However, while Tron: Legacy succeeds in bringing the universe of the original film alive again, in trying to capture the lighting and tone of the original problems emerge. Tron: Legacy is a dark film; only a scene or two takes place in natural lighting. The rest is lit by the neon environment of the digitized world. It's an understandable decision, but one that makes watching Tron: Legacy in 3D nearly impossible. The glasses already take away crisp colors, and Tron: Legacy's muted palette makes seeing everything onscreen, as it's obviously meant to be seen, difficult at best. I found myself taking off the glasses whenever it was apparent the scene didn't involve 3D aspects. And while the 3D was state-of-the-art, I can't recommend paying extra to view it in that format because of the loss of definition.
The StoryAfter the events of Tron, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) created a billion-dollar video game empire and had a son he named Sam. When Sam was just seven, Kevin disappeared, leaving Sam as the sole heir to his fortune. Fast-forward 20 years and Sam's now a 27 year old motorcycle-riding rebel with abandonment issues who irritates the board of his father's company but isn't involved in actually running it.
Everyone, including Sam, believes Flynn just took off one night leaving everything and everyone behind without any word of warning. He doesn't want to be found, and Sam's reached the point where he's shoved away any thought of trying to track down his absent dad. But the truth is a lot more complicated than anyone could possibly imagine as computer-savvy Sam (Garrett Hedlund) discovers when confronted by Flynn's best friend and business partner, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner reprising his role from the first film). Alan tells Sam that Flynn's just paged him, and Sam doesn't want to believe it. But on the off chance there's something to the page, he heads over to the closed-down Flynn's Arcade. There he discovers his dad's hidden office, types away at the computer, and voila! he's digitized and part of the world his dad's been trapped in for two decades.
Flynn's been busy while locked in the grid, expanding the universe he created and trying to stay hidden from his counterpart, Clu (also Jeff Bridges but 20 years younger). He's being helped by Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a fierce but beautiful 'program' (that's what all the characters in the digital world are called) who can handle herself in hand-to-hand combat and out-drive any other program in the digital universe. And it's Quorra who comes to Sam's rescue when he's thrust into a life or death battle immediately upon entering the grid.
The ActingJeff Bridges is charged with playing himself at various stages and in various characters, and he's all Flynn all over again (although there's a nod or two to The Dude in the older version of the character). Bridges doesn't need to do much in the way of action scenes - slamming his fist to the ground is about as much physical exertion as is demanded of him - but he does have to carry the load when it comes to making Tron: Legacy connect on an emotional level with audiences. It's not Bridges' finest role (and neither was Tron), but obviously he's comfortable with the part.
Garrett Hedlund, best known for Friday Night Lights and Four Brothers, is terrific in any scene involving a show of athletic ability. Where he falls short, and this is because of the way the part's written more so than how he plays Sam, is in making the audience root for this kid from start to finish. We learn next to nothing about him throughout the film. Other than the fact he doesn't like the direction his dad's company is going, Sam remains an enigma.
Olivia Wilde is smoldering as Quorra, but looks aren't everything when it comes to this character. Unlike how the writers, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, have crafted the role of Sam, they've given Quorra - a computer program - a real personality and depth. Wilde's Quorra is bad-ass as a female warrior, but she's also got a sensitive side and a sense of wonder. Of the characters introduced in Tron: Legacy, Wilde as Quorra is the most intriguing and best addition to the world of Tron.
The Bottom LineTo be honest, the original Tron did nothing for me, so of all the 2010 year-end films I knew I had to sit through, Tron: Legacy wasn't the one I was most looking forward to taking in. Not that I wasn't interested in what Disney was going to do with the sequel, but nothing about the trailers or clips reached out and grabbed me, and I have no interest in action simply for action's sake. So when I say Tron: Legacy nearly won me over, you'll understand it was a tough sell.
Tron: Legacy, when the 3D glasses don't completely mute the color, is beautifully put together. The 3D effects themselves aren't gimmicky but instead enhance the experience, although I'd still suggest going without if you're easily frustrated by difficult to make out scenes. Director Joseph Kosinski's architectural background obviously played heavily into how he visualized Tron: Legacy coming together, and his rookie effort is truly jaw-dropping at times. But as I said at the beginning of this review, the story lets the visuals down. Tron: Legacy could have been so much more if not for a plot that feels rushed rather than 20 years in the making.
GRADE: B-/C+ (B+ for the visuals and action, C- for the story)
Tron: Legacy was directed by Joseph Kosinski and is rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language.
Theatrical Release: December 17, 2010