James Reviews Joseph Kosinski’s Tron: Legacy [Theatrical Review]

It’s been 28 years since the first Tron light cycled its way into the film world from the Walt Disney Company. Directed by Steven Lisberger, it was a revolutionary film, being one of the first to extensively use computer graphics in the film, especially from a major studio. It is a landmark in cinema for that alone, ushering in what most films use today as common practice. It was a moderate success and was well liked by critics, most citing it as a dazzling display and with great performances (Jeff Bridges, Cindy Morgan, Bruce Boxleitner and David Warner to be exact). And now, three decades later, Jeff and Bruce are back reprising their roles from the original film for a new generation of movie goer and also for the ones who loved it way back when. But I digress, you want to hear about Tron: Legacy, don’t you?

But is this film worth seeing in theaters in IMAX 3D? Coming out of the screening, I came to the realization that this film is perfect for 10 year olds who love flashy imagery and not a lot of plot. It’s truly a video game put onto the screen. Sadly, I’d rather be in an arcade and playing the games within the movie than seeing snippets of them while tragic one liners pop out of the mouth of Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), son to Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who is a bit of a bad boy and doesn’t settle for authority. His father vanished 20 years ago and left his son wondering why he left him alone in the world.

Sam somehow travels to The Grid, the digital world created in the first film, and is thrust right into the gladiatorial games, knowing exactly what to do in each one. We find out that Clu 2 is in charge of the world, and ousted Kevin Flynn many years ago to partake in the concept of perfection, which is a constant chore in the digital world. Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a confidant of Kevin’s, saves Sam and takes him to the only man that might know how to help him while Clu is in need of Kevin’s disc, which houses the secrets that ultimately will garner Clu the power to escape.

That’s the basic plot of the film, with our main protagonists and antagonist known and what they all want. And to be honest, it fails on most counts. Any excitement that slowly builds throughout the film is dashed by pretty erratic cuts in the action scenes. They did include the action set pieces from the original film: Deadly Discs and the Light Cycles. But they feel like rehashes to a film that’s almost 30 years old, not something breathtaking, fresh and new that one would assume this new installment to Tron would be.

Another problem with the film is that it feels soulless within. Other critics are saying that the world is in a computer so of course the film feels soulless. What I mean by soulless is that the main attraction, Sam Flynn, feels more like a program than some of the actual residents of The Grid. Garrett Hedlund gives an uninspired, wooden, cookie cutter performance and when you’re the Disney corporation and have this blockbuster franchise that is being resurrected for new fans and old alike, it just fall flat.

Olivia Wilde is cute and shows more wonder of the world around her than the main star. Jeff Bridges does an able job, but the CGI of Clu is only great when he’s not speaking. This is no knock at Mr. Bridges but instead makes you wonder why they even bothered. It throws you off when his mouth moves and yes, he’s a program so of course he’d look different, but no other program looks inorganic, which is just funny to say out loud. Michael Sheen does his best David Bowie impression, Ziggy Stardust era, and when his pivotal scene shows up, you’re left wondering why they even bothered with that plot point to begin with.

To be honest, Tron: Legacy isn’t a bad film but instead is a mediocre $200 million dollar blockbuster and that’s more of an insult, considering this year has had some wonderful films, big and small. Inception did action better and Avatar, the film Tron: Legacy is being hyped as ‘this year’s model’, does 3D and the world immersion to a stronger degree. The only thing overly positive my mind thought about after seeing the film was Daft Punk’s amazing score for the film. It feels like a soundtrack to a better film, and they do a great job updating the original, done by the amazing Wendy Carlos.

About a decade ago, there were rumors that Pixar was considering doing a sequel to the film, with John Lasseter stating the film had a profound effect on him when he was younger, proving that computer generated graphics could be used in an animated film. That could have been amazing, but instead we get a boring action film, which is probably the worst kind of action you can ever have. You never feel scared for the characters and Daft Punk’s score tries to elicit these emotions from the audience, but don’t let that fool you. Joseph Kosinski is a first time feature film director, coming from the world of television commercials, with a Gears of War video game commercial winning awards and having more emotion than the film itself has. He is set to direct another nostalgic trip from Disney, this time a remake of The Black Hole.

Back in 1982, Tron showed what a movie with a video game feel to it was capable of, but in today’s world, video games have more character development and are more of a thrill ride, all from the comfort of your own home. The sense of danger isn’t there and even with Bridges hamming it up as Clu, he just feels like a villain of circumstance. It makes you wish David Warner’s Sark would come back and show what true villainy is all about.

3/10