Film Review – Tron: Legacy

I admit I’m probably not the target demographic for Tron: Legacy; after all, I was born the same year the original Tron was released. I have seen the film and enjoy the concept, but I am certainly not a die hard fan. That being said, I do have a love for computers, Jeff Bridges and nerdom in general, so my interest was piqued upon hearing about the project. The original Tron was released almost 30 years ago and performed modestly at the box office, so it was interesting to see Disney put on the full-court press for its sequel. The film was shot in 3D and is being released on IMAX with a budget reportedly upwards of $300 million…it is clearly a tentpole release for Disney.

It has been a long road for Tron: Legacy from concept to final product. Since the 1990’s, there has been speculation and rumors about a sequel to Tron, but it wasn’t until Disney released a teaser trailer at the 2008 San Diego ComiCon that things really began to heat up. Since then, it seems like an endless stream of images and trailers has been released. It is hard to think of many films that are more over exposed than Tron: Legacy. I’m willing to admit that it is going to be hard to advertise a film with a 300 million dollar budget and not give something juicy away, but I felt there was little in terms of surprise.

Jeff Bridges returns as Kevin Flynn, the creator of the computer world in which Tron occurs.  He also returns in the role of Clu (a computer rendered younger-looking version of Jeff Bridges), a digital duplicate he created to help him create the perfect world. Not surprisingly, things don’t go as planned, and he ends up at odds with his creation. Bruce Boxleitner also returns as Kevin Flynn’s friend and colleague Alan Bradley, as well as the digital duplicate Tron, for which the movie gets its name. Jeff Bridges is great as a man who has been trapped in the 1980’s, giving a performance reminiscent of The Dude in The Big Lebowski…that is a good thing in my book. His performance as Clu I found to be satisfactory, as the villain feels pretty by the numbers and lacking nuance—though it could be argued that the performance is spot on, since it is a computer program.

As you can see in the trailer, though, this film is really about the relationship between a father and the son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), that he left after he was trapped inside the computer. Garrett Hedlund gives a solid performance as a son who is searching for the love and affection of his father, but much of the movie is spent on them reuniting, and is ripe with all the clichés that come with that. Pretty much everything you need to know about the relationships between Kevin Flynn, Adam Bradley, and Sam Flynn can be found in the trailer. As with most movies, there has to be love interest, and in this case it is played by Olivia Wilde. Thankfully there isn’t much of a love story, but what little there is feels a little shoehorned in.

It is hard for me to look at the film and not compare it to any of the other recent blockbusters, and not come away feeling like the world was a bit stale; it didn’t feel as well developed. Whether you liked them or not, Inception and Avatar, for instance, made me curious about the world of the film outside of the characters, as the worlds felt rich, like there were more stories to tell. I can’t say this is really the case with this movie; it feels like there is a mythology there, but you don’t really get exposed to enough of the world to make it feel like it’s full of life…it feels mostly like an excuse for fancy visuals.

Perhaps it was my mistake, but after watching the trailer and as a moderate fan of Tron, there were two things I was looking forward to after watching the trailers for Tron: Legacy: the lightcycles and the disc battles. Unfortunately, these are only a small part of the movie and almost all of it occurs towards the beginning. The vast majority of this movie felt like it was spent talking. This wouldn’t have been a problem for me if Tron: Legacy wasn’t billed as a big budget action movie.

There were many low points for me, but one of the most notable was the dance sequence, which was slightly reminiscent of the rave sequence in The Matrix Reloaded and featured Michael Sheen doing his best Merovingian impression. There were also several strange decisions by the filmmakers; the most peculiar of the mysteries is that for a film named after the character Tron, he plays a very small role in it.

One of the most surprising disappointments was the 3D. Perhaps it was the theater I was in, but I found it to be only decent. Clearly it was better than some of the recent failures, like Clash of the Titans, but it didn’t bring enough to the experience for me to feel like it really justified the extra money it would cost to see it.

While I don’t particularly like the film, I can see there being an audience for it, though beyond the die hard fans I don’t know who is going to really embrace this movie. It does present an interesting perspective on the future and technology, but the underlying story is underwhelming and pretty visuals are not enough to compensate for that. Perhaps it could still work if it still had the element of surprise, for those people who somehow missed all the trailers…and articles…and videogames…if you are out there.

Final Grade: C+


Spencer was born and raised in New Mexico. He grew up with the many great films of the 1980’s before having his world rocked after seeing The Usual Suspects. He moved to Washington State to go to the University of Washington, and currently any free time he currently has is split between working on film projects and watching films.

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