Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Garret Hedlund, Bruce Boxleitner, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, James Frain & Cillian Murphy
I’ve always liked shiny things. This means that when asked to critically analyze films, I can often be swayed if the film holds a unique aesthetic exquisiteness, even when the rest of the film is sub-par. And so while films such as Layer Cake, The Fall and Kenneth Brannagh’s Sleuth remake are slated by others, I tend to appreciate them, if only for their looks. And although this probably makes me shallow, who isn’t these days?
Disney’s decision to bankroll a 200 million dollar sequel to the 30-year-old (and Comic-con favorite) 1982 sci-fi action film Tron represents a massive gamble. Especially as its director Joseph Kosinski’s first feature following his sterling commercial work and has no major stars attached. Additionally the people most looking forward to the sequel tend to be along the lines of the man below- more a niche market than blockbuster audience. But Disny is desperate to repeat the success that James Cameron had with his own shiny picture this time last year, but may have backed the wrong horse. That’s not to say that Tron Legacy is bad, far from it -it’s hard to spend 200 million and not emerge with something worthwhile. Instead I predict its just going to be hard to find an audience.
Tron Legacy picks up 20 years or so since the first Tron. In the intervening period Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the young software engineer of the first film became a Steve Jobs-like Technology messiah before mysteriously disappearing, leaving his billion dollar ENCOM computer empire and young son Sam. Legacy picks up with a 26-year-old Sam as he eschews his corporate responsibility to ride motorbikes and wreak havoc with the slick and scheming ENCOM board of Trustees (one of which is played by Cillian Murphy in a cameo). But when a puzzling message arrives from his father’s old abandoned office, Sam is accidentally sucked into the Grid- a digital, self-contained world that has flourished since being created by Sam’s father in the early 1980’s. Sam soon discovers that not only has his father been trapped in the Grid, but that it is also ruled by a malicious “copy” of Sam Flynn known as Clu.
But the overwrought and exasperating plot doesn’t really need that much attention because it’s really not worth it. Instead the appeal of Tron Legacy lies in its visual splendor. Once Sam leaves the normal world and enters the Grid the film suddenly becomes 3-D the same way Dorothy woke up in a Technicolor Oz . The Grid is a blue-tinted, polished metropolis of glossy, impossible structures under a constant electrical storm and populated by mindless programs. From hereon in the film zips along as Sam staggers awe-struck from gladiatorial arena to sky-train to quartz mountaintop. All of this is also scored by Daft Punk’s rousing electronica-meets-Hans Zimmer arrangements.
Not all the effects are outstanding however. The film employs special anti-aging CGI on Jeff Bridges in some flashbacks and scenes with the villain CLU (who is a 35 year old version of Bridges throughout). While impressive in shaded profile shots, when looked at from straight on in the light- it just looks like a cartoon.
As already stated, the plot remains a weakness. Although Michael Sheen shows up midway through to bolster proceedings with his impish nightclub owner (and David Bowie lookalike) Castor and Jeff Bridges is excellent as the haggard Kevin Flynn and tyrannical CLU (that he’s playing both God and Devil is also labored too much), but he rarely gives less-than-decent performances. Elsewhere Garret Hedlund and Olivia Wilde are competent but not outstanding in their lead boy, lead girl roles and Bruce Boxleiter fleetingly reprises his role as Alan Bradley from Tron.
But again the cast and plot are really side issues when viewing Tron Legacy. It is really not the kind of film to go to if you’re after prose or performance; instead it provides pure escapism through its creation of its own, magnificent three-dimensional world. In a way Tron Legacy is the first successful video-game movie- enveloping you in its system much the same way Avatar and The Matrix did. And while not the most outstanding film in many ways, who cares when it looks this good.
The trailer to Tron Legacy.