Have you tried to watch the original Tron recently? I was first exposed to the 1982 film several years ago. I think I got through it that time, but barely, and can’t claim that it left enough of an impression on me to actually remember anything heading into a recent re-watching.
Watch the trailer. Yeah, it’s pretty much like that. A goofy, very eighties plot stuck on top of a compelling concept, some interesting (for their time) effects, and a truly unique style. That formula apparently worked well enough for the film to develop a fan base and survive in popular consciousness. Thus, with the potential for profit on the line, a sequel was ordered up.
I won’t attack Tron: Legacy for being unnecessary, I think there is enough in the original to draw out a compelling continuation of the series, and any use of the license would surely be better than the likes of Yogi Bear. I will, however, attack it for being an unnecessarily direct sequel. The original film may have worked in its time, but going back to characters from some 28 years ago, when those characters are not the part of your source material which are iconic or well remembered, makes for unnecessarily awkward storytelling.
The problem with Tron: Legacy is, put simply, the plot. For whatever reason, the decision was made to remain beholden to the original film and make this thing as a sequel, where a re-make/re-boot/re-imagining would have better served to bring the world of Tron to modern audiences in a more engrossing way, unencumbered by the events of a film most people don’t really remember anyway.
In short: kid grows up without parents after mega-successful computer engineer dad disappeared. Goes back to his dad’s old office, figures out what the old man was up to, is digitized, and must now uncover the mystery. Dad’s there, as well as fake-dad clone, and he’s joined by some marginally more interesting new characters encountered along the way in the quest for digital liberty.
Everyone is adequate enough to move us through the special effects. Jeff Bridges plays Kevin Flynn (the missing father), but could just as easily be described as playing himself, or else The Dude. He also stars as his younger self in computer program (and villain) form, Clu. In this role, he is helped along by significant CG de-aging effects. The attempt is noble, but frequently distracting, and only occasionally convincing. Garrett Hedlund plays Sam Flynn, Kevin Flynn’s now grown son. He’s entirely passable and entirely unremarkable.
Then we have the ladies, oh yes, the ladies. Olivia Wilde is Quorra, an ally of the Flynns, and Beau Garrett is Gem, a more ambiguous side character. Both wield hotness to rival the impressive effects of the film. The movie’s style, especially the wardrobe (tight, sci-fi chic), have turned these two women into my club/techno/science fiction fantasies come to life. That’s not to say the characters, or the actors playing them, are used to any great effect otherwise. Both seem to show up just to be seen more often than they meaningfully contribute to the plot.
I went to see this movie in its opening weekend, shelling out the cash for the 3-D experience, for no reason other than the visuals, and in that respect I cannot claim to have been disappointed. I’m a sucker for unique science fiction motifs, and Tron: Legacy certainly has that going for it. The old Tron style has been modernized beautifully, with vivid tones and lighting mixed with the black skies of the movie’s digital world.
I was surprised by, and ended up thoroughly enjoying, the movies soundtrack as well. This was composed by French house duo Daft Punk, whose electronic style meshes and enhances the world presented by the film’s visuals.
I cannot claim that Tron: Legacy is a good movie. It offers nothing to the world of science fiction that hasn’t been done better, and repeatedly. Its plot is not thought provoking, or even all that entertaining, and its characters are not endearing. In the end, Tron: Legacy is a special effects master work burdened by the vestigial plot points of a script cooked up some 30 years ago, and no amount of gloss, glow, or hotness can compensate for that.