The original Tron was a groundbreaking film. It wasn’t particularly good, but it did something no other film had done before. It created an entire living digital world. It was basically Avatar for 1982. It had great visuals (for its time), but it had no soul. Its sequel, Tron: Legacy, which sported one of the most promising trailers to be released this year, is much the same. It’s a beautiful piece of eye candy that is as hollow as films come.
The story begins in 1989. Kevin Flynn (a young digitized Jeff Bridges) is tucking his son, Sam (played at this age by Owen Best), into bed and telling him a story about Tron, the grid and the so called “miracle” that is about to occur. Afterwards, Flynn heads off to work, but never comes back. He has disappeared and nobody knows where he has gone. Twenty years later, Sam (now played by Garrett Hedlund) is all grown up and living alone. His father’s company, Encom, is being run by others because he refuses to head it himself (which is of little significance to the movie). When one of Flynn’s old friends, Alan (Bruce Boxleitner), who still rocks a pager, receives a page from the number of Flynn’s old rundown arcade, which hasn’t been in operation for many years, Sam goes to check it out. There he stumbles on his dad’s old workspace and, after tinkering around with the controls, accidentally transports himself onto the grid, a digital space where an evil program called Clu (also played by Jeff Bridges) rules and forces programs to compete in a series of games.
At its best, Tron: Legacy is a visually arresting world of fancy and wonderment. At its worst, it’s a superficial piece of nonsense that lacks emotion and an engaging story. Unfortunately, visuals only get you so far. What this movie needed was a different script because the one it has is just awful. The entirety of the film is smothered in boring exposition that drags on for far too long and when it isn’t talking in technological psychobabble, it comes off like a really bad melodrama, taking the already ridiculous dialogue and littering it with over emotional gushiness. In a movie wishing to be fun, that's the wrong road to take.
Similarly, the action is boring and uninspired. Its visuals may be state-of-the-art, but its action certainly isn't. Most of what you see here was presented in the original movie. There’s a disk battle, a light cycle race and more, but the only thing separating it from its predecessor is its shinier coat of paint. And in close combat, it does nothing countless other films haven’t done, merely replacing swords with data disks.
There are some big problems with Tron: Legacy, but there are a myriad of smaller ones as well. As stated, the visuals are very impressive, but its digital recreation of a young Jeff Bridges comes at a price. Because his face is covered by computer effects as Clu, the physical emotion and facial expressions in his performance—which is underwhelming to begin with—are hidden. When he’s acting as the aged Flynn, the effect isn't much better. At times, the Dude from The Big Lebowski surfaces, which is funny if you’re familiar with that movie, but it’s contextually inappropriate and shatters the illusion that you’ve been transported to another world. Likewise, Michael Sheen pops up in a small role and at one point seems to channel the spirit of Charlie Chaplin, which is, again, unfitting in this universe.
Those small problems, which also include random, unnecessary interjections within certain scenes, add up to much more than a mild nuisance and contribute in breaking up the flow of the film. No matter how you cut it, Tron: Legacy just isn’t very good. It’s a shallow, heartless, empty movie with snazzy special effects and little else.
Tron: Legacy receives 1.5/5