Much like its predecessor, the original Tron of 1982, Tron Legacy arrives under much expectation from Disney and eye-boggling special effects, but again like its predecessor, it’s also a flat affair that might end up, not so much a cult favourite, but an acquired taste, though more for its inspired inclusion of Daft Punk than anything else.
The fact that there are rumours that Disney inexplicably managed to pull many DVDs of the original Tron from US store shelves recently is very telling, the reason being they didn’t want consumers to watch the original and be put off from watching Legacy. Yes after you take off your nostalgia glasses, Tron of 1982 is not actually that great, the premise is wonderful but the story is flawed, the direction mediocre, the special effects unfortunately are extremely dated. In that respect Legacy will have a longer shelf life than its original, and coupled with Disney’s plans for a theme park ride and other miscellaneous money-making schemes, there’s obviously a lot of faith in the sequel, but only casual cinema-goers can decide its fate, not just hardcore fans.
Putting aside these periphery details, the film itself is a passable sci-fi tale of man’s creation run amok, the folly of youthful ambition, the relationship between a long-lost dad, Kevin Flynn, and his anarchistic yet still somehow socially responsible son, Sam. The first half establishes the story for those who haven’t seen the original with a TV montage of Kevin’s Bill Gates-type exploits as founder of ENCOM and his subsequent disappearance. The film only really takes advantage of 3D once Sam is thrust into the ‘grid’ while investigating his father’s old arcade.
The 3D is as you would expect now, it’s…3D. What more can be explained? There’s nothing game-changing, there’s only the weight of the glasses burning into the bridge of your nose. The sooner they get rid of the need for glasses, and that technology already exists, the sooner 3D can be synonymous with comfortable viewing. Within the context of cinema, Avatar still remains the film to beat for a fully 3D immersive experience in my opinion.
The world of Tron Legacy is sleek blue and sharp angles; it all looks very cool, for a while, but then it begins to grate how same-ish the environments are. It’s tiring on the eyes and eventually you’ll wish for a more inspired colour scheme that even the climax of the film can’t manage. In fact one of the biggest problems of the film is that it continually seems to be building to things that never materialise. There’s no world-changing explosion of colour, or a massive war that seems imminent, there’s no real-world antagonist which is almost baffling as they managed to get a real star to have a pointless cameo in the beginning. It just reeks of over-confidence and a misguided way to start (or in this case kick-start) a franchise.
For fans of cyberpunk and sci-fi, the biggest warning is that even though this film is steeped in those genres, you might find it hard to care about anything happening on screen. The antagonist of the film, a creepy-looking recreation of a younger Jeff Bridges called Clu, has a plan that’s as incomprehensible as it is full of holes, the programs populating the world are bland, the only spot of life is a Matrix Reloaded rip off club with a trying-too-hard Michael Sheen and his hot babe sidekick.
Speaking of hot women, Olivia Wilde remains one of the few things in this film that really shines. One would expect a Trinity knock-off from the trailers, but in actual fact she is almost a complete opposite of Carrie-Anne Moss’s stoic warrior. Olivia ingrains a child-like wonder to her character, one who is curious about life and the world outside of the grid. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and brings more weight to the hype surrounding the actress. She’s not just a pretty face.
Alongside Olivia as a highlight of the film is Jeff Bridges which should come as no surprise as he’s the highlight of any film he appears in. The best thing about him is that he’s almost playing a futuristic version of the Big Lebowski here; his laid back demeanour is a brilliant angle to take with the character. Kudos to the man for not phoning in a performance; consummate professional and all-round awesome dude that he is.
The final highlight of this film is Daft Punk and their brilliant score melding thumping dance beats and Hans Zimmer type orchestral cues. It’s not as original as the hype surrounding it makes it out to be, but it’s still a worthy attempt at future soundscapes. Coupled with Tron visuals however, it really is a thing to behold. The film would actually be more interesting if there was no dialogue, just Daft Punk music.
So another ridiculously expensive blockbuster from Hollywood, another sequel, another disappointment. Legacy has moments of greatness and a genuinely touching final scene, but overall it’s bland ‘save the world from an evil Nazi-type bad guy’ plot is so tiresome in this day and age. James Cameron and Christopher Nolan have shown how originality can still bring butts to seats; will the people in power sit up and listen?
Eh, probably not, but if Legacy makes the kind of money its naysayers are saying it will, then it will at least give Disney pause, and hopefully put more effort into story for the sequel rather than special effects.