Review: 'Tron: Legacy'

With reinvention aspirations on par with Superman: Returns, Tron: Legacy bites off more than it can chew while still screaming like a twelve-year old on his first roller coaster ride.

Over twenty years after his father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), went missing, his son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) receives information from Flynn’s friend Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) where might be able to find him. As the majority stockholder of the software company ENCOM (left to him by his father), Sam is spurned on by the stories his dad used to tell him about entering “the grid” and the digital reality inside a mainframe. When Sam unlocks the doors to his father’s old arcade, he has no idea he’s about to visit the world his father told him about. Unfortunately, Sam also doesn’t know it isn’t his father who sent the invitation…

To be honest, the original Tron was light on science, heavy on the fiction. How many fans went on to work in the computer industry with thoughts of light cycles and recognizers in their heads? Tron: Legacy has a lot of explaining to do, and most of it is through narrative, all of which grinds the film to halt many times over. Borrowed science fiction themes include androids dreaming of electric sheep, digital beings with their own souls, the quest for perfection, and the rights of creators to make demands of their own creations. Holding it all together is a son looking for the father he remembers on a voyage of discovery that he has become very much like his elder (insert mandatory “Cats In The Cradle” song reference here) while introducing audiences to the all-new, all-improved world of “The Grid.” Does it all work together? Almost and just barely.

From a twelve-year old perspective, it all makes perfect sense: a digital world where programs are enslaved to play games at the whim a hidden overlord, but only someone from the real world, a user, can start the revolution necessary to free the system. Legacy’s “grid” differs from the original Tron in its primary function; where Tron was the ENCOM mainframe where actual work was going on, Legacy’s mainframe only functions to serve Kevin Flynn’s creative whims. This opens all kinds of questions up, such as who is in the audience watching? What do these programs actually do when there aren’t any games? One answer is suggested by how barren most of the city streets are along with a few programs looking to start a resistance against the totalitarian regime currently in charge. All of it hints at more to come (and also smacks of The Matrix) so expect no answers in this installment.

Besides the problems with this seemingly pointless, incomplete system (that the bad guy inexplicably refers to multiple times as “perfect”), there’s the bad guy’s “plan.” As if the answer to “what does life on the grid actually mean?”, the bad guy seems more bent on getting inside Kevin Flynn’s head than legitimately doing anything heinous. This leads into more plot borrowing towards the end, when the Princess is kidnapped, Luke recovers the secret plans and saves her, and Obi-wan arranges transportation with a Jedi “Dude” mind trick before dog-fighting their way to the hidden rebel base… er, I/O port. Let’s not talk about the light sabers that have been thrown in on top of the killer Frisbees.

Fortunately, the cast is the film’s final ace in the hole that keeps it from falling off the edge. Jeff Bridges infuses his performance with a digital-hippie cyber-dude vibe, stealing every scene he appears in. Garrett Hedlund’s Sam seems more an athlete than white hat hacker, but the idea of excelling at both gives his character a dangerous edge on or off the grid. Olivia Wildedoes capable-yet-innocent well with her personification of Quorra, and while it would be easy to dismiss her performance as pure eye candy, her character saves both father and son more than enough times to warrant her own rescue when the occasion calls for it.

Fans of the original Tron film will find plenty of Easter eggs to please throughout the film: a battle tank on the streets, the namesake of one particular young executive on the ENCOM board, and a few character secrets that unfamiliar audiences will have to wait until the film chooses to reveal them. Tron: Legacy is fun to imagine as a world on the inside might be, a character unto itself complete with a voice provided by Daft Punk’s electronic soundtrack. While it would have been nice to see a tighter, more action-oriented sequel, Tron: Legacy comes dangerously close to drowning itself in back story and narrative, and that’s the kind of thing that should have been saved for all the future sequels Disney has planned (should Legacy prove a success.)

(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)
2.5 skulls out of four

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About Grim D. Reaper

Host of MovieCrypt.com. With my likeness being used in hundreds of films without permission, film critique isn’t dead until I SAY it is.
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6 Responses to Review: 'Tron: Legacy'

  1. Nate says:

    The reviewer claimed the “bad guy” didn’t want to do anything heinous. Well *spoiler alert* you remember the army that CLU assembled, and was planning on taking into our world. That seemed to me pretty bad. But I’m not a critic or an idiot so I guess that’s why I figured it out.

  2. The reviewer (aka myself) presented as spoiler-free review as I could. That said…

    ***SPOILER ALERT***

    What EXACTLY was CLU and his army going to do? Bleed to death? Pop out one at a time into an arcade before wandering outside and getting hit by a car? We were told it was something and assumed it to be something bad, but as “the reviewer” said, everything CLU (the aforementioned “bad guy”) did seemed more to get Kevin Flynn’s attention in the worst possible “Pay attention to me!” kind of way. This seems even more obvious after the confrontation on the I/O bridge at the end.

    ***END SPOILER***

  3. ***SPOILER ALERT*** ***SPOILER ALERT*** ***SPOILER ALERT***

    To be honest, my passing rating was generous; I love the world of Tron and Tron:Legacy, but the script has serious problems. To address them specifically, plot points must be pointed out.

    #1 CLU’s Plan is Rife with Obvious, Dangerous Flaws

    First, he sends a page, once that could easily have lured someone to the arcade and simply unplug or delete “the grid;” game over. If a user should foolishly beam themselves in, wouldn’t CLU know where that would be (the virtual Flynn’s arcade?) And since the black guards are rounding up rogue programs for games and reprocessing, shouldn’t they be looking out for a user? Sam is nearly killed multiple times before he’s brought to CLU’s attention. If he needed a bargaining chip against Kevin Flynn, a dead user wouldn’t be much of one.

    #2 A Not-So Perfect System Doing… What?

    The isomorphs seemingly sprang from the grid’s existence, but where did the other non-isomorph programs come from? Kevin Flynn says CLU can’t create programs, only re-purpose them (into his personal army like he did with Tron.) Does that mean Kevin Flynn CAN create new programs? Why hasn’t he? For guards, personal servants, infiltrators? And other programs, it seems, enjoy recreation, like Castor’s bar, but what do these programs do for their “day jobs?” Who are the programs in the audience of the light cycle colosseum? Heck, what exactly is everyone eating at Kevin Flynn’s dinner table?

    #3 The Quorra Conundrum

    For all the unanswered questions, however, there may be a “phantom menace” lurking underneath it all. Quorra’s arrival at Kevin Flynn’s is flimsy at best, masked by innocence and a pretty face. If CLU destroyed all the isomorphs but this one survived, could this be one programmed by CLU (or even a sleeper) expressly for the purpose of forcing Kevin Flynn to make a move? Taken from this point, Quorra may be an advanced infiltrator/scout, meaning CLU knew who she was, where Kevin was, and even the “army” was all staged to get Quorra out off the grid (would it even work?) and able to make changes “with just a few keystrokes.” Is Quorra human now or something more, or perhaps a covert bad guy about to betray them all? Only a sequel will tell, and that’s a heck of a crutch if Legacy is strictly setup for a trilogy.

    ***END SPOILER*** ***END SPOILER*** ***END SPOILER***

  4. QuantumForce says:

    I was a bit sceptic frankly about Tron Legacy being a fan of the first film but was pleasantly surprised. Problem with Tron was that it is a sequel based on a film which very few people remember let alone seen. So to the uninitiated many aspects of the film will be lost as are not clearly explained. Although for fans like myself it could have been much worse and am relieved it turned out as well as it did. Tron was ahead of it’s time when it came out almost 30 years ago. The Internet was non existent and computers were barely a blip on the radar. I remember having my TRS-80 spending hours programing code just to get my screen to make a sound or flash an object across it. I can relate to what Flynn has said in the beginning of the film as I to had dreamed what was possible. This is lost on many non tech people today as we don’t give it a second thought. Tron legacy certainly could have been better in the plot department but would it have worked really? You make it to accessible and upset the fans saying it was not based in fact and unrealistic.

    Tron much like the matrix asks the questions we don’t want to answer. How far is to far and can technology turn on us. Contrary to what many people may think Tron is closer to reality then many people may believe. We already are in the beginning stages of quantum computers, carbon tubes which can mimic siapis responses in your brain. In addition to nanotechnology which will change just about everything we know about technology for better or worse. Clu is just the kind of manifestation that could happen if we aren’t careful how and in what what ways we use this new found freedom. People and technology can exist but only if people remain the users so to speak. It won’t be as easy as just changing a few few strokes. The genie will already be out of the bottle so to speak. All in all Tron Legacy is as good as I could have hoped for. The soundtrack alone is worth the price of admission. Could it have been better, sure but would that have really changed peoples view on it, likely not!!

  5. Greg says:

    Query: I may need to re-watch to confirm, but is it CONFIRMED that CLU sent the page? I grant that this IS the most likely explanation considering that Kevin Flynn confirmed he did not, but a very “interesting” possibility is that TRON sent the page. Considering that:
    a) It was sent to Alan’s pager (TRON’s “user”)
    b) TRON (unlike everyone else) would have a clear and obvious reason to want Alan (specifically) in the grid (since he’s shown to not be ENTIRELY “controlled”)
    c) Alan is the only other “known” user potentially capable of fixing things
    d) TRON made contact with his user in the original TRON movie

    Watching the movie and reflecting on it, I’m fairly certain the plot says the page came from CLU, likely for nothing more elaborate than he needed SOMEONE to open the portal and Alan is the only other “known” user (and we are told that it MUST be opened from outside, WHY it’s wanted open is another fair question, but the “why” of the page seems pretty obvious). But it makes for an interesting twist (IMO) if it came from TRON.

  6. Did CLU admit to sending the page?

    I’ve asked around about this, and viewers I’ve spoken to seem to recall that he admitted this. But if CLU actually admitted this to Sam, why was it such a revelation when Sam told Kevin Flynn about the page and Kevin denied it? I’m beginning to think Kevin himself was the only one who actually said that CLU must have sent it, but what if he was wrong? CLU certainly allowed Sam to think whatever he wanted, but maybe it was indeed TRON himself who sneaked off to send the message!

    The conspiracy deepens…

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