When the original Tron came out in 1982, it was like Star Wars in terms of how many people flipped their lids for it. Back then, computers were glorified calculators that took up whole rooms and could only be afforded by very important universities and used for very important scientific research. A movie about using a computer to go inside a video game just about blew people’s minds. So naturally, Disney waited 28 years to make a sequel. It’s called Tron Legacy, and here’s the storyline:
The delinquent heir to a computer company investigates a page from his missing father and finds him trapped inside the computer world he created several decades ago by a tyrannical computer program.
It’s a cool idea for a movie, but Disney completely missed several boats, which will undoubtedly hurt its bottom line. First, there’s the technology boat. People who have grown up watching Reboot cartoons no longer find stories about the insides of computers new and different, even if Tron did do it first. And second, there’s the 3D technology. A year ago, it was new, and people flocked to Avatar just for the experience. And now it’s old and people don’t care anymore. So Tron Legacy is effectively stripped of its novelty factor and left to stand on the old fallbacks: story, character, setting, and special effects.
Story wise, Tron Legacy is not that complicated. Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is still sad and angry that his daddy Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) disappeared like 20 years ago. Instead of running Encom, the computer company he inherited, he’s breaking and entering, stealing, jumping off buildings, and riding motorbikes – your typical teenage bad boy stuff.
At least Sam is Garrett Hedlund’s real age – 27.
They didn’t try to pass him off as 17 or anything.
I got a page from your dad’s old number. And also, you shouldn’t
keep your motorbike in the house. The fumes will kill your brain cells.
… completely missing the fact that there’s a giant laser pointed at the back of his head…
And WHAM, there he is, in The Grid, that crazy computery place his dad always used to tell him about, where there are floating doorframes….
…. killer motorcycles that burst forth from retractable black cheerleading batons and leave deadly laser wakes behind them…
…and everybody wears skintight glowing outfits. Sam, of course, didn’t arrive in a skintight glowing outfit, but he’s completely unperturbed when four ladies descend upon him and rip off his clothes to give him one.
To be fair, I don’t think there are many straight men
who would object to being stripped by four attractive ladies.
Sam is instantly captured and taken to a thing called The Games, which is like the computer world version of Gladiators but without the rubberized weaponry. Instead, they pull off the identity rings (which look like Aerobees) that they wear on their backs and hurl them at each other in a sort of frisbee/boomerang death match.
So, um, just to be clear, I’m supposed to dodge this thing, not catch it… right?
In short order, though, the evil daddy-looking ruler of the Grid, Clu (a computerized younger version of Jeff Bridges) finds out who he is. He wants to use Sam to get out into the people world and take it over, but instead Sam escapes with the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), and goes to find his real dad…
…who has been hiding on a mountaintop in his pajamas all this time.
I’m channeling Alec Guinness here, can you tell?
That’s the story. As for the characters, there are some who are pretty well developed and some who are disappointingly blank. Sam is, unfortunately, one of the blank ones. I guess they’re going for an “actions speak louder than words” thing, because you can get some of his personality through what he’s done – rescue a dog, give expensive computer programs away for free, etc. But you get almost nothing through his dialogue. All he gets are a few one-liners to toss out now and then, like: “Is that all you got?!” He sounds like a video game character. Garret Hedlund is a good actor so you can read some of what you need off his face, but the writers (there are about eight of them) sure didn’t give him much to work with.
Please say something, Michael Sheen. I have no lines.
Quorra is a little better. She’s a computer program so she’d got kind of a childlike innocence about her when it comes to real life stuff. (She asked Sam what Jules Verne was like, and it made me laugh). She and Sam have sort of a thing, but it’s like the writers are afraid to let it go anywhere.
We could say something romantic here, but they didn’t really write anything.
So let’s just look at each other and be adorable.
Pretty much all the character stuff is reserved for Kevin Flynn and his nemesis/self Clu. Clu was created by Kevin to make the perfect system, and now Kevin realizes perfection isn’t order blah blah blah. It’s like once they got into the Grid, they forgot that this was Sam’s movie, not Kevin’s.
So… I’m here. Your turn to take over the movie, I guess.
Of course, no one really goes to a special effects laden movie like this for story and character development (sadly, these things are seen as optional in the world of big budget films). So what about the special effects? For the most part, they’re really impressive. The world is amazing. It’s all black with glowy blue for good guys and glowy orange for bad guys. There are fireworks that explode to look like glowing sperm. The light cyles and the even cooler light jets are really exciting to watch.
DOGFIGHT!!! Can you make a whole movie of this next time??
The crowning achievement for director Joseph Kosinski and the Tron Legacy special effects team, however, is supposed to be the fake younger version of Jeff Bridges that we see in Clu and in the beginning for the scenes with young Sam (Owen Best). Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it looks like – fake. Fake Jeff Bridges head has the same problem with the teeth and tongue looking wrong that the “realistic” video game characters have.
See what I mean? I think video game people call it the Uncanny Valley or something like that.
It doesn’t matter so much with Clu because he actually is computer generated, but for the real world scenes with younger Kevin Flynn it’s downright freaky. I kept expecting young Sam to scream because it was so obvious that someone had slapped a different head onto his daddy’s body.
Oh God, please don’t let him turn around….
Thankfully those scenes don’t last for very long, so overall Tron Legacy is pretty impressive. I would have liked to have a bit more of Sam, and a bit more of Sam and Quorra, but otherwise I really enjoyed it. I mean, the music was this really cool doom-techno type stuff by Daft Punk that really fit with the world, everything looked really cool, and there was lots of action – even some in airplanes! It’s totally worth going to see if you like sci-fi at all or you want to be impressed by modern technology. Unfortunately though, because of the aforementioned boat-missing, I don’t think it has a chance at rivaling Avatar.