This review is for entertainment purposes only. Look, I don't care if your child is an honor student. The only thing I care about is if he'll keep his trap shut about the body I'm burying in his neighbor's backyard.
I remember seeing Tron in theaters when it was originally released. The world of Lightcycles and disc fights was one of the coolest things I had seen since Star Wars. For years I loved the world of Tron. I would play the video game (even Discs of Tron) and the “Tron Tunnel” (as I called it) on the PeopleMover ride at Disneyland was one of my favorite things to do while at the park.
Two years ago at Comic-Con I about crapped my pants when I saw the demo Disney had done for a possible sequel to Tron. Hall H went nuts when they saw a new glimpse of the game grid and the Lightcycle fight that ensued. They went even crazier when Jeff Bridges showed up. After years of marketing, interviews, publicity and hype, Tron: Legacy is finally being released to a generation new to the world of Lightcycles, and familiar to the ones that grew up on them. Would either enjoy it? Or care? I'm happy to say the answer to both questions is “Yes.”
Tron: Legacy picks up some 25 years after the events in Tron. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has disappeared off the face of the planet, leaving control of ENCOM to a bunch of corporate stiffs who only want to turn a profit. Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) still works for ENCOM and sees what is happening to the company Kevin took over after unseating Dillinger. Unfortunately, instead of trying to advance technology, ENCOM just wants to make a quick buck. Kevin's son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is now in control of the company but would rather break into it and provide its latest Windows like software for free over the internet than charge people for it. Microsoft does the same thing, don't they?
Alan soon meets with Sam and tells him he received a page from a number that has been disconnected for twenty years. A number belonging to his father from the old arcade he owned. It doesn't take long for Sam to go check it out himself, giving the audience a nice flashback of the arcade days of old, complete with a Journey song blasting on the jukebox. Sam discovers his father's secret lab in the basement and before you know it, he ends up getting lasered into the world of Tron like his Dad some 27 years before. Stupid lasers.
Here's where Tron: Legacy picks up speed. As soon as Sam enters the “Grid” the score by Daft Punk kicks things up a notch and your eyes begin to lube themselves for the 90 minutes of electric sex they're about to experience. The world has changed quite a bit since we last saw it. Colors are more subdued and the 80's neon look is replaced with... well, a more updated neon look. Sam can't believe what's happening and he's immediately thrust into the games, like his father was in the original Tron. After escaping the Lightcycles with the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde) Sam reunites with his father who is hiding outside the main part of the city.
Here's where the story takes over and where some might have problems with this movie. While the explanation we're given is sufficient enough (Kevin's program Clu takes over the Grid, forcing Kevin into hiding) it can be a bit tough to follow for people new to the world of Tron. Kevin has been trapped inside when the eight hour window he normally uses to travel back and forth between the real and computer world closed. Now that Sam has arrived, that eight hour window is all the time Sam has to get his father out. Problem is, that's what Clu is counting on. He has plans of his own, and believes if a user can enter the world of programs, then a program can enter the world of users. But he needs Kevin's identity disc before he can leave.
Helping them out is Quorra, an algorithm program also on the run from Clu. Quorra is staying with Kevin for her own protection. She's the key to unlocking things in our world that would benefit all of mankind. Kevin knows that if he tries to make it to the outside world, Clu could be there waiting for them and try to eliminate her.
The script had gone through quite a few re-writes, with scenes being re-shot and some scenes added later. You can pretty much tell which ones were added because the narrative is a bit disjointed and some of the decisions made by our characters don't make a lot of sense and only seem to be time fillers. One thing I did like about the script was the relationship between Sam and his father. It wasn't a sappy reunion that one would expect. Even though he's happy to see Sam once again, Kevin knows the dangers his son is now in and has to make choices that could keep them apart for good.
While is a lot about Tron: Legacy I like, there are some things that don't quite work story wise. The entire chunk at the End of Line club with Michael Sheen as the seedy club owner Castor could have been cut from the storyline without any endgame repercussions. I'm not exactly sure what writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis were thinking when they wrote that part in. Seems like it was only done just to show the members of Daft Punk dressed up as neon DJ's. Don't they already do that? We're also not really told what exactly it is Clu would do once he reaches our world, we just know he wants out. Maybe it would be a good thing and he can finally fix AT&T's shitty network.
But this is Tron. And I don't see a Tron movie for the damn story. I see a Tron movie so I can shut my brain off and have an eyegasm for an hour and a half. If critics can let Michael Bay get away with raping scripts for his Transformers films and allowing them to be passed as mindless entertainment, I can do the same for Tron. The original had its problems and this one has its problems. Whoopdeedoo. I don't care. What I care about are disc fights and Lightcycles in a world created from the bizarre dreams of Kraftwerk and I get plenty of both.
Speaking of disc fights, the danger is upped with even tougher opponents and gravity that's constantly turning itself on and off. Sam not only has to survive the regular combatants, but also deal with the exceptionally skilled Rinzler who wields two discs at once and is Clu's right-hand man. The disc fights are a lot of fun to watch and look really cool in 3D.
Wanna know what else looked cool? The super awesome badass (technical jargon) Lightcycle sequence that Sam finds himself in. Clu isn't a leader who backs down from anyone and immediately throws himself into the game, trying to derezz all of the other participants. Instead of the blocky 90 degree angles used in the original Tron, these Lightcycles are able to create jetwall paths in waves, using ramps and jumps to try and cut off and destroy their opponents. It's a pretty cool scene.
The Solar Sailer, Recognizer and even the Tank (briefly at the beginning) make an appearance in Tron: Legacy, each one more advanced and cooler looking than their older versions. The third act is where we see the Light Jets come into play as Sam, Kevin and Quorra make a run for the portal that will allow them to escape the volatile grid Clu has created. While I like the idea of Light Jets, I would have liked to have seen another Lightcycle race instead.
Act Three is a bit disappointing. Again, I'm not sure if this was changed in the script last minute, but the final showdown between Kevin and Clu isn't what I expected it to be. I do understand they want to make a trilogy but at least gimme something a bit meatier. A giant disc fight between the two would have been fantastic to see. What of Tron himself? He does make an appearance in the movie and his role in the film is revealed in the third act. Is it a revelation that's a surprise? Not really. Not if you've been paying attention anyway.
The acting by everyone was great and I'm not sure how these rumors of Garrett Hedlund being awful were even started. He actually does a really good job. Olivia Wilde was fantastic as Quorra and actually stole the show. Jeff Bridges seems to be channeling the Dude a bit too much with his character having become a sort of Zen master to deal with what's been going on. Of course, I'm pretty sure I'd be relaxed too if I had a hot piece of algorithm ass living in my virtual pad.
The CGI used to make Jeff Bridges look like a 1989 Jeff Bridges (both in the real and computer world as Clu) doesn't seem to be that much cleaner than when the first trailer trailer was released. I understand the technology is still new and I can buy how robotic it feels in the world of Tron, but in the real world it doesn't look that great. For some reason they still can't get the movement of the mouth right and when he talks it looks like a cut scene from a video game. Fitting, but I was hoping for more. There are a couple of nods to the original Tron. Bit doesn't show up but a few of the fireworks that go off before the Lightcycle game explode in the familiar “Yes” “No” pattern Bit used to always transform into whenever he spoke.
The score by Daft Punk is one of the best movie scores in years. A bass heavy rhythmic sound that will make you want to upgrade your car's stereo system as soon as you listen to it for the first time. It's a wonderful score and really compliments the film. It might just be Daft Punk's best work to date.
Story issues aside, I loved Tron: Legacy. It looks amazing (to me, it looks better than the Crayola world of Avatar) and I think kids new to Tron are going to be as excited about this film as kids my age were when the original came out. Will audiences unaware of Lightcycles and disc wars like it? I'm not sure. But for fans like me, the 28 years it took to get a sequel was worth the wait.