In computer speak, TRON: Legacy is a film that takes forever to boot up, fails to form a connection with its audience and repeatedly falls victim to the dreaded Blue Screen of Boredom (BSoB). It truly is the Windows Vista of blockbuster movies.
On paper, the specs are impressive; it boasts a starring role from recent Oscar winner Jeff Bridges, an electrifying score by Daft Punk and an onslaught of trailblazing CGI effects that would be enough to make James Cameron hot under the collar. But these strengths mean nothing when the screenplay is this idiotic, the direction this sterile. Legacy is film about computers, seemingly made by computers. It simply has no soul.
The story does not compute on an emotional level, though it does at least try. It begins in 1982, the year the original film was released, with genius computer programmer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) telling his young son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) a story about the digital universe he created. Kevin leaves for work that night, but he never returns. Sam grows up all moody and aloof, regularly sabotaging his Dad’s thriving computer company that has become a greedy corporate monster in his absence. Via an old friend, Sam receives a strange message from his father’s abandoned arcade, and on inspecting the venue, discovers a portal to his father’s computerised universe known as The Grid. But what, exactly, is The Grid? What is its purpose? What are the laws that govern its existence? These kind of questions don’t seem to matter to the filmmakers, and as long as The Grid looks über cool, they’re assuming they won’t matter to us either. They do.
From here, the film plays out like The Matrix in reverse. Sam is transported into the digital world, and after being pitted against rogue programs in a giant Thunderdrome — where the only truly exciting scenes of the film take place — he bumps into his overlord father. Only it’s not his father; he’s actually Clu (also Bridges, digitally enhanced to make him look years younger), a computer program who was designed by his father to perfect The Grid in his absence. Of course, perfection to a computer is a bit like what perfection was to Hitler; it doesn’t bode well for those with apparent “flaws” (i.e. humans, or Users as they’re called). That’s why Sam’s actual father has been banished by Clu to the wastelands outside The Grid – the existence of which doesn’t really make sense when you think about it – where he has lived in exile ever since he walked out on his son some 30 years ago.
The original TRON was released long before the target demographic for Legacy had even developed in their father’s crown jewels, so it would be foolish on Disney’s behalf to expect audiences to have seen it beforehand. I can’t imagine it would hurt, though, because Legacy doesn’t make much sense at the best of times. Despite being numbingly simplistic in its immediate plotting – a rinse/repeat case of travelling from point A to point B – the screenplay by Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis is utterly bewildering in terms of its overly elaborate backstory and inconsistent internal logic. To make matters worse, it’s all told via giant chunks of goofy exposition that effectively brings the second act to a complete standstill. Not that it was exactly rollicking along in the first place.
Even as mere eye candy, Legacy disappoints. The highly publicised 3D is barely noticeable, while the striking neon aesthetic of The Grid – painstakingly rendered by schools of VFX artists – is too gloomy and homogeneous to truly dazzle. Compared to the lush, colourful and often breathtaking world James Cameron introduced us to in Avatar, The Grid looks like the bathroom of a trendy nightclub. Under Joseph Kosinski’s detached direction, there’s no sense of immersion; it’s purely veneer.
Jeff Bridges, who plays both the hero Kevin and the villain Clu, does his best with the obscenely tacky dialogue, digging for much-needed laughs by sporadically channelling his performance as The Dude from The Big Lebowski. In his first major role, Garrett Hedlund’s barely makes a splash as vacuous protagonist Sam Flynn, sharing awkward romantic chemistry with Oliva Wilde as the enigmatic computer program Quorra. Oh, and the less said about Michael Sheen’s absurd David Bowie impersonation, the better. He’s going to regret that one in the morning.
As a state of the art money shredder, TRON: Legacy is right up there with Transformers 2. Disney has a lot of bugs to squash before they even consider v3.0.
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