by Hugh Fisher
I’m an unapologetic sci-fi fan. Computers, space battles, strange alien worlds – all of these sparked my imagination when I was a kid, and still do. If you find yourself in that category, you’ll love “Tron: Legacy.”
The sequel to the 1982 film about warriors fighting for freedom inside of a computer system is full of action and is visually stunning. If you grew up with “Tron,” you’ll find a lot that’s familiar here.
Programmer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) got control of programming giant Encom in the original, but disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Young son Sam was left behind with millions of dollars in stock and the ability to control the company someday, if he chose.
Flash forward to today, and Sam (Garrett Hedlund) has no desire to follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead, like Bruce Wayne crossed with Julian Assange, he uses a blazing-fast Ducati motorcycle and some high technology to pull pranks on his dad’s old company.
Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), Flynn’s old sidekick who’s still on the board of Encom, sets Flynn on the trail to solving his father’s disappearance. Like father, like son, Sam ends up being pulled inside the world of the computer, forced to fight on “the Grid” for his survival.
When we finally meet him, and his apprentice Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Flynn claims to have found inside the system the secrets of how the universe works. Learning those secrets leaves Sam facing a choice: saving his father, or saving the outside world.
Even if you’re decidedly not a fan of “Star Wars”/“Star Trek” sci-fi, this is still a ride worth watching. And it’s worth watching in 3-D, which I typically consider a gimmick, but “Tron: Legacy” does it right.
The filmmakers mix 2-D and 3-D scenes and make good use of visual effects, especially in fight sequences. The result is miles better than other recent films which, in my opinion, try to self-consciously remind the viewer that “this is a 3-D experience!” by shoving monsters and such at the screen.
A couple of effects in “Tron: Legacy” made most of the people in the theater jump in their seats. That’s how smoothly this is done. I won’t say more because you need to see it yourself.
A lot has changed about computers, both in movies and in day-to-day life, since ’82.
I could wax philosophical for a moment and say that “Tron: Legacy” does what science fiction ought to do by making us think about our own world differently. That’s what the first film managed to do, whether that was the intent or not.
And there’s certainly room to think about how technology affects our lives today, and how jaded we’ve become. The original “Tron” had a storybook quality. Computer programs were cheerful and eager to serve the godlike human “Users” on the other side of the digital veil.
The lines are blurry today. Clu (played by a digitally-animated younger version of Bridges) was a good-guy program in the first “Tron.” He’s now a megalomaniacal overlord, determined to “create the perfect system” even if it means destroying humanity in the process.
Other programs are jaded and cynical, seeing belief in “Users” as outdated and laughable.
Unfortunately, the storyline feels a bit shallow. There are plenty of action sequences, and all of the favorite scenes from the original are updated with cutting edge technology.
The only other franchise to come close to this kind of questioning, the “Matrix” trilogy, went way too heavy on the symbolism and the deep philosophical questions.
“Tron: Legacy” left me wanting a little bit more than what we saw. There’s a lot left to be done with the “Tron” universe.
The effects department outdid themselves with a digital re-creation of a younger Jeff Bridges as Clu – a stark contrast to the grizzled Bridges of today. I would’ve liked to have seen the same attempted with Boxleitner’s characters. We hardly see Tron, the hero program of the original film, which he also played.
Bottom line: “Tron: Legacy” will make science-fiction and action fans happy, and will leave fans of the original wanting more.
For a movie audience that can be jaded and cynical about sequels and remakes, that’s good news. And it’s good news, too, for those of us geeks who see sci-fi as a way of looking at our own world from a slightly different angle.