The original TRON was considered to be a revelation of visual effects and computer animation upon initial release in 1982. To a generation of kids that have grown up on The Lord of The Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean, though, the film might look no more cutting-edge than the graphics on a screensaver. TRON was a stepping-stone to greater things to come, which will always make it a significant film. However, it isn't one that has aged as well as other technical breakthroughs like Star Wars, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Toy Story or Terminator 2. This isn't so much because the visuals of TRON have become dated, but because the story has always been so generic. Although some may disagree with this accusation, given the minor cult following TRON still maintains today.
Almost 30 years later, Disney finally returns to The Grid with TRON: Legacy. From a technical standpoint, this follow-up from Director Joseph Kosinski is nothing short of outstanding. Kosinski, along with his team of special effects artists and set designers, have brilliantly contemporized the universe of TRON, creating one of the best-looking movies I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the film falls short in the same department of its predecessor. TRON: Legacy is indeed a terrific movie to look at and works perfectly as a special effects extravaganza. If only they had put as much time and effort into the screenplay as they did the visuals.
The film opens in 1989 as a young Kevin Flynn, once again played by Jeff Bridges, reenacts the events of the first movie as a bedtime story to his son, Sam. Kevin is thriving as the CEO of the computer technology corporation, ENCOM. But at the peak of success, Kevin mysteriously vanishes. Sam grows up to be a reckless, yet brilliant, delinquent played by Garrett Hedlund. He's been in jail so many times that he knows the officer at the police impound lot by name. Being the key shareholder of the still highly profitable ENCOM, bail is never a problem for him. Sam goes to his father's abandoned arcade one night where he discovers a secret room. After playing around with a computer he finds there Sam is transported to The Grid, the digital world from the first movie.
The Grid has been taken over by a program named CLU, who looks like an eternally youthful version of Bridge's 30-year-old self. CLU is another ingenious technical creation, brought to life through the same aging equipment that was seen in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Sam eventually teams up with his now much older father and Quorra, his ward played by Olivia Wilde. CLU, who was originally created to be an ally, has trapped Kevin in The Grid. It is CLU's ambition to travel through the portal so he can take over the world of the users. Everything relies on Sam, Kevin and Quorra getting to the portal first.
Hedlund and Wilde have fun with their performances, as does Bridges in a duel role. If there's one misfire in the cast it's Michael Sheen as a nightclub owner named Zeus. Normally I like Sheen in just about anything. But he misses here as a character that comes off Jude Law's character in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence meets Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka. Luckily his character is reduced to a trivial cameo.
A TRON animated series is currently in the works and another TRON theatrical release probably won't be far behind. The world of TRON is such a unique one with so many possibilities that I do look forward to seeing the franchise continue. I just wish that TRON: Legacy had done more with this incredible world instead of becoming a routine action picture.
All in all, I did have a good time at TRON: Legacy. The film may not be as much fun as J. J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot or have the same sense of awe that elevated Avatar. But it definitely runs circles around The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Speed Racer and a certain M. Night Shyamalan catastrophe that will remain nameless. Here's what it basically comes down to: You want a movie with great visuals that's not too violent for younger audiences, this is the movie for you. If you want something more, though, you might be better off renting Inception.