Okay, I’ll admit it. Until a year ago the only thing I knew of the original Tron was that it was considered a bad film.
Luckily I changed that around when I finally got my hands on a copy, and seeing the wild adventures of Flynn and the grid finally revealed to me the true essence of Tron, that it was not a bad film, just one that was only ever going to be interested by a cult following.
Timing was essential for this, as I saw it in time for the announcement of the sequel/remake Tron Legacy, and got into the hype just in time to truly appreciate what Tron could have been.
While seeing the first film is not essential for Legacy, it certainly does help, but for the unaware, the original Tron focused on Kevin Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges) who finds himself trapped in the digital world of 80s computers, and goes up against the Master Control Program to make the digital world a free place to roam once again.
The film finishes (SPOILER ALERT) with Flynn escaping and taking over the company Encom which he was booted out of, which is exactly where Legacy picks up.
Now in charge of the company, Flynn tells his son Sam about creating an absolutely free digital world where “programs” (portrayed as humans in the digital world) and “users” (humans transferred into the digital world) co-exist in peace. Just before he reveals huge breakthough in the world though, Flynn mysteriously disappears.
20 years later, on the trail of finding his dad, Sam accidentilly stumbled on the entrance of the digital world, and is transported into a place which is not an utopia which Flynn described, but a world run by fear and the iron fist of the program Clu (in Flynn’s image, and one of the original creators of the world), who wants nothing to do with the users who enter their world.
With Clu in charge and Flynn becoming a distant hermit, hiding away from the city and Clu’s grasp, Sam is now on a race against time to save his dad and bring them both back to the real world before the portal disappears, leaving them trapped forever.
Tron Legacy is great for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is great support from Disney to give a film that for a long time has been an obscure cult classic on their books, and secondly, they were able to time it perfectly to give the franchise a chance to truly show off its talents, which is, and always was the true highlight of the Tron series.
Visually they could not have done anything better, as last time it looked dated but was the forefront of CGI in films (in fact was the first job John Lasseter, who ended up running Pixar and their computer animation domination) while this time around they have pulled out all the stops in making the digital world an absolute wonderland.
And a wonderland it is, as the digital world is full of amazing lands and vehicles (with quite a few classic throwbacks to the first film if you look hard enough), but the true joy is the amount of detail that has gone into the world, from the arena scenes, to the action packed games scenes which, like the light cycle scene, truly trumps the wonder we saw the first time back in the ’80s (of if you are like me, only 12 months ago).
But unfortunately, no matter how good the visuals are, and believe me in Tron Legacy they are brilliant, there is always a problem, and like the last time we visited this franchise, it is the story that really lets it down.
While the bare facts of the story is fair enough (kids falls into another world, needs to save the father he didn’t know and get back home) it is the filler that is the main problem. The main problem revolves around a sub-plot about the origins of a mysterious race known as the “isos”, which fills a major chunk of the plot into a physics/religious debate about the definition of trying to be perfect, which truth be told did not need to be around.
While it was brought to my attention there is no easy answer how else the story could be told, and truth be told an obvious answer did not come to me, wedging this psychological premise into what could have been a mindless popcorn cinema flick seemed to exist for the sole reason to give the storyline more weight, which truth be told it did not need.
Another problem was the main performances, as the young crew were good but not memorable, and I would hate to say it, but this was not the best role Jeff Bridges has ever done. While his role was fine enough, for most of the time it seemed to be cruising on second gear, and for me it came over as he had pushed himself a lot futher with his critically acclaimed roles, and was only back to have a bit of fun and relax in a franchise he knew.
Michael Sheen, on the other hand, has so much fun with his role, it is so close to a pantomine of David Bowie it is not funny, yet one of the few memorable character after you leave the cinema.
Overall Tron Legacy is a decent enough film, giving us mind-blowing visuals and great action sequences that blow its predecessor out of the water (like any good sequel should), but once again Tron falls flat with its story, and while it should have been a fantastic mindless blockbuster to enjoy during the summer season, it is just lacking something to truly propel us into the digital world.
Rating: 3 1/2 reels
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