Whatever mystique and allure the nascent world of computers held for moviegoers when Tron arrived in theaters in 1982 has certainly bypassed a generation raised on the Web and wireless communications. Which is why the very conceit of the Tron films that they take place within the digital realm cant be expected to capture the imagination of modern audiences.
Fortunately, the visual representation of that world in Tron: Legacy is far more elaborate than that of its progenitor. But the artwork seems less an imaginative realization of the grid as its called than a nightmarish technospace of the future. And while its visually arresting, the design is also somewhat puzzling and disappointing, as the environment and its inhabitants regularly abide by the same laws of nature as our world on terra firma.
returns as computer genius Kevin Flynn, both in the present and as his younger self, as well as his digital counterpart, Clu. The CGI work to render the youthful Flynn is well done, and if its not totally believable, its of small consequence neither is the rest of the movie.
Tron: Legacys attempt at mining for depth of meaning is vague to the point that it becomes useless to try and make sense of it. The elder Flynns talk of utopia, digital frontiers and biodigital jazz carries no weight except to serve as some kind of justification for his obsession and self-imposed exile. And even on those points, the film contradicts itself to maddening effect. At least the original Tron could hang its hat on the accessible theme of corporate underhandedness.
This time around, Flynns son Sam has arrived to save his father from the digital world. But that noble motive plays flat because Sam doesnt do much of anything to earn our admiration or rooting interest. As played by Garrett Hedlund, he is a somewhat sulky 27-year-old with none of his fathers charisma. On the plus side, Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon) memorably chews the scenery in his small role as a club impresario, and Olivia Wilde is a vision of loveliness as Quorra, some sort of spontaneous digital life form.
At times Tron: Legacy includes touches that recall 2001 and Star Wars, but to no overall purpose. Its a shame because the direction by Joseph Kosinski, in his big-screen debut, is actually quite good and deserves a far better script. But much like its predecessor, the film plods along with little to maintain interest but its visual eye-candy. When Tron: Legacy sticks to those images and the pulsing soundtrack by Daft Punk, its an intoxicating diversion. It would be no surprise if, like the original, the movie develops a cult following. What wont change is that its not very good.