Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Olivia Wilde, Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, Michael Sheen, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Yaya DaCosta
RunTime: 2 hrs 7 mins
Released By: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Official Website: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/tron/
Opening Day: 16 December 2010
TRON: LEGACY is a 3D high-tech adventure set
in a digital world that’s unlike anything ever
captured on the big screen. Sam Flynn
(GARRETT HEDLUND), a rebellious 27-year-old,
is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his
father Kevin Flynn (Oscar®- and Golden Globe®-
winner JEFF BRIDGES), a man once known as
the world’s leading video-game developer. 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 world 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 visuallystunning
cyber universe—a universe created by
Kevin himself that has become far more advanced
with never-before-imagined vehicles, weapons,
landscapes and a ruthless villain who will stop at
nothing to prevent their escape.
It’s been a 28-year wait for fans of the sci-fi fantasy “Tron”, the 1982 original a costly flop when it was first released which eventually amassed a cult following for its gamer sensibility and breakthrough visual effects. That following was enough for Disney to decide to invest US$170m into this sequel, an aesthetically startling piece of sleek, shimmering entertainment that more than lives up to the legacy of its predecessor.
From the opening digital Disney logo, “Tron: Legacy” astounds with its dazzling visuals courtesy of first-time director Joseph Kosinski and his art direction team (led by Kevin Ishioka, who also worked on last year’s Avatar). Kosinski and his team have taken the basic design templates of Steven Lisberger’s original and applied the latest advances in CGI technology to create a totally immersive experience that stays true to the look and feel of its predecessor while expanding it in scope and imagination.
The modern-day Tron universe is a stormy, blacklit landscape with towering skyscrapers and crystal highways drawn in electroluminescence. It is a world populated by programmes (basically, digital denizens of Tron) dressed in skintight glowing suits and carrying light discs as their power source cum data bank, a world traversed by the use of motorcycles that streak mesmerising liquid-like ribbons of light. Every frame of this CG environment is fascinating, and in geek-speak, beyond cool.
Complementing the gorgeous visuals is the pulsating electronic score by dance-music duo Daft Punk, pumping unique verve and life into the action and emotion in the film. The duo also make an appearance as the house DJs in the one-and-only futuristic nightclub sequence in the movie, led by Michael Sheen’s OTT Bowie-esque owner Zuse. Indeed, it’s hard to overstate the visceral experience that Kosinski has detailed in his contemporary vision of Tron, right down from the stunning images to the virtuoso soundtrack.
The perfect example of this fusion lies in the film’s many exhilarating action sequences, and there are many, beginning with Sam Flynn’s initiation into the Tron universe. That introduction consists of a gladiatorial fight where Sam has to battle first with glowing Frisbees and then atop the aerodynamic light-cycles, both of which also pay homage to perhaps the most memorable elements of the original. The distinct colour schemes (orange and red for the programmes; blue and white for the users or outsiders) add to the visually breathtaking nature of these sequences, choreographed by the same people behind 300 and Ninja Assassin. The film aspires to be a virtual thrill ride, and it fulfils that ambition brilliantly.
While “Tron: Legacy” rests comfortably on the laurels of the technical achievements of its predecessor, it sits less easy on its predecessor’s failings. One of the fairly levelled criticisms of the original “Tron” was the lack of a story; here, no less than three credited screenwriters have tried to compensate it with an overly convoluted story. The father/son reunion narrative between Kevin and Sam plays out nicely enough, but the middle act of the film gets too bogged down by tech mambo-jambo that will likely fly over the heads of most viewers. That exposition really isn’t necessary, since the result of it is a standard world-domination plot in the final act spearheaded by Kevin’s nefarious ‘programme’ alter-ego Cru.
Characters too are just as underwhelming as the original. Our hero Sam is sketched too thinly as the son looking for a long-lost father; and his romance with ‘programme’ warrior-chick Querra (Olivia Wilde) is given scant thought. But more baffling is the film’s reduction of game designer Kevin Flynn to Zen-master spouting incongruous surfer-dude exclamations like ‘radical, man!’ and other equally clunky bits of dialogue throughout the film.
If these characters manage to resonate more than that of the original, that’s because of the excellent father-son chemistry between Jeff Bridges and Garrett Hedlund. The duo emulate genuine warmth aside each other, overcoming the script’s shortcomings to make their characters and the plot more convincing than the sum of the clichéd lines and middling plot of the film. Of course, these inadequacies shouldn’t come across as a surprise to fans of the original.
Indeed, for better and for worse, “Tron: Legacy” is an appropriate sequel to the 1982 film. Like that cult classic, it also boasts superb visuals which, combined with a modern-day dance score and groundbreaking special effects, create an instantly mesmerising experience for its viewers- despite similarly simplistic plot and character development. Still, this is a wholly befitting sequel to the legacy of “Tron”, and will likely add a whole new legion of fans to its following.
(Boasting some of the most dazzlingly stunning visuals you’ll see this year, this sequel reinvents the Tron universe for an immersive and impressive spectacle)
Review by Gabriel Chong