Cool for about a half hour but interest soon exhausts. Tron Legacy does not have enough “games” and as a result is not exciting enough. It opens well in the Earth scenes with corporate misdeeds and world economics intrigue, and once its hero is zapped in, has immediate fight to the death battles in the virtual world. But while the rest of this expensive production looks fantastic as a big-screen composite, it loses sense beyond its surface prime ideas. In the virtual “grid,” Jeff Bridges has been allowed to act in different incarnations as both good and evil. Never a generic actor, Bridges’ improv is in ways pitched somewhere between Lebowski and H.G. Wells for the Microsoft generation. Garrett Hedlund plays the good version’s son, and as an actor he is no lackey, as he brings sturdy heroic rebellion to his role. But character depth is moribund.
The videogame was a favorite as a kid. Four subgames were repeated with increasing difficulty onto each next new level: The tower with rapid-multiplying arachnids, a brick-breaker cone, the battle tanks with a diamond warp at the center of the labyrinth, and a gladiatorial arena where fluorescent motorcycles plant their own crash walls for opponents to fatally collide. The game did not feature the disc boomerang battle, although that made it into the 1982 film “Tron” and into this 2010 film.
With “Tron Legacy” you would have figured that they would have tested Sam Flynn (Hedlund) through all the games that didn’t make it into the 1982 “Tron,” but besides the disc boomerang you only get the fluorescent motorcycles battle – the best set piece of the movie. Instead, what we get is a dad and son reunion “drama,” followed by their disputes on whether or not to escape from Tron and return to the real world. Dad has an evil doppelganger named Clu out to destroy them both. It’s been a long hideout for Dad, who has been able to rest along with a sexless female companion, in a fluorescent and floor-lit “2001: A Space Odyssey” sanctuary (talk about genius programming while stuck inside the program). His commitments are to his son and to the utopia he was trying to achieve in the virtual world before his ideals were snatched.
The thing about this theme of lost utopia and turncoat program stuff is that we never get a glimpse on the kind of utopia Bridges is talking about. “Tron Legacy” might be a visually imaginative creation but it’s not a place of beauty like “2001,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “Inception,” or the end of “Dark City.” It is a dystopian universe built for gladiators. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing as entertainment had it just been exciting. Later on, there is a light-saber duel that turns Sam into Luke Skywalker, and then… some forgettable escape-the-Matrix kind of action.
You can shower the visual effects with endless compliments but in truth the best contribution is the symphonic-techno score by Daft Punk. The music makes an attempt to suffuse with a sense of ominous in the same way that the “The Dark Knight” used music to underscore its atmosphere. IMAX shows will be presented in 3D, and although it’s a better 3D job than most, it’s still redundant – like watching a movie under a dim bulb.
127 minutes. Rated PG.
SCI-FI & FANTASY / TECHNOLOGY / 3D HEADACHES
Film Cousins: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968); “Tron” (1982); “Brainstorm” (1983); “Inception” (2010).