Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Tron Legacy

In 1982 Space Invaders and Asteroids were in 7/11's, bars and video arcades sucking quarters.  The first Ataris were appearing in homes, and the personal computer was still just wishful thinking for most of us.  When Disney's Tron made its appearance on the big screen the same year, home computing was still a mystery for the average dude, and who had ever heard of the internet?

Tron was was an obscure offering at the time. Or maybe it was just obscure for me. It offered a story of an early computer geek who traveled inside the cyberspace on to "the Grid" creating an alternative world inhabited by "programs" controlled by users.  The electronic reality would be governed by heroes imagined by creator, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges.)  The movie's charm was as much its early CGI as it was its unfathomable story.  But it did have some loose ends to be drawn up by a future sequel.

 Fast forward nearly thirty years to the release of Tron Legacy. Video arcades are a thing of the past, replaced by personal game consoles. Personal computers are ubiquitous. The  grid is no longer a mystery.  We all spend too much time on the 'net.  The grid is something our enemies use to wage war against us, and we against them. The grid is the home of the social network and identity theft, of the blog and Wiki leaks, of and You Tube. The world of computers is no longer new, we know how they work, how they crash when we most need them, the sadness of losing our data to viruses, how we spend every waking hour playing World of Warcraft. Computer neophyte no longer, I brought a certain cynicism to the theater with me.

 Tron Legacy begins with Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges') son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) searching for his father who mysteriously disappeared into the Grid.  When Sam follows him he immediately encounters a world a world far more dangerous than what his father shared with him.  He meets the guardian/ruler of the Grid, CLU, with Bridges' 1982 visage.  CLU rules the Grid much like a Roman emperor, providing bloodsport for the masses of programs in the form of disc battles, light cycle races and other bloodsport in which the loser is de-programmed or destroyed.  Sam escapes the games with the help of Quorra, an Iso, an actual creation of the Grid that were systematically eliminated by CLU, and she takes him to meet his father.  CLU also is after Flynn because he wants his personal data to take an army off the grid and into the real world.  Why?  World conquest, of course, duh.

The second half of the movie is chasing hither and thither to the portal between Flynn's arcade and the grid.  Lots of chasing, lots of de-programming, some explosions and a climactic good-bye between Sam and Flynn.  Very nice CGI.  Yawn.

 This is not one of Jeff Bridges' finest performances, and I'm a fan.  Only Michael Sheen's character Zeus, is interesting or out of the ordinary.  There is something too about Quorra, Olivia Wilde, maybe there is a certain tabula rasa naivete about her character, or that she is just beautiful.  In any case, if you love great performances, you've come to the wrong place baby.

I looked forward to this sequel.  Maybe because the original Tron was interesting and different, and the concept of the Grid was something different than Star Wars  and the other computer driven movies that were still new in 1982.  Now it seems silly and too disjointed with our computer-driven reality.  If you like CGI effects, there's lots here to like.  If you want a great story, try True Grit. 

Two and a half stars out of five.

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