After Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) receives a page from the 20 years missing Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), Flynn’s son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) investigates, only to be teleported into ‘The Grid’, a virtual reality world created by Flynn.
The sequel to Tron, Tron Legacy is a blast. A sumptuous feast for the eyes and ears, it is a fantastic film that tends to take itself very seriously but still manages to have fun with it’s somewhat silly premise. As long as you can watch the film for the spectacle it is, you will have fun. If you are looking for character development, well, you are out of luck. The film is a big spectacle film and many of the special effects are ground-breaking and awe-inspiring, just don’t expect to care about the characters too much.
The film opens in 1989 with Flynn talking to his son about the virtual world and what he’s created. Flynn leaves to go to work and is never seen again. Fast forward 20 years and Sam is an angsty 20-something who is trying to sabotage his father’s company. Of course, he is the company’s largest shareholder, so that makes it ok. Once home, he is met by Alan, who tells him that he’s received a page from Flynn from a phone number at Flynn’s Arcade; a number that has been disconnected for 20 years. Sam goes to investigate the arcade, rocks out to some Separate Ways by Journey, and is transported ‘The Grid’ as he was playing with a computer he shouldn’t have been touching.
Once in ‘The Grid’, Sam soon finds out that his father is alive and has been living in ‘The Grid’, but trying to live off the grid. Slightly confusing, I know, but his creation Clu has taken over ‘The Grid’ to create the perfect system; what Flynn originally created him for. So, of course, Clu wants to find Flynn to gain access to everything to create this perfect system. Sam is then attempting to get back to the real world with the help of his father.
Clearly, the story wasn’t going to win any awards. In fact, it’s heavy handed attempts to merge a religious undertone with a digital world seems just that, heavy handed. It is clear from the first moment you meet Flynn in ‘The Grid’ that he is the God-like figure, the creator, of this digital world, whereas Clu is the Lucifer figure, trying only to do what his creator wanted and being shunned for it. It is not very hard to see this allegory in the film, but in no way did it detract from the film for me. Sure, it was a little sophomoric, but it was handled fairly well without beating you over the head with it.
Directed by first-timer Joseph Kosinski (the upcoming Tom Cruise film Oblivion), he proves that he has a firm grasp on big-budget filmmaking. The film is almost entirely special effects driven. As a sequel to a movie 30 years old he expanded and updated the world of the original Tron while staying true to the source. You can see it in the film that he asked the questions that needed to be asked before making this picture. What would today’s technology bring to ‘The Grid’? How would ‘The Grid’ change when being controlled by a program designed for perfection? How would it evolve over 30 years? When you look at the film, you can see the evolution and can see that ‘The Grid’ has changed over time, and not necessarily for the better. It’s a darker place and Clu is a heavy handed ruler, destroying and re-purposing programs at will. The world is in fear of this dictator and the creator is nowhere to be found, hiding away from the digital world. What Kosinski has done here is nothing short of miraculous.
That’s not to say that everything is all roses about this film. I could have used a little more characterization, for sure. Flynn’s son Sam is just a typical archetypal figure with unresolved daddy issues. He never actually grows or changes throughout the film. Also, the facial replacement of Jeff Bridges, turning him into a younger version of himself, is very distracting. Whereas Flynn has aged in the 20 years since he vanished, Clu remains a 20 years younger version of Flynn. The special effects to make this happen are impressive but not photo-realistic. It is distracting to see and hard to get your head around.
The musical score, composed by Daft Punk, is simply stunning. If you have read my site before, you know that I tend towards the rock/metal side of the musical spectrum. I do not like electronica. Typically. But I love this score. Mixing just enough ’80’s syth to give you that nostalgic feeling of the original film while updating it for a modern film is nothing short of genius. I am so enamored by this score that I think I may actually buy the soundtrack. And that is an extreme rarity for me.
While I was never a huge fan of the first film (didn’t like it at all when I was a kid), I found myself really, really liking this second entry. Sure, there are problems with the film. Is there actually a film that doesn’t have problems, though? I found myself absorbed into this virtual world and enjoying every minute of it, flaws and all. I cannot wait for the inevitable Tron 3. Here’s hoping it comes sooner rather than 30 years from now.
*** out of ****