A few things to mention right off the bat going into this review of Tron: Legacy. The first being that the original early 80’s film Tron just isn’t that good. Sure, it had state of the art visuals and took you inside an amazing computer world known as The Grid. But from a story perspective, the original film meandered and didn’t often make sense. And while it’s developed a cult following in the nearly 30 years since it’s release, it really is best remembered for it’s admittedly groundbreaking visuals than anything else.
The second thing you need to know, should you be contemplating seeing Tron’s big budget sequel is that you really don’t need to know much, if anything, about the original. Tron; Legacy is both an honest sequel and in many ways a reboot of the original film, much the same way Superman Returns was. The story is pretty coherent compared to the first – game designer Kevin Flynne (Jeff Bridges) has been missing for years until his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) discovers he’s been trapped in the computer world of The Grid, now ruled by a corrupted version of the program he created, Clu (a de-aged Bridges). It’s up to Sam to get himself and his dad (The Users) back home while ensuring the inhabitants of The Grid (The Programs) don’t get out.
The story is simple enough and is actually far easier to make heads or tails out of than the original Tron. But for a film like this, you’re not really coming for the story. After the last three years of insane pre-promotion (from Comic-Con trailers to Light Cycle displays to viral messaging), if you’re walking into Tron: Legacy you’re looking to have your mind blown my insane visuals. Well, there’s no question that you’re going to get that in abundance. Me and my compatriots saw the film in 3D (not IMAX 3D) and I can tell you, we were all completely captivated by what was on the screen. The budget of the film, something along the lines of $170 million, is right there for all of us to marvel at. The Grid is a completely immersive visual and virtual city and perfectly suited to the 3D experience, not to mention the theater experience. If you’re inclined to see Tron: Legacy, make sure you cough up the dough and see it on the big screen. We’re in Blade Runner territory here when it comes to raising the visual bar.
While the young leads (Hedlund and Olivia Wilde as the ISO Quorra) assert themselves well, and Michael Sheen has a brilliant turn as the Bowie-esque Zuse, when it comes to acting, this movie is all Jeff Bridges. The actor was involved with a sequel to Tron even before it received a green light, which makes it clear how invested he was in the project. Whether playing an altered younger version of himself or as the grizzled 60-something he is, Bridges is never less than captivating when he’s on the screen, even in those moments where one might say he’s a little too Dude-like.
A fine visual and aural feast (Daft Punk’s soundtrack perfect for this film) melded with a story about fathers and sons, Tron: Legacy is vastly superior to the first and definitely worth your time if you’re a fan of innovation and visual design. It’s taken the cues from the first and reenergized and reimagined them into something entirely unique. Oh, and one third and final thing you should know. To get the full effect of the visuals, one might to indulge in a few mind-altering substances before settling in for the two hour film.
I didn’t, and I wish I did.