It’s been a long time since 1982 when the first Tron arrived in theaters. Back then using a computer to make a movie was a distant thought wherein now they are used all the time on practically every movie in one way or another. There has been much written, speculated and anticipated since the announcement of a sequel to Tron. Disney has been bringing Tron to San Diego Comic Con for the past 3 years to generate buzz and excitement for this 28 year old property. Does Tron: Legacy live up to the hype and even what the title suggest, legacy, of its inventive predecessor? Well, yes and no. I know that sounds like a wishy-washy answer but it’s going to have to do for now. But in saying that, Tron: Legacy is a terrible movie.
Tron: Legacy starts off with the blatant product placement advertisement with posters and toys of the original Tron. Something you might see in 1987’s The Wizard that displayed Nintendo as if it were a secondary character. From this moment all I’m thinking is this movie is for kids. A young Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is telling his son, Sam, stories of his adventures in ‘the grid’. Then spends the next 10 minutes or so, in a somewhat clever and forgivable exposition alert, back story on the whereabouts of Kevin Flynn who has been missing for 21 years, done in the manner of a TV news report. We jump 21 years later, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is a reckless, self-righteous young man who feels his father’s company has turned to greed and not really interested in the betterment of man. In a convenient turn, Alan Bradley AKA Tron (Bruce Boxleitner), Kevin’s old friend, turns up to visit Sam telling him he received a message from his father. Sam goes to Flynn’s Arcade and finds his father’s old work space and somehow gets sucked into the world of the grid.
I generally like to stay positive when I start a review, even for terrible movies like Tron: Legacy, I would like to do the same. Visually speaking, Tron: Legacy is simply breathtaking. The world created inside of this computer world looks astounding and is definitely worth admission. But looks can be deceiving. The world of Tron: Legacy doesn’t seem to be working with any rules in place to make a world believable or livable. Starting off by taking our protagonist (I use that term ever so loosely) to ‘games’ is a good call back to the original but wherein it worked in that movie, it does not necessarily work in this one. In the first movie, the world of Tron lived in a video game world so having competitions between programs was a good fit. That film started off with Kevin Flynn mastering video games. In Tron: Legacy, video games seem to be an afterthought. Never establishing anything video game related except going to an arcade, starting an audience to this gladiator-like spectacle called ‘games’ seems fool hearted and base. Filled with dull, soulless action set pieces that convey no thrills, no joy and no excitement. I never thought a light cycle race could be so mundane, more like the painful pod racing scene in Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace than the original Tron.
But when the film kicks into the story, about an hour into the movie, we get a glimpse of CLU (a CGI young Jeff Bridges) who has plans to go to the real world and destroy all that is imperfect. How a computer program can threaten mankind is beyond me and evidently to the filmmakers, this point is sort of glossed over in lieu of more ‘games’. Come to think of it, any time the movie got too story heavy (IE any story at all) the filmmakers throw in more joyless action sequences or ‘games’. Wasn’t that what the Romans did to keep its citizens distracted from the tyranny of their regimes? Full of character turns that come out of nowhere (‘I fight for the users’) and nonsensical plot devices, Tron: Legacy doesn’t seem to care about the most simple aspects of storytelling… having a story to tell.
Complete with a lifeless lead in Garrett Hedlund whose performance is so stilted and wooden, it was as if he was a program in this computer world and with as much personality of one. And the forced love interest with Quorra (I’m a boy and you’re a girl, why not? – Olivia Wilde) was actually a highlight of the film. She had more spunk and charm as a computer program as our protagonist did as a user. With poor Jeff Bridges who does what he can to inject life into this dead movie, calling back to his iconic role as ‘the dude’ in The Big Lebowski rather than his role as Kevin Flynn in, I don’t know, maybe… Tron?
Albeit, the highlight of the film is the magnificent score by Daft Punk and really, all the emotion (or lack thereof) of the movie comes from their score rather than their score heightening the emotion. Even that feels wasted in this terrible movie. I encourage anyone reading this review to buy the score instead of seeing the movie. Hell, it would be cheaper and more rewarding to do so. But alas, even Daft Punk’s score or cameo could save this beautiful mess.
Lately I’ve been reading Nathan Rabin’s ‘My Year In Flops’ and James Robert Parish’s ‘Fiasco: A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops’ (which I highly recommend) and as much as I would like to see Tron: Legacy in revisions or new editions of these books, sadly, it will not happen. This movie WILL make money. It may even make back it’s $200 million budget making this movie a success. No matter what I write or what film critics might say, this movie is critic proof. The hype generator has started far too soon for this movie not to be a financial success. I guess this is something we all have to live with. After a year that has brought us Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland and The Last Airbender, Tron: Legacy seems to be the next film with a low critical response but an extremely high box office return.
Some might say, ‘Rudie, aren’t you too harsh on Tron: Legacy? After all it is just a mindless action flick.’ I would argue the mindless part as it not being so much as mindless as mind numbing and dulling and the action part as it being more thrill-less and limp. After all, there are so many better options at your local cinemaplex. If you want action, watch The Town. If you want thrills, watch Black Swan. If you want to see a movie from an established franchise, watch Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1. If you want to see a good movie with Jeff Bridges, watch True Grit. If you want a family movie, watch Megamind or Tangled. There are so many better options out there. Tron: Legacy is not one of them and just simply put, it’s terrible.