Tron : Legacy (2010)

“The Grid – a digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer. What did they look like? Ships, motorcycles? Were the circuits like freeways? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see. And then, one day… I got in.” This rumbling, gravitas riddled voiceover from Jeff Bridges is how we begin, and it’s an exciting opening.

For those concerned that a lack of “original Tron” knowledge will leave them floundering in this sequel / remake hybrid, do not worry – Tron: Legacy is easily accessible and tells its own story; entrepreneur and computer genius Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) disappeared twenty years ago, leaving his son Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) to look after his multi-million dollar empire. Believing his father to be dead or chilling on a beach somewhere, a disgruntled Sam is surprised when he receives communication from his dad’s old office. Heading to the derelict computer arcade, he discovers a secret room filled with strange equipment. With careless abandon, much like those idiots out of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, he presses some buttons and gets zapped by a laser.

Sam wakes up inside The Grid, the digital universe his father had always talked about creating. It’s an entire world filled with vehicles, people, ships, streets… everything. But all is not well within the world of Tron. His aging father has been exiled and a digitally-rendered younger version of Flynn senior circ. 1982 has taken over the Tron-verse, and is acting like the diabolical offspring of Hitler and Robotnik. Faced with gladiatorial games featuring cool-looking light bikes and evil glowing Frisbees, Sam quickly finds himself fighting for his life and the life of a father he thought he’d never see again.

Tron: Legacy is great fun for Tron addicts and newbies alike. It is explosive, furious, fast, crazy and all backed up by a fantastic soundtrack by Daft Punk. In fact, Tron: Legacy would suffer greatly without the French electro-pop duo’s inclusion, as their music really blasts a pace through a sluggish film, making their soundtrack dangerously close to being better than the film itself.

Visually Tron: Legacy is awe-inspiring. The 3D is Avatar-level fantastic and the de-aging of Jeff Bridges is well done (although his face occasionally looks like sweaty plastic). The Tron-verse is wonderfully rendered and intricately created, and when Sam stumbles into the world we share the amazement in his eyes as he’s shoved through glowing streets and meets personified computer programs with pixel-scars ripped through their faces. It’s enthralling stuff.

After the first insane twenty minutes inside the Tron-verse, however, the film collapses in on itself, becoming inconsistent and at points utterly ridiculous. There is too much exposition and a baffling amount of talking, leaving kids fidgeting in their seats and adults attempting to fathom the seriously-flawed logic being bandied about as fact.

There are inexplicable moments of “deux ex machina” which dissolve all boundaries and destroy all conventions, making this apparently rule-driven, structured universe a baffling place where anything can happen. It saps the realism from a crazy concept, stopping you from fully investing in it. Tragically this ensures you fail to fully care for any of the characters in and outside of the Tron universe.

Ironically, most of the characters within Tron: Legacy are 2D. Garrett Hedlund as Sam Flynn is functional but oddly humourless for the thrill-seeking cheeky bugger he’s cast as, whilst the majority of the characters within the Tron-verse are needlessly robotic and loveless, including Olivia Wilde as the obligatory love interest whose naiveté might raise a chuckle but mostly produces a sigh.

Luckily, Tron has Jeff Bridges in it (old and young!), and he gives a stellar performance throughout. From his rumbling voice-over at the beginning to his aggressive turn as the smooth-faced Clu, this is his film and he’s awesome in it. Okay, he might sound like The Dude on a massive drugs trip at times, but he’s always watchable.

Whilst Bridges is superb throughout, there is one performance that is so notably bad I have to mention it, and it comes from a surprising source – Britain’s Michael Sheen. Sheen’s overly-dramatic cane-twirling nightclub owner Zuse is ridiculously out of place and so fantastically annoying it smacks of Chris Tucker’s performance in The Fifth Element. Yes, it’s that terrible. It is moments like these, and there are a few, which knock the film from its axis completely. Sheen’s inclusion should have been toned down or cut, because it’s vastly pointless and simply irritating.

On the flipside of frustrating / terrible moments, there are a number of fantastic things about Tron: Legacy. From the “pixel cubes” in drinks to the stunning way people get brutally killed, it’s sharp, smart and a pleasure to watch. The decision to film 2D on anything outside of the Tron-verse is also a bold move by debut director Joseph Kosinski, but it works excellently. The film might fail miserably on character, plotting and pace, but when the action is happening it is an incredible amount of fun.

Tron: Legacy is visually stunning, exciting, and the Daft Punk soundtrack certainly blasts the pace along beautifully. Although it does seem sadly shallow and wholly ridiculous in places, it needs to be viewed as a children’s film and not a geek-fest for adults. This is not the movie event people may have hoped for, but it is certainly great entertainment.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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