MOVIE REVIEW: Tron Legacy
Let’s get one thing straight: the original “Tron” was not a good movie. It was incredibly innovative and creative for its time, but it was most definitely not good. I managed to sit through it last year in preparation for this year’s impending sequel. And by “sit through it”, I mean “be bored out of my mind and multi-task with my Nintendo DS while watching it”. There were some great ideas and concepts in “Tron”, but the movie by and large was poorly acted, slowly-paced, and boring. There’s a reason, after all, why no one remembers anything from that movie except the Light Cycles. So color me surprised when I walked out of “Tron Legacy” tonight with a smile on my face and no begrudging of Disney for taking $24 from my wife and I to see this film.
First thing’s first: the special effects are spectacular or whatever and I don’t care. No, really. I don’t. This will probably be the one and only positive review of this movie that doesn’t ramble on about the special effects, but they truly mean nothing to me. They were nice and did their job, end of story. Now let’s talk about stuff that’s actually interesting.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you won’t be surprised that there are disc battles and Light Cycles and even Light (uh) Fighter Jets. They’re used sparingly and give the movie some fun action to balance out all of the plot and exposition they’re sandwiched between. And don’t be fooled by the “PG” rating–this is one of the more violent movies I’ve seen in years. You see characters get cut in half, have their heads blown off, explode into pieces, and all sorts of crazy shit. There is death, darkness, and violence everywhere.
And that darkness is also the dominant atmosphere of the movie’s plot. The worlds inside and outside of The Grid are dark, and the main characters are flawed and coping with the darkness both inside of and around them. After his father’s disappearance 20 years ago, young Sam Flynn became an irresponsible, directionless dropout in life. Sam stumbles into The Grid that his father created and disappeared into, and enters into a battle to save both The Grid and the real world. Sam needs to find answers and closure in his relationship with his father before he can truly grow up and assume responsibility as a man. Meanwhile, elder Flynn needs to come to grips with the mistakes he’s made in his life both as a father and a God in order to set things right within the world he was born in and the world he himself created.
As far as acting goes, it’s all pretty competent. Jeff Bridges is at least as good as Flynn in this film as he was in the original (which isn’t saying much), and his co-stars playing Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) and Quorra (Olivia Wilde) are acceptable. Quorra seemed like a bit of a Mary-Sue character at first, but ends up having an interesting origin that gives the a bit of intrigue and makes up for other deficiencies in her character. The one outstanding performance in the movie belonged to Michael Sheen, who plays Zuse, a program who totally steals the movie in his 5-8 minutes of screentime. His performance was so animated, charismatic and over-the-top that it was absolutely captivating. When you have a villain in a hardcore serious movie who suddenly starts joyfully dancing around and shooting laser blasts out of his cane like a machine gun, you know that you’re watching something special.
While Jeff Bridges’ acting may not win any awards, the actions taken by his character of Flynn are some of the coolest of the movie. As the literal “God” of this world, he busts out abilities and knowledge that transcend those of anyone or anything else in The Grid. In the rare moments where we get to see old Flynn in action, he is truly awe-inspiring and attention-grabbing. His zen demeanor and unshakable ideals make him a suitable God for this world that he created. In addition, his light-up duster jacket of awesomeness is a particular highlight.
The biggest letdown for me in this movie was the handling of the title character, Tron himself. For a movie with “Tron” in the title, the character of Tron gets precious little screentime. From the omission of Tron in any of the trailers I already had guessed he was going to be evil, but the fact that he only gets about two minutes of awesome fight scenes and about 5 seconds of actual character development is a real disappointment. Yes, the “Tron” movies are about The Grid and the experiences of the Flynns within it, but Tron is a central character that should have been treated with more respect than he received here. As it is, Tron’s plotline is rushed and left totally open-ended at the end of the movie (not in a good way).
Overall: To be blunt, I was surprised by the overall quality of the plot of this movie. This movie combines a deep and interesting plot, great action sequences, amazing special effects, and a superb score by Daft Punk to be one of the most fun movies I’ve seen this year. Don’t get me wrong–this was no American Beauty or anything like that, but it wasn’t the utter waste of brain cells that critics are making it out to be either. There are definitely moments where “Tron Legacy” stumbles along with clumsy plot and characterization, but it also kept me intrigued throughout with compelling reveals and character moments. This movie was always going to be a hit with those who like shiny graphics and impressive action scenes. But surprisingly, for moviegoers who like to see intricate world-building, dynamic character growth, and philosophical debates–this movie is for you too.