clu. Still, his sudden decision to take truly decisive action … a little out of nowhere.

  15. Joe Shearer says:

    I actually watched it for the first time scant hours before the screening of "Tron Legacy" I attended, so it’s a testament to either the first film’s density, or your powers of observation (or my own lack of the same) that you remembered all of that.

    Anyway, thanks for those clarifications, and I agree on your points in the spoilers, especially the identity of the hooded figure. It was a silly pointless turn toward the end and was really jarring given earlier events (why would he even fight the guy early on, unless of course he didn’t know who Sam was, but then why would he side with Clu over Flynn to begin with?

  16. Nick Rogers says:

    There were all of two scenes where the "young" Jeff Bridges look didn’t bother me because it looked like they’d actually taken pains to give it the contours and weight of a human’s face. As for the rest … well, there was one where he literally looked like a VR Jeff Fahey from "The Lawnmower Man." Plus, Garrett Hedlund, who wasn’t bad in "Friday Night Lights" and "Four Brothers," was a real stiff in this. That said, I had fun watching it, even if I’ll start to forget about much of it by the time 2011 starts. Daft Punk’s score was terrific, it was nice to see Michael Sheen put a David Bowie ducktail on the Merovingian figure from "The Matrix Reloaded" and the 3D was damn good. I kept thinking the "hooded figure" as it were would turn out to be Cillian Murphy, suggesting some larger role for him. I almost wish it hadn’t been Tron, as that only served for one of the silliest deus ex machinas in some time. END SPOILERS END SPOILERS

    Just a clarification: Clu actually died pretty early in "Tron," so the Bridges character as seen at the end was actually Flynn. (He did play Clu 1.0, though, who got fragged in the tank in the opening sequence.) And I got the sense that The Grid as seen here was different from the one in "Tron" — that the one in "Tron" existed only within the MCP and this was an entirely new creation of Flynn’s own making. Maybe the reason there were such similar gladiatorial games were because they were what Clu 2.0 (as it were) remembered from Grid 1.0 and integrated them into this new system. I just watched "Tron" last weekend, so all of it is relatively fresh in my mind.

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  18. Channing says:

    I am so torn as to whether I want to see this. You broke it down pretty much as I feared it would be: not really good, but not really bad enough to automatically shoot down when planning my evening.