Tron: Legacy

Director    Joseph Kosinski
Starring    Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde
Release    17 DEC (UK)    Certificate PG
3 stars


5th December 2010

I love Tron. So much so that, when I was growing up, 'lightcycle' featured regularly on my Christmas list (just below 'lightsaber' and just above 'Glaive'). But no amount of blind childhood adoration can escape the fact that the concept of the film doesn't hold up well to closer inspection. In that respect, this sequel is the perfect follow-up because it makes just as much sense i.e. it's utter bobbins.

After a brief introduction showing us that a now rich Flynn (Jeff Bridges) mysteriously disappeared a few years after the events of the first film, we shoot forward to present day where his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) has grown up to become a rich douchebag who likes fast motorbikes and parachutes.

An improbable paged message leads him to getting sucked into The Grid, in which he finds that Clu (aka Young CGI Jeff Bridges) has become an evil dictator intent on leading an army into the real world. With the help of wide-eyed warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde), he finds Zen-like Old Jeff Bridges in hiding and together the three have to foil Clu's plans and escape The Grid.

As we all know from the 700 trailers and TV spots that have been released for this film, once inside the Grid, the visuals are stunning: huge machines soaring through a dystopian sky as slick vehicles spin and swerve, and ninja-like fighters attack with slow-motion somersaults and amped-up acrobatics. This is the awesome Tron that we always hoped we'd see and the look and design of this modern-day mega-blockbuster Grid surely surpass all of our expectations. Unfortunately, the film doesn't quite deliver enough of it.

[gallery]As soon as Sam enters the digital world, he is forced to participate in the famous Tron games and these Frisbee-throwing and lightcycle-riding scenes are brilliantly ramped-up versions of the original, with added tricksy dimensions. But then things go a bit quiet... for a really long time.

Rather than spreading out the geek pay-offs, director Joseph Kosinski shoots his Tron load in the first 30 minutes and most of the rest of the time in The Grid is spent building gothic atmospherics (helped by Daft Punk's excellent electronica score) and showing glacier-like transport sailing in the air. It makes for a fantastically epic realm, which matches the ambitious storyline, but it does mean that the few action sequences that follow never quite live up to what we have already seen, making this film a slow-burner for the remainder of its duration.

However, this is the least of this sequel's problems. First up, we have the disappointing and distracting Young CGI Jeff Bridges. No one can deny that the de-aging trickery on Bridges is astounding, groundbreaking and all things impressive but when Clu actually speaks or even just emotes, his face just falls short of 'realistic' and that's all it takes to completely ruin the effect. In fact, the first time the Young CGI Jeff Bridges delivered a line, there was an audible groan among the critics at my screening.

And then there's Tron: Legacy's main flaw: what exactly are the rules within The Grid? Why do some elements act like robotic automatons and others, like Michael Sheen's gloriously OTT Bowie-esque nightclub owner, have human personalities? This is just one of the many, many, many unanswerable issues that chip away as you watch.

Even without a confusing underuse of Flynn's original lightcycle (promised to be "the fastest thing in The Grid") and Quorra's barely explained back story that's Midichlorian-high on the bullshit scale, the nonsense elements seen inside the computer world are too many to list, but they include what looks to be a homeless drunk program and a spit-roasted pig (was this running around on a digital farm somewhere before being slaughtered for food?). The point is, if we don't know what the rules are in The Grid, how can we care about the stakes?

And so, after watching what is easily one of the most spectacular films released this year (even if the Wizard of Oz idea of only employing 3D once in The Grid is a bit gimmicky) and certainly the one that's most grand in scope and concept, the only thing you'll be left thinking about is all the mini plot holes and questionable sights. In fact, you'll probably have more fun picking the film apart afterwards than watching it in the first place, but this is still reason enough to go see it.

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