TRON: Legacy ***
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski.
Written By: Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz based on characters created by Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird.
Starring: Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn/Clu), Garrett Hedlund (Sam Flynn), Olivia Wilde (Quorra), Bruce Boxleitner (Alan Bradley/Tron), James Frain (Jarvis), Beau Garrett (Gem), Michael Sheen (Castor/Zuse), Anis Cheurfa (Rinzler), Cillian Murphy (Edward Dillinger).
I was born in 1981, so I obviously did not see the original Tron when it was released the following year. But watching the film a few months ago, to get ready for this movie, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the film. Yes, the film has aged quite poorly in many respects - and the once groundbreaking special effects now look cheesy. And yet, the basic premise - of a man who gets sucked into a virtual computer world that he has created, and has to try and fight his way out, was original back then, and worked quite well - especially because of Jeff Bridges performance which somehow kept the whole movie grounded. In the years since, the story has been copied countless times, yet if you can watch the original film in the spirit in which it was intended back in 1982, it is still an enjoyable little film. Now, 28 years later, for whatever reason they decided to make a sequel.
You don’t necessarily have to have seen the original film to get this new one. That film had a happy ending, and this movie recaps what happened AFTER that movie, when Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn, a rebel computer genius, gets sucked back into his virtual world, thus abandoning his young son Sam (Garrett Hedlund). Now, all these years later, Sam is a rebel himself - although he owns the majority of the shares of his father’s old company, Encom, he lets others run it - swooping in once a year to screw with them. But then he is contacted by his father’s old friend Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxteitner), who says he received a page from Kevin’s old office in a now abandoned arcade. This makes little sense to Sam, but he goes to investigate anyway - and of course is sucked into the virtual world himself. Soon, the mysteries of where Kevin actually went are answered.
Much like the original film, Tron: Legacy relies more on visual effects than on plot or character to make the film worth watching - and Tron: Legacy delivers some of the best special effects you will see in a movie theater this year. I liked how director Joseph Kosinski respected the original film enough to stay true to the visual effects used in that film - and simply updates them. Fans of the light cycles, of the flying disks and the glowing suits from the first film, will not be disappointed - they are all here, and they look much better than they did back in 1982. Even better is the fact that they look more natural - and the humans are better integrated into the environments than before. As for the 3-D effects, long time readers will know that I typically hate 3-D movies - but Tron: Legacy is only the second live action film in the recent wave of 3-D films, following James Cameron’s Avatar, where the 3-D actually enhance the movie, not detract from them. Perhaps it’s because both films have pretty much no really scenery or backgrounds - it’s all computer generated.
I don’t necessarily think that Tron: Legacy has any real ideas behind it. In a way, it reminded me of the pseudo philosophy of The Matrix, with a virtual world that has come to rival the real one. But the plot or the themes isn’t really the point in a movie like Tron: Legacy is it? And it should be noted that the performances for the most part work. Yes, Garrett Hedlund is a little bland in what is really the lead role as Sam, but he’s fine. Jeff Bridges is fine in a duel role - as Kevin, who in his decades locked in this virtual world has become some sort of zoned out Zen hippie - or pretty much the computer genius version of The Dude - and his alter ego, a computer program that Kevin created to help him, but ended up overthrowing him (and the effects on this alter ego, which is made to look like Bridges circa1985 is creepy, yet effective. Olivia Wilde is blank as his sidekick - yet it works for her character - plus she’s is gorgeous eye candy to boot. Best of all maybe Michael Sheen in a glorified cameo as a David Bowie-esque program who of course cannot be trusted. He is having a blast in his role, which most be nice since he is usually so button downed and stoic.
Tron: Legacy is essentially just a really fun movie. If you can let yourself go along for the ride, then it delivers what it sets out to do. I don’t think it is quite as good as the original film - although I think it will certainly age better, as the effects won’t look so silly in 28 years. I wouldn’t mind revisiting the Tron universe again in the future.