A movie like TRON: Legacy confuses the crap out of me. First time director Joseph Kosinski reportedly made a five minute teaser reel, with the help of Jeff Bridges, to show Disney execs his vision for a sequel to the 1982 cult classic. So impressed were the Disney folks with young Mr. Kosinski’s homemade flick that they then handed him a check for $200 million dollars to make this, a continuation of a franchise that died at the box office almost 30 years ago. What did Disney get for their money?
Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) disappeared almost 20 years ago, leaving behind a son. Now, after receiving a page asking him to visit his dad’s abandoned arcade, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) finds himself transported into the same computer program his father has been trapped in all this time. Now father and son must team together and fight their way out if they ever want to see the outside world again.This is perhaps the most anticipated geek film of the year. Let me be clear, I do not mean geek in a derogatory way, trust me. It’s just, let’s face it, if you are really excited about a TRON sequel chances are you’ve got a few comic boxes next to the skeletons in your closet. Disney has also done a fantastic job of promoting this film to a younger audience that wouldn’t know a VHS tape if you hit them on the head with one. Coworkers have told me repeatedly about how their young kids have been bombarded with commercials and promos by the cast during Disney Channel TV shows to the point where there is no question that this will destroy Yogi Bear at the box office this weekend.
Even better for Disney, every penny they spent on the budget can be seen on the screen. I saw this at an IMAX, where they ran a disclaimer at the beginning of the film stating that the first part of the movie was not in 3D, but we should wear our glasses anyway. In a wonderful move that most film crews don’t bother to implement, Kosinski filmed T:L ‘s non-3D scenes in brighter light, so the colors wouldn’t be filtered out by the 3D glasses. The computer world of TRON, “The Grid”, is brought to life in a way that convinces you that Kosinski studied every storyboard from the original film he could get his hands on.
Unfortunately, not every aspect of the production received the same amount of detail of the visual effects. Toward the end of the movie, I had a feeling that I had seen this all before, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Walking out of the theater, it suddenly occurred to me: the Matrix sequels. The writers of T:L, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, bring with them to the film a resume that includes writing for the TV show Lost, and believe me, it shows. Every five minute action sequence is surrounded by 20 minutes of long soliloquies full of fake computery sounding words that you can picture the writers saying to themselves, “The audience will buy this if we make it long enough.” I will admit that the relationships between the characters are well defined.
On the acting side, almost everyone puts in a solid piece of work. There was buzz surrounding the film that Hedlund was a poor choice to anchor the film as Sam, but I found his performance to be fine. Olivia Wilde isn’t called on to do much more than look pretty in a leather jumpsuit and stare in wonder while other characters discuss what to do. Surprisingly, the poorest performance was by Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn, in both young and present day form with the help of CGI effects, and also playing Clu, the ruler of The Grid. Considering that he helped put together the reel that sold the studio on funding this film, this had to have been more a labor of love than a paycheck role for him, but every scene Bridges is in brings the film screeching to a halt.
At the end of the day, the filmmakers have given us something that only ended up preaching to the choir. For all of you that have been eagerly awaiting this for months, I can’t say it’s a waste of your money. The effects will give you what you want, and the younger members of the cast will deliver good enough performances. If you saw the poster for this and thought, “They really made a sequel for that?!?”, I would suggest using your time to finish holiday shopping.