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TRON: Legacy Works Ultimately On Outer Beauty

TRON: Legacy
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz based on a story by Kitsis, Horowitz, Brian Klugman, and Lee Sternthal
Disney, 2010

I don’t remember much about the original TRON, released in the summer of 1982, the year E.T. ruled.  I remember playing games based on TRON, and thus comes the rub: TRON was released in the era of the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64, just before games became really, really huge a couple of years later with the NES, and became a nerdy hallmark for children of the eighties.  Personally, the video game movie that I watched over and over in the eighties was 1984’s Cloak & Dagger, a movie that played repeatedly on HBO back in the day, starring E.T.’s Henry Thomas.  TRON was more like a video game, though, and Cloak & Dagger was more about a game cartridge than the game itself.

TRON’s single most famous scene involves the light bikes, in which competitors race wildly through an arena with dangerous streams coming from the back of the bike, streams which should your competitor run into will cause their destruction.  With 3D becoming an increasing part of movie-going in the latter part of this decade, dusting off TRON and it’s light-bike sequence for 3D seemed inevitable.

In the sequel, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) leaves his son one night in 1989 and never returns.  Fast forward to present day, his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is a young punk on a motorcycle, outrunning police and infiltrating his dad’s software company, Encom.  Encom, under different management, wants to release a suspect updated operating system at a hefty cost, instead of for free, which is what the elder Flynn wanted.  Flynn’s partner, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner, reprising his role), can no longer stave off the board and their wishes, but Sam throws a monkey wrench into those plans and saves the day, temporarily at least.  Bradley tracks Sam down and tells him that he received a mysterious page from Sam’s father from the old Flynn Arcade.  Sam enters the arcade, and by putting two and two together, Narnias himself into a computer grid world that his dad helped create.

Before he knows it, he’s being captured and thrown into a deadly game, the first one involving throwing heavy disks at one another, disks that are used as weapons and are used to store information for whatever a “program” “learns” during its stay in the world.  He’s given a simple rule from one of the fine ladies preparing him for battle, Gem (Beau Garrett), before he goes into the arena, “Survive.”  When Sam passes the first test, he is introduced to Clu (Bridges again, only with digital effects to make him look like eighties-era Bridges), who is the de facto leader around these parts.  Clu throws Sam into the light-bike arena next, where he is saved by a hot chick by the name of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), who whisks him away to a faraway lair, somewhat “off the grid,” where his real father has been staying and has become, in some ways, a monk.

Father Flynn realizes that Clu was the one who sent the page, so that a portal would open and Clu could find his way out into the real world, where he would presumably rule.  Mr. Flynn provides back-story, whereby Clu, basically a computer given a directive to create a “perfect world,” obsessively pursued the directive to the point that people’s lives didn’t matter, including a people known as “Isos,” which happened to be running about in the grid like Native Americans.  The portal is closing fast, Clu is on the lookout, and to make matters worse, Kevin Flynn doesn’t appear to want to come back with Sam.  He’s made this world, become a part of it, and looks unable to return to the real world, institutionalized.

There are a few good things in play here: visually, it’s nice to look at.  In the action department, we get the light-bike thing and then a light-plane sequence that is pretty neat.  And the best part of all is the Daft Punk score, a dark retro synth piece that reminds me of those great eighties sci-fi scores, particularly Brad Fiedel’s The Terminator and Harold Faltermeyer’s The Running Man.

But, in all, you might be wishing for more action.  There’s a really stupid sequence involving Sam finding an old hat by the name of Zeus (Michael Sheen, playing it David Bowie to the hilt), who might be able to help him find the portal.  There are a lot of flashbacks and a lot of pleas to Mr. Flynn to come back to the real world, and ultimately, if I’m watching a 3D movie, a sequel to a video-game style of movie, I’d have liked to have seen more survival games, something that would blow our heads off every ten or fifteen minutes.  The kid in me can forgive a lot of the nonsense in this thing, because I’m sure if I were 9 or 10, I’d think it’s the coolest thing ever.  The mood is set just right with the visuals and music, it provides the illusion that you are watching your first grown-up movie, even though the film is very much PG (although many boys in the audience might wonder why hottie Beau Garrett makes them feel so funny).

This is slightly above average, with enough in it to recommend overall.

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