I still have some conflicts about whether “Tron: Legacy” is really necessary for us. “Tron”, its predecessor in 1982, showed the audience the initial potential of CGI with the world they had never seen before. The movie looks now quite dated after many years of rapid CGI techniques developments, but, while becoming the product of its own time, its special effects have that discreet charm of old special effects. Plus, the movie still retains the pioneer spirit of people behind the movie, who really wanted to create something new with their limited abilities and resources. That is why I find “Tron” a fun movie though I was not even born yet around when they were making it. I liked its world – giggling at its dated aspects was an extra fun.
It is needless to say that maintaining its original looks of this unreal world is out of question, considering how much progress they have made in Hollywood after that. Things have changed during last 28 years, and even an independent filmmaker can work with his own computer for creating CGI on the screen nowadays, as shown in Gareth Edwards remarkable movie “Monsters”. If you have enough money, you can do almost anything on the screen.
Because “Tron: Legacy” is an expensive blockbuster movie made by a major Hollywood studio with a big budget, the world shown in the 1982 movie is now re-created and polished by the computers whose capacity exceeds those used in that time. The movie certainly looks fabulous on the screen. But we cannot help but ask this; is it as revolutionary as “Tron”? My answer is absolutely no, and the movie is not so remarkable in the standard of our time. In addition, its polished improvement only bares the main weakness inherent in its predecessor; it is no more than an expensive eye candy.
The movie starts its story several years after Kevin Flynn(Jeff Bridges) became a new CEO of his company at the end of “Tron”. After his adventure in the world inside computer, Flynn had been busy for working on its potential even when he was not working at the company. That meant his only son Sam, who had lost his mother a few years ago, had to deal with his father’s absence although he was taken care of by his grandparents.
One day, after another short but enthusiastic conversation with his son at night, Flynn was suddenly disappeared. More than 20 years has passed since his disappearance without any clues, and Sam(Garrett Hedlund) now becomes a young rebel who does not hesitate to do risky stunts for stealing the new OS program from his father’s company, whose leading major stock owner is none other than him, incidentally. Through Flynn’s co-worker Alan(Bruce Boxleitner, who reprises his roles), Sam gets an unexpected message from his father, and he soon finds himself transferred to the world his father used to talk about.
His father has been very much alive in that world, but, before meeting him, Sam meets Clu, a program modeled after his father. Clu is also played by Jeff Bridges, but what we see on the screen is a younger version of Bridges created by CGI. Like CGI characters in Robert Zemeckis’ animations, a younger image of Bridges has a creepy and inhuman aspect, suitable for a character who comprises of computer codes. Clu has been a ruthless tyrant of his world after betraying and banishing Flynn, and, like any ambitious, megalomaniac dictators, he wants to conquer the world beyond his area – our world. He has been preparing for that plan for many years(or many cycles, shall I say), and only one step is remained for him – that is why Flynn and his son have to stop him as soon as possible.
While not as groundbreaking as “Avatar”, “Tron: Legacy” is a nice visual treat. I enjoyed several objects and designs renovated while being faithful to the 1982 movie. I was personally amused to see the design of a big mirror-like touch screen desk utilized in the meeting room in a brief scene. It still looks as cool as before. The action scenes are sometimes disorienting and not so thrilling in many cases, but they are well-made and pretty good to look at. In case of 3D, this is one of the most comfortable 3D effects because, ironically, you are not conscious of it much while watching it. The real world scenes are shot in 2D, and the computer world scenes are shot in 3D – in the unreal world of light and darkness, the major weakness of 3D effect, dimness, is not much of a big problem. On the whole, the movie primarily focuses on its visuals without any distracting effect, and it admirably succeeds with the propulsive orchestral/electronic score by Daft Punk.
Nevertheless, the story holding this world is too week and bland to be overlooked. Of course, the story was not exactly Academy Award material in case of the 1982 movie, but it was compensated by its unadulterated trial to break into the undiscovered world against many limits. But now, with boundless possibilities from advanced CGI technology, the story of “Tron: Legacy” has lots of possibilities to deal with its interesting ideas, rather than merely showing them on the screen.
Unfortunately, the movie does not do much besides dazzling us with its visuals. One of the lost potentials in the screen in the movie is Quora, a program who has assisted Flynn for a long time and comes to be emotionally(is it right expression?) involved with Sam. There is a touching scene where she asks him about the world outside, but the movie has ultimately wastes this character’s potentials. It also should be mentioned that the movie did a disservice to its title character, Tron, who appears not much in the movie.
With bland story and characterization, it is necessary for the actors to fill the holes in the movie with their presences, and they all do good jobs. It is clear that Bridges is having fun with dual roles. His presence was a major asset in the 1982 movie, and he again holds the movie quite well. I especially like the way he makes Flynn look like a wiser, calmer version of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski in “The Big Lebowski”(1998) – one of great characters in his career. Garrett Hedlund is a little too bland but it is not bad considering his weak character. Olivia Wilde is attractive while holding her place well, and Michael Sheen is flamboyant as the nightclub owner program.
I have to remind you again that I don’t regard the movie as highly as “Tron”. The first one is an eye candy which also was something new, and it is still a landmark in the special effects history. While wonderful to look at as itself, “Tron: Legacy” is still more and less than an eye candy – with a cynical purpose of merchandising. I still think they should have a more developed story for what we can do now with CGI, but, what the hell, I looked at the screen with amusement and fascination. As a matter of fact, after enduring an abysmal movie “The Last Godfather”, I was enlivened by the movie; I wanted to recommend it to kids rather than that dreadful comedy “intended for kids”. None the less, I will probably forget its images far sooner than those of “Tron”. I envy the audiences who saw “Tron” in 1982.
Well…the first “Tron” was one of the first times that regular audiences were exposed to the fledgling computer counter-culture. Now, with everybody owning their own computer, the gimmick value has become almost non-existent.
I wish that Hollywood would invest more time into developing decent screenplays. A movie can look beautiful, but without a decent screenplay backing it up, it is worthless.
SC: I agree to that.