“The Only Rule is Survival*”
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner and Michael Sheen
Twenty years after the disappearance of his father, software pioneer Kevin Flynn (Bridges), Sam Flynn (Hedlund) is a troubled young man. Receiving a message from his father, he visits Flynn senior’s old arcade and is transported into the virtual world of the Grid, where a program with his father’s face rules a fascist dystopia.
Rescued by a program named Quorra (Wilde), Sam learns that the world of the Grid has been distorted by Clu (the other Bridges) in the obsessive quest for perfection, including the genocide of a race of emergent intelligent programs who emerged from the Grid. Betrayed by the former resistance leader Zuse (Sheen, channeling David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and a bucket of drugs), Sam, Quorra and old Flynn must make a dash for the portal to the ‘real’ world, before Clu can take an army of militarised programs through on a mission of conquest.
What’s wrong with it?
Ultimately, Tron was not one of those films that cried out for a sequel, especially not twenty-eight years after the fact. In its day it was revolutionary, but a decade after The Matrix the concept isn’t new and of course the film is stuck with the choice of abandoning the look of the original or being incredibly dated.
The plot of Tron: Legacy isn’t particularly novel, and hangs on a few leaps of logic.
The science is… not good. If the idea of a world inside computers populated by anthropomorphic programs that spend their time in gladiatorial games was one that was convincing in 1982, it doesn’t really hold up in a more technosavvy era.
There is apparently no manifestation of technological progress in the Grid.
The fundamental premise that the code which makes up an adaptive, intelligent computer program could cure cancer is… Well, in all honesty I can’t say, but it does seem a little unlikely.
The female characters are a little weak. Quorra is super-competent, but in awe of the (male) Users, while the only other named female Program is basically window-dressing for Zuse. There is little development across the board, with most of the characters ending the film much as they began it, if they don’t die.
What’s right with it?
Tron: Legacy goes all in from beginning to end, without any reticence or embarrassment in what it is.
The film takes that choice between modern and retro and creates an updated Grid that perfectly balances the two options with a sleek, striking design that harks back to the original, but looks modern. A large part of it comes just from swapping out the pale. matte base suits of the original for glossy black as part of the darkening of the world.
Garrett Hedlund offers a pretty basic Sam, but the rest of the performances are all top notch. Bridges is far better as the Zen cyber-Dude Kevin Flynn than the dictator Clu, but not bad as either. Sheen eats up his brief role as Zuse. Wilde’s Quorra is perhaps the most impressive, combining the character’s competence with a childlike eagerness which somehow manages not to be annoying.
How bad is it really?
Tron: Legacy is a beautiful, but ultimately rather cool experience. Ironically, given its conceits, it is technically brilliant, but lacking in soul, produced to within an inch of its narrative life. It’s a shame, because it looks great.
Best bit (if such there is)?
There are a lot of slick action scenes, but my favourite bits are when old Flynn is channeling the Dude, accusing Sam of ‘really messing with my Zen thing’, or hanging out to knock on the sky and listen to the noise.
What’s up with…?
- The world-changing magic of the Isos? How does the base code of a ‘digital lifeform’ hold the keys to curing cancer?
- The rocky wilds of the off-Grid? It makes sense that the Grid is laid out like a city, but why is the wilderness rocky?
Production values – Oh, by heck this film is gorgeous, and the music perfectly compliments the visuals. 4
Dialogue and performances – The performances are good, but there is a lot of the dialogue that just… rambles rather, throwing ideas around rather than developing anything. 9
Plot and execution – The basic story works through pretty straightforwardly, but the character development surrounding it is lacking. 10
Randomness – Zuse is a big pile of random; the rest is not too bad. 7
Waste of potential – Given the immense pile of money, production and talent thrown at this thing… it should have been more coherent. 9