Back in 1982, Tron did something no other movie could, it made world wakeup and take notice of videogame and how it’s power was sweeping pop culture. But unlike the spirit held within Tron, society wasn’t ready.
Tron debuted in the middle of the summer of 1982. It placed second at the box office opening weekend squashed between ET and Rocky 3. The $17.5 million dollar movie went on to double its budget but fade off into obscurity. Like Disney’s Black Hole and Black Cauldron, or as I call them Disney’s two black eyes, Tron was seen as a major disappointment. $33 million was embarassing in 1982?
Tron’s legacy did endure and as I explained in my May 2010 article, this was a little machine that could.
Now to set the scene, you have to know the plot of the original Tron from 1982. Ultra-smart computer hacker Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is accidentally materialized inside a computer where he discovers a hidden digital world (ala a giant videogame). There he meets a a rebel named Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) who was trying to save his world from the iron grip of Master Control (David Warner).
Flashforward 28 years, Kevin Flynn’s legacy is Sam (Garrett Hedlund), the young son he left behind before journeying into the digital world. Sam is an outlaw and like his father is a hacker and aspires for a change. After he gets a mysterious message from his dad, Sam returns to his father 80s arcade to put the clues together to his father’s disappearance. Sam finds a way into the digital world of Tron where it has evolved into something larger and darker. There Sam will finally meet his dad, his digital doppleganger and the mysterious Quorra (Olivia Wilde).
First off, Tron: Legacy is a visual marvel and when you see it you will know what the original Tron was trying to present in its aesthetic. I loved the look and feel of the movie. The techno score by Daft Punk was stellar and some of the action sequences are as amazing as the trailer presents them. The light cycles and disc battles are unreal and deserve to be seen on the big screen.
I liked the duo performance from Jeff Bridges. I liked his doppleganger Clu‘s look as well. He’s not perfect and that’s great because Clu isn’t supposed to be. Bridges aged hippy dynamic has more in common with his “The Dude” character in The Big Lebowski than he does with the original Kevin Flynn but the migration does make sense.
My favorite character in Tron: Legacy is Olivia Wilde. She is the light inside this dark tunnel. Her wide eyes, subtle smile, athletic build is radiant. Poised like a ninja, she is wicked in her action sequences. If we just would have been stuck with father and son I probably would have cried mercy.
The downside of Tron: Legacy comes in threes: the story, the script and well Garrett Hedlund.
The story, if you can call it that, is all over the place. Four writers wrote the script not to mention probably a half dozen polishes. And that is probably why it feels so disjointed. Sam comes to the world of Tron to bring daddy home. Daddy has unfinished business, okay. But there is the whole I hate my daddy angle that kind of goes out the door and is never dealt with but just smoothed over. There is the whole silly backstory of how Flynn’s doppleganger was created and what happened to Tron, the person.
The biggest problem are the changes the new movie made to what happens to a human being when he is brought into the world. When Kevin Flynn arrived in 1982 he was materialized into a more advanced program called a User. He was not an actual human being on the Grid. When Sam arrives he bleeds which means that humanity can exist in the digital world. That makes no sense. Sentient program yes, human in a computer no. The aging of father Flynn makes sense because programs decay like Barnard Hughes in the original film. But no one bleeds! Programs depixelate or dematerialize.
Next is the utterly stupid dinner table scene, how is father Flynn able to eat a stuffed roast pig and asparagus in a digital world? Not to mention if he is a program and his son isn’t, how can that artificial food sustain is his son? And why not cast an actor who can emote his feelings for his dad and his raging hard-on for Quorra. Garrett Hedlund looks like he came from the Hayden Christensen school of actors.
My final quibble about the film is Daft Punk’s amazing score is destroyed everytime they bring in the love theme between papa & son and son & Quorra. Is it just me or is that theme a complete and utter rip-off of The Young and the Restless theme set to a techno beat. C’mon! WTF?
Tron drew lines in the sand, pushed boundaries, shocked audiences and defied the odds. It was original and sci-fi movies have never been the same. Take the Matrix for example how it was basically Tron on heroin. This sequel, 28 years later, feels like an after thought and instead of being ahead of its time is stuck in the pit with the rest of confused sci-fi hybrids. This new Tron is the Matrix, Star Wars and everyone of their clones but at times fails in comparison. After waiting 28 years and 2 years of promoting it, Tron could have been so much better.
(3.5 out of 5)
So Says the Soothsayer