TRON: Legacy, 2010.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski.
Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Bruce Boxleitner, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen and James Frain.
Investigating the disappearance of his father Kevin (Jeff Bridges), Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is drawn into the digital world of ‘The Grid’.
Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is looking for his father, Kevin (Jeff Bridges), missing since 1989. Drawn into a dark and dusty arcade, Sam stumbles across his father’s old computer, still in sleep mode from 20 years ago (who’s paying that electricity bill?). He activates a laser, the laser zaps him into Flynn’s computer.
So we’ve stepped through the wardrobe, fallen down the rabbit-hole, followed the yellow brick road. So? What’s the twist? Why is this different? Backtrack a moment and re-consider that tagline. Sam Flynn gets zapped into Kevin Flynn’s dusty old computer, locked away beneath an abandoned arcade. His father’s computer. This computer contains Flynn Senior’s life’s work. Effectively, this is his waking mind; his every thought digitalized and personified as sleek, sexy programs in neon wetsuits. Whichever way you put it, Sam is walking around in his father’s head. This seriously messes with Flynn’s “Zen thing”.
This kind of concept in a script can only be a good thing when its actors are stuck acting on green-screen sets to bits of marker tape and dangling tennis balls. Young leads Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde do the best job any actors could in their position, caught between the gurns and gasps of over-acting (Michael Sheen, come out with your hands up) and the bland, robotic gestures of the Programs.
Wilde distinguishes herself from Hedlund’s more straitlaced performance, playing wiry waif Quorra with eye-catching curiosity and a subtle quirkiness. That said, even her eyebrow gymnastics can’t distract from the central performance of TRON: Legacy. His Dudeness, Jeff Bridges, is back in the TRON universe, and about time. He returns as an older, wiser Kevin Flynn, bringing with him the rugged, manic energy that ties the whole film together.
Bridges also doubles as himself, or rather, a duplicate of himself – a program named Clu, tasked with creating a “perfect world”. Clu stopping aging the moment he was created, so he looks exactly as Flynn did 30 years ago. Digitally de-aged and rendered with surprisingly convincing motion-capture, Clu takes a little getting used to, but as he’s supposed to be a computer program in the first place, the stretch isn’t so far as you might expect.
TRON: Legacy does a surprising amount of stretching, but it’s so damn supple and limber, we never quite catch it out. It all happens so fast, for one thing. Two hours is technically a long film, but it never feels it. Possibly this is down to our energetic protagonist, always in a hurry to get somewhere, find someone, jump off something.
In terms of sheer spectacle then, this is already a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. The depth and the scale of this world within a world defies description; the eyes and the ears are engaged with mesmeric lightshows, impossibly vast simulations and the crackling, sparkling sounds of Daft Punk’s catchy electronica score. There’s terrific, mouth-watering fun to be had with this film, whether you’re entirely new to the concept or you’re an eternal eighties kid who lets out a shameless little “squee” every time he sees Bruce Boxleitner on screen.
Everyone’s agreed: the spectacle and the gasp-factor are handled admirably. Kosinski, though… Kosinski seems to be aiming to create something more than ‘Avatar Inside A Computer’. Judging from the occasional ponderous tone and the sequel-baiting third act, it looks as if he’s aiming for his very own trilogy. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Is the world of TRON a testament to the inspiring influence of cutting-edge technology, or a timely warning against falling in line with the march of progress? Will Marvin the rescue dog get his own spin-off TV series? TRON: Legacy never fully answers these questions, which suits my Zen thing just fine.
End of line.
Simon Moore is a budding screenwriter, passionate about films both current and classic. He has a strong comedy leaning with an inexplicable affection for 80s montages and movies that you can’t quite work out on the first viewing.
Movie Review Archive
Thoughts on… Tron: Legacy
Story Upgrade: Expanding the World of Tron