Maybe I expected too much. Maybe technology has changed so much since the first Tron that the allegories don’t make sense anymore. Maybe Tron: Legacy is just a bad movie.
The original Tron was a story of a young software engineer who hacks his way into a corporate mainframe to prove that they stole his work. In the process he is transported into the computer world (The Grid) where Programs take on the appearance of the Users who wrote them. An evil overlord makes those Programs who believe in the outside world of Users battle each other. Weird and trippy for the days of 1982 when computers were still new and bizarre to most people.
Tron: Legacy picks up years after the events of Tron. That software engineer is now the head of the corporation and one day he mysteriously vanishes. Later his son, living off of the stock he has in the company, pulls pranks and stunts on the same corporation to keep his fathers ideals alive. He is enticed to visit his fathers old office and is transported into The Grid. Now his goal is to get back into the real world, rescuing his father (Surprise! He’s been stuck in The Grid the whole time!) and his companion while defeating his fathers nemesis in process.
It’s lots of fun rooting for the underdog in the Everyman vs. Giant Corporation match that is Tron. It is much harder to sympathize with the rich son, Sam Flynn, played adequately by Garrett Hedlund. Meanwhile the father Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges, has a companion, Quorra, played by the gorgeous Olivia Wilde. The character is bland, but there is a reason for that, explained in a sloppy and inadequate manner by the movie. What isn’t explained in the movie is why her lines are delivered in a weird and clumsy manner (after Sam says he knows of Jules Verne she replies “You know him? What’s he like?” and that’s the end of the scene).
Kevin Flynn is Mr. Exposition in this movie. Any time something needs explaining Sam will ask a question and off he goes. There are probably a half dozen such soliloquies, filled with 70’s hippy speak in either reference to the first Tron and/or to make audience remember Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski. To make the connection more obvious they dress him in what appears to be futuristic bath robes.
There are quite a few monologues. They are long and they are boring. They manage to explain too much of one topic (how they can get out of The Grid and into the real world) and don’t explain enough (the slaughter of sentient isomorphic algorithms… on second thought that might be for the better).
This movie is amazing to look at. The use of 3D is mostly used subtly. Only a few times do objects come flying at you. Instead it is used to show depth and height of objects (since the world of The Grid, like most sci-fi cities, is full of astronomically tall skyscrapers). Lighting is used well (though not subtly) with orange designating bad guys and bluish white being the good guys and nearly everything else black.
It is obvious that first time feature film director Joseph Kosinski has a background in video game television ad direction. The action scenes are very well directed and choreographed with amazing slow motion action shots added it. The non-action scenes (such as the monologues mentioned above) do nothing to capture your attention though. You might as well be watching an interview on The Today Show (close-up of Sam asking a question, close-up of Kevin answering, far shot of both, shot over Kevin’s shoulder of Sam nodding).
As you can tell, I didn’t like the movie. That said, as a fan of sci-fi movies I would have very angry with myself if I hadn’t seen it on the big screen in 3D. This is not going to be the cult film that Tron has become. Let’s just hope they leave well enough alone and don’t make a third.