By Malice Intended of Planet Ill
After ascending to the top of ENCOM International and making it one of the most powerful corporations on the planet, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has disappeared without a trace. His friend Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) has a front row seat as the company morphs into a juggernaut that sells substandard software to an eager public. Meanwhile, Kevin’s son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is forced to grow up without a father. He grows up to be a brazen corporate terrorist, hounding ENCOM at every turn. When Alan gets a page from Flynn’s dusty old arcade, Sam goes to investigate. Upon stumbling on a secret room, Sam embarks on a digital odyssey not unlike the one his father experienced 28 years ago.
Tron: Legacy is the long awaited sequel to the groundbreaking cult classic Tron. The original did middling business upon its release but has since been cited as a watermark of Special FX. Like its predecessor, it is has state of the art technology at its disposal. It uses that technology to render amazing sights and sounds in hopes of enthralling a jaded movie-going public. Also like its predecessor, it takes an approach to storytelling that may leave laymen and non fans feeling a bit alienated. It is the beneficiary of the originals successes and failures.
To get a complete idea of how much computer animation and CGI have evolved over the past twenty years, one only has to do a side by side comparison of the action sequences and establishing shots in Tron and Tron: Legacy. The costumes and landscapes in the original were rendered in the most primitive terms. The game grid of Tron is a literal explosion of color, like a digital big bang talking place in a endless void. The marriage of sound design and visual FX is rarely as complete as it is the light cycle races of Tron Legacy. The electronica score by daft punk attaches itself to the onscreen images like a symbiote, infusing them with adrenaline.
Story and plot unfortunately take a back seat to technical wizardry. The original used the relationship between humans and computers as a metaphor for the one between God and mortals. It was understandable if not always lively. Tron: Legacy engages in all manner of new age spirituality and contemplates the very nature of creation itself. Unfortunately, it doesn’t follow through on any of the ideas it introduces. Even if it had, the film would have to contend with it the clunky expository dialogue that makes the themes feel beyond the audiences grasp.
Acting and performance are also overshadowed sound and light show. None of the performances are truly bad, but aside from Kevin Flynn, none of the characters have anything resembling layers. Garrett Hedlund is more of a character profile than an actual character. We don’t get to know much about him aside from the fact that he is Flynn’s son and possesses many of the same character traits. It’s as though he is made to be the focus of the film simply because Jeff Bridges is too old to be a relatable protagonist for young viewers with no sentimental attachment to the original. Bridges himself has returned as Kevin Flynn, playing both older and younger versions of himself. He exhibits a comfort level with the character and his world that will make viewers feel at ease with the otherwise impenetrable material.
Tron: Legacy functions amazingly as an example of technical prowess at the service of wondrous imagination. As a piece of storytelling that seeks to connect with its audience, it stumbles and never manages to find its footing. It is redeemed to a large extent by the tools it uses to establish its alternate reality. The sights and sound of the game grid will draw viewers in and delight them. Fans of the original will find a lot to like even though the characters and story will leave many of them wanting. Though a decidedly mixed bag, Tron: Legacy brims with visual and sonic energy. 3.5 out of 5
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