(PG) Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen
For all the lo-tech glory of the 1982 original film, somehow it is still better than this sequel some 20-odd years later — even with the awesome technological advances made since then.
Tron Legacy is visually spectacular. Everything about the film should have worked. Shot in 3D to give the sort of immersive experience you would expect, with amazing sound design and a soundtrack by Daft Punk, which recalls ’80s electronica and feels totally new at the same time. But the film feels hollow in the centre — lacking both heart and direction.
Early on the warning signs are there. The first third of the film is almost entirely action — despite the visuals (particularly the awesomely updated light cycles) the film starts to feel a little like a video game, with amazing action but nothing really to care about.
It opens in 1989, the day before Kevin Flynn (a digitally de-aged version of Jeff Bridges) disappears into the “grid” and his company is left without a figurehead.
His company Encom survives and film moves to the present. Encom is about to launch a new operating system when it is hacked by Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the renegade heir to his father’s company, who believes their system should be “open source” rather than “user pays”.
When Sam investigates a strange signal sent from the old Flynn’s Arcade — a signal that could only come from his father — he finds himself pulled into a digital grid where Kevin has been trapped for 20 years.
With the help of the fearless warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde), father and son embark on a life-or-death journey across a visually stunning digital landscape created by Kevin that has become far more advanced, with vehicles, weapons, landscapes and a ruthless villain, Clu, who will stop at nothing to prevent their escape.
As a fan of the original, I was hoping that with the new technology available they would really be able to realise the digital world, with its light cycles and solar sailors, the way its creator (Steve Lisberger) couldn’t in the ’80s. This has been achieved … it’s just the story that seems to be in need of a makeover.
There is a scene about 45 minute into the film which gave me hope, when Sam and Kevin are re-united. Finally there was some solid connection. But this quickly dissipates into more action, needless exposition and frustratingly disjointed direction.
Thematically the film delves into the creator vs the created, and how humanity is and isn’t caught in Tron’s digital world. And a coda seems to suggest that, despite the wonders of the digital world, it’s the real world for which even the digital inhabitants yearn.
Essentially it should really be about the son coming to save the father but we also get exposition about the history of the network, how Flynn, Clu and Tron discover a perfect race — which is all but wiped off the grid when Clu goes rogue — and other details which serve to pad out what, at its core, should be a simple story.
Frustratingly, this film just doesn’t work as well as it should.