What little story there is can hardly be called engaging, or even all that entertaining.
TRON: Legacy cannot be judged by the standard rubric for movie criticism because the filmmakers have not attempted to make a fully developed movie in the classic sense. The studio which produced the film, Walt Disney Pictures, had only one goal in mind: to capitalize on the 3D craze via a high-tech, visually inventive sequel to a cult classic whose own special effects were groundbreaking in its time.
Disney has, of course, not said as much publicly, but their decisions regarding the film speak to their focus for the movie. First, they tapped a first-time director, Joseph Kosinski, to helm the spectacular undertaking that had a reported budget of $150 million. Kosinksi, whose background is in design and architecture, clearly has a keen eye for aesthetic appeal and stunning imagery. But TRON is a movie, and as such must give weight to not only the visual but also the emotional components of filmmaking. Kosinski’s only work in the medium prior to TRON has been commercials for the likes of Nike and Chevrolet.
Second, the screenplay was written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, both of whom have only worked in television, most notably on ABC’s Lost. Neither has written a feature-length script, which is painfully apparent very early in the movie. What little story there is can hardly be called engaging, or even all that entertaining. The project went through several writers and numerous story rewriters, yet it seems that Disney settled for the most rudimentary and simple idea suggested.
The story takes place 20 years after the original left off. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has been missing for two decades, leaving his son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), an orphan and reluctant heir to his videogame empire. Assuming his father is dead, Sam has become an irresponsible thrill-seeker and mischief-maker. When a mysterious signal is sent from his father’s old arcade, Sam goes to investigate and is transported into “The Grid” of the video game that was his father’s greatest design.
Kevin Flynn has been trapped inside his own creation for 20 years, living in exile outside the utopia he created. His alter ego, Clu (also Jeff Bridges), has taken over control of the grid. In order to escape, Sam and Kevin must find a way to reach the portal back to our world before it closes.
Kosinski and his crew must be given credit for the fantastic design and style of the world they have created. They took the basic template from the original TRON and riffed on it to create a world that reflects its beginnings but which has evolved significantly. The light cycle battles are extraordinary and the scene design is beautifully complex. However, little more can be said about the film’s achievements because it is severely lacking in every other respect.
Take, for example, the technology used to reverse-age Bridges by 20 years. While this is a clever idea and, for the most part, passable, the character of Clu and images of Kevin in flashbacks looks more like Tom Hanks in Robert Zemeckis’ The Polar Express and less like Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The image becomes increasingly more distracting as the movie drags on because the weak story isn’t enough to keep the audience’s attention focused on the action as opposed to looking for holes in the techniques and use of digital images.
Though TRON: Legacy is technically a 3D production, it is too flat and lifeless to be called anything except one-dimensional. | Matthew F. Newlin