MPAA Rating: PG/Genre: Sci-Fi Action/Stars: Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Jeffrey Nordling, Cillian Murphy, Serinda Swan, Yaya DaCosta, Elizabeth Mathis, Owen Best/Runtime: 125 minutes
I think it best to start this review off by giving you a period of time to contemplate on and that period of time is no more and no less than 28 years. 28 long, excruciating, patience and sanity-testing years….at least if you happen to be a fan of the iconic 1982 sci-fi film Tron. I say that because for about 3-decades, fans of the original Tron held out hope and prayed with fervent passion that we would get a chance to go back to the Grid since Disney could now utilize the phenomenal leaps forward made in CGI since the first Tron came out and give us a resurrection of this truly iconic movie that would bring that world to life in a wat never thought possible until now. Yet instead of giving movie goers a remake, Disney went a step forward and actually gave us a direct sequel: a ballsy, rarely contemplated choice that had honestly seemed more impossible than possible. The result, 2010’s Tron: Legacy, happens to be a truly riveting spectacle for the eyes and for the nostalgic the return of Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner from the first one is sure to drive them over the moon and then some. Suffice it to say though that while Tron: Legacy most assuredly is not going to make every single person who takes the time to sit down and give it a watch happy, especially those who are quite fickle with their cinematic tastes, I think it should also be said that the fantastic performances, the incredible work in terms of the film’s special effects, and the actually engrossing and surprisingly organic expansion of the lore put down in the first one is sure to make those who loved the first one proud and also potentially bring in a whole host of new fans into the fold as well.
The plot is as follows: So according to the backstory presented to us in this installment we learn that, following his adventures in the first film, Kevin Flynn in 1989 simply vanished without a trace and in the process left behind his growing company, a wonderful and loving family, and a future that’s potential was practically limitless. Going on two decades later we watch as his kid, a fellow tech genius by the name of Sam, discovers that his dad didn’t just decide to drop everything and leave him and his mom. Actually he has been imprisoned in the Grid itself which, in the time since we last were there, has been taken over by a cold and calculating younger avatar of dear ol’ Pop called CLU. Yet in case you’re wondering if this is just something that Sam happens to be told don’t worry that’s not the case. Actually he is transported into the Grid itself whilst investigating a mysterious signal coming from his dad’s old office (I mean c’mon you didn’t think it would be as easy as his dad telling him now did you?). Yet before he’s able to fully get a grip on just where he is, we see that Sam is caught and “politely” pushed into taking part in a series of deadly competitions much to the happiness of the crowd of Programs that have come to watch due to dislike by and large for Users aka you and me and thus wanting to see a User aka Sam get what’s coming to him. Thankfully, we see that Sam is able to get out of this sticky predicament with the aid of a program by the name of Quorra who soon is able to bring Sam and his father, now in hiding somewhere in the outer regions of the Grid, back together again. Thus we now see that Sam has quite the hard choice to make: stay in hiding in the Grid with his dad the rest of their days or sneak back into town, figure out what CLU is really up to, fight a multitude of enemies determined to stop them, get back to the portal that connects our world and the Grid, and come home. Three guesses and the first 2 and a half don’t count as to which one this father-son duo choose to set out to do.
Now much in the same way that the world fans of the original know and love has organically managed to expand and grow, so too in the same vein as the Tron films themselves. Indeed the original movie was one that really did a lot of surprisingly in-depth analysis on the concept of what would happen if you created something and could then interact with what you created, but drawing a lot of inspiration for how it approached this narrative hook from the back and forth that the Greek and Roman gods had with people in their stories. To that end, we see that Tron: Legacy moves this same society forward in time and shows us that, since we’ve been away, the Grid has become a civilization much like our own in that the populace, with exceptions, don’t invest all that much stock in the ideas of God or believing in something you cannot see. Indeed in this independent virtual community where programs are able to gain awareness on their own even the world of the Users is one that is debated. Suffice it to say that whilst these agnostic nuances aren’t exactly subtle, they do manage to do insert a wonderful philosophical dilemma of sorts into a follow-up that easily could have just been one made just so they could say one exists. Yes the screenwriters on this slice of cinematic pie are guilty of not going as in-depth with this thematic material on the level that they ought to nor is the world as strong or the mechanics in said world as ironclad as they ought to be, but the concepts at play and the execution of said concepts is, for the most part, a fairly solid effort.
Of course, don’t let that fool you into thinking the script for this slice of cinematic pie is otherwise flawless because trust me it’s not. Indeed the dialogue in this film is fair enough for the kind of dialogue that it is, but it also depends way too much on a lot of in-Grid quips with such treasure from Garrett Hedlund as “why do I feel like I just got dumped on,” and the frequently uttered “woah” said in a way that is more in line with early 80s Keanu Reeves than anyone else whilst Bridges and Wilde seem like they are the only cast members that are having a blast with the dialogue. Of course I can’t really fault Hedlund for this. Heck the character of Sam is only as three-dimensional as he is thanks to the riveting conviction imbued in him by Hedlund and I should mention that the rest of the cast also does fairly top-flight work in this as well. In addition, this slice of cinematic pie also is the unfortunate recipient of several undercooked subplots including CLU’s insurrection, and the backstory of a character known as Rinzler to name but a few as well as a few of the characters and places in the Grid feeling less like they needed to be in the story and more like the filmmakers just put them there because they thought they would look cool (looking at Michael Sheen’s Castor as I write that sentence). I mean don’t get me wrong: there is no point in time where any of what I just mentioned will take you out the movie entirely; rather, it’s just that it’s frustrating to see all these narrative aspects not given a resolution that feels all that satisfying.
Of course, I guess this makes sense when taking into account the fact that the film, right from the beginning, places the ideas it is working with up against the astonishing work in the sight and sound departments in a cage match that, more often than not, appreciates the visual work done by film helmer Joseph Kosinski or the spot-on electronic musical accompaniment brought to us by Daft Punk. Indeed every single flare-up of blue and orange, every riveting note of music that makes its way through the Grid, and every blaze of CG wizardry that comes across the screen really does go a long way to looking past a lot of the issues this slice of cinematic pie has. Indeed much like its predecessor, the special effects in this movie are downright phenomenal even if the de-aging technology used to make Bridges CLU isn’t quite up to the work done in say Ant-Man from 2015 with Michael Douglas, but at least like the latter example there is both a heart and soul to the effects in this film. Along with that we see that darn near everything taking place in the Grid in this film looks extravagant, enigmatic, and yet also very well-constructed from the city itself to the trails of light left by the Light Cycles that look absolutely incredible. Indeed usually a slice of cinematic pie in this vein is one that is 100% style and 0% substance. Thankfully, Tron: Legacy is most assuredly not that kind of movie as it manages to use its visual effects work to reel you in and then gives you moments of narrative substance throughout that help ground the film in a way that it needs. Indeed much like a User, Tron: Legacy is not perfect by any stretch, but it is a respectful and worthy follow-up, an incredible sight to behold, and an engaging movie that I think more people should give some time to sit down and watch.
All in all I think it is safe to say that in the 11 years since it came out (good lord has it already been that long?) Tron: Legacy has come to be seen in many different lights by virtually everyone who has chosen to sit down and watch it. Indeed there are those who find it to be truly engaging, there are those who love it as being a long in the works trip down memory lane, and then there are those who find it a complete and utter waste of time despite talented work from the cast. As for me dear reader? I enjoyed it the first time I watched it in theaters all the way back in 2010, I enjoyed this movie the 2nd time I watched it, and every time I’ve watched it since I still enjoy it. No it’s not flawless as either a long in the works sequel or as a slice of cinematic pie, but it’s got a wonderful collection of performances, the visual effects are jaw droppingly incredible, the score courtesy of Daft Punk is next-level in the best ways possible, and the fairly riveting narrative help to make up for a lot of the flaws this slice of cinematic pie finds itself unfortunately saddled with. On a scale of 1-5 I give Tron: Legacy a solid 3.5 out of 5.