1982s Tron was the first movie to ever use CGI effects, and was the first appearance of a fully digital character in the form of the “bit”. For this reason, Tron is a significant piece of motion picture history and not just a retro nerdcore dream.
So, it stands to reason that the release, 28 years later, of Tron Legacy should also carry some significance. We had almost three decades of hardware and software improvements in digital movie production, and the introduction of watchable 3-D.
The idea behind 80s Tron is that Jeff Bridges plays Kevin Flynn, a programmer who is transported from the real world into his own system where everyone dresses in skin tight glowing neon spandex. These guys are personifications of actual running programs and resemble their “User” creators. Despite the religious themes examined, there’s really not much to argue that Tron was anything more than cheesy and camp, but still pretty awesome.
Fast forward to 2010 where where we find Sam, Kevin’s son, flashing back to the 80s and to the last time he saw his father. Sam grows up and despite being a cowboy is the major shareholder in Encom. Sam’s surrogate father figure, played by Bruce Boxleitner who also appeared in the original as the title character “Tron” and his User “Alan”, tells Sam that he was paged by Sam’s dad Kevin from the old pinnie parlour he used to work. Sam investigates and finds himself transported into the computer world where his dad has been lost for 20 years.
It’s called “The Grid”. It came before “The Matrix”. So there.
The rest of the story is hard to describe as anything other than “cool”. It’s 3-D eye candy, it’s ear shredding aural ecstacy, it’s a rich vibrant digital world you might have imagined 28 years ago that wasn’t possible because of the technical limitations of the day with magnificent scale and depth where you get lost in a world of glowing suits, speeding light bikes and digital storms. Getting lost is a good thing, because the plot is paper thin and pretty weak and doesn’t make much sense. Face it, this movie is effects- and nostalgia-driven and that’s all. In fact the movie moves pretty slow in parts because everyone has to keep explaining to Sam what’s is happening, and what has been happening up to that point. So you’ve got a movie with an ankle-deep plot and a lot of time spent explaining it. Quite an accomplishment.
My only real disappointment is that Kevin Flynn turned into The Dude from The Big Lebowski. He was all “Man” this and “Dude” that and started “knocking on the sky” or some other digital-hippie wank to fill in some time. 80s Kevin Flynn was better.
The best performance was Michael Sheen playing Zuse, an albino digital version of Ziggy Stardust who was as camp as a row of tents. He was funny and brilliant. Also, the soundtrack by Daft Punk is utter perfection. I understand they did the whole score and they manage to get it right the whole way through.
My verdict: if you’re into deep and meaningful investigation of intellectual themes and tight plots then this might not be the right movie for you. Tron is a sensory experience, and a fun way to spend $25. Pop the extra couple of bucks and catch it in 3D.