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Tron: The Less-than Legacy

Movie Review: Tron: Legacy (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Tron: Legacy takes off more than twenty years after the events of the original 1982 film. Do you happen to remember the first movie? Were you alive when it was made? Two of the main stars of this film weren’t. How did it affect you? What impressions did it make on you? Well, as it turns out, it doesn't really matter.

Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is the son of Encom Industries video game and software designing tycoon, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who inexplicably vanished from the scene twenty years back. After hacking into his father's former company, Sam is led to revisit the last place his father was known to be, only to find himself injected into the same world of digital disaster that has been home to his father for so long. 

As stated, it doesn't matter whether you remember the first Tron or not. That film held a marginal place of honor in its time. While rather shallow in its appeal, it was the journey of imagination that resulted from its viewing that made it worthwhile, working in conjunction with its dazzling special effects. The new film has significantly less appeal, but you needn't recall a thing about the original to appreciate this very juvenile show of neon light-accompanied acrobatics if that’s what you seek.

How the world of Tron came to be the way it appears is only explained in terms of a new type of life birthed from complex code sequences. Such geek talk is not new and not really that fascinating, as films of the last decade and before have been holding in awe mysterious code causations. But once you learn that Tron: Legacy is a remake (if you didn't already know), that concern quickly goes out the window because you then know that things look the way they do because they had to in order to honor the original film.

These 1980s sounds that faithfully make the viewer recall the decade, together with the colorful combos and shapes that tickle the imagination, are a keen recreation. Would that they didn’t come from a time when people still thought this is how our future would look. It seems a little awkward here, even when a whole new generation can enjoy this techno-perky journey of geeky goodies and excitement in a land where pointless and deadly games are fought in an arena out on an unexplained and unexplainable desire to compete.

Tron: Legacy does stay true to the original film somewhat well, or at least within an acceptable framework. No need to pick apart discrepancies of continuity between this and the original because what we have here is another tale, the underlying message of which is what The Matrix and a hundred other scifi films were trying to get across: “We are moving too far too fast technologically! Woe is us!” We need to stop and admire a sunset and learn before it’s too late that imperfection was really perfection all along. Not a bad message, but one we’ve been getting from our sci-fi for quite some time.

With the irregularities in theme and focus similar to a cologne commercial from the 1990s, things go from Sam's journey into the (for some reason) competition-obsessed world of Tron to his meeting Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a creation of pure coding who fights with Kevin and Sam against Clu (also played by Jeff Bridges), Kevin's grid creation-turned-conquering nemesis (and one of the least successful attempts at portraying a conqueror I’ve yet to see).

When not in disk battles and to-the-death cycle races that Sam seems to be remarkably good at, despite having no experience whatsoever, bizarre and unlivable characters like Michael Sheen's “Zuse” raise eyebrows as they seem to be more of something you'd find in a Star Wars intergalactic bar than in something created in a computer code abstraction set in motion by a genius.

This “strange bedfellows” sci-fi concoction that is supposed to lay down a thick layer of nostalgia runs along less than smoothly before the door is opened for plays on the subjects of the spontaneous generation of the first particles leading to computer life and how the earliest isomorphic creations “came into being” when conditions were right. Such is perfect jargon that cleverly opens the door for debates on the origin of our existence.

The first Tron was by no means a great film, but this film – unlike the earlier attempt to express our feelings of woe of fast-expanding technology  – is not even a successful one and cannot be expected to make phenomenal impressions.

The entire effort is undercut by a cheesy melodrama that gets worse towards its end. The emotionally withdrawn and juvenile characters are all alike in that they have strikingly little to say, giving us the sum total of what Tron: Legacy has to offer—surprisingly limited excitement to go with a sappy sentimental lean. This one won’t win over the bulk of audiences.

(JH)

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Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: PG (for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language)
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Summary: The son of a virtual world designer goes looking for his father and ends up inside the digital world that his father designed.
Starring: Jeff Bridges "Kevin Flynn" / "Clu," Garrett Hedlund "Sam Flynn," Olivia Wilde "Quorra," Bruce Boxleitner "Alan Bradley" / "Tron," James Frain "Jarvis," Beau Garrett "Gem," Michael Sheen "Castor" / "Zuse"
Genre: Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi / Thriller
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