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Tron: Legacy

***
2010

‘…a big, beautiful, expensive train-wreck that really is something of an apex in glossy, vapid movie-making…’

Back in the Days of Going Places and Doing Things, I took the day off another job to fly to London for the premiere of Tron: Legacy, a huge movie released in the Christmas slot (2010) of the previous year’s record-breaking Avatar; would Disney’s long awaited sequel to the ground-breaking Tron be another game-changer? No spoilers are required to report back the answer; a resounding no. Despite spraying money like silly string for nearly two hours, the experience of watching Tron: Legacy was a disheartening one; a proverbial curate’s egg, part of it are great, especially for home viewing, but the overall effect is somewhat underwhelming.

Let’s do the good stuff first; Joseph Kominski’s film has a thunderous Daft Punk score that’s absolutely perfect for sci-fi action, and a perfect match for on-screen visuals which pay tribute to the 80’s movie, but also represent a sizable upgrade in size and scale. This movie just looks amazing, with the disc-battle and light-cycle sequences more than delivering what a Tron sequel should. Throw in returning star Jeff Bridges, and you’ve got a worthy blockbuster, right?

Worng. Few films have as self-defeating a script of utter technobabble as this; by the end, I didn’t know what I’d seen, what it meant, or why I should care. ISOs, programs, codes; maybe a ten year old kid could understand, but as Groucho Marx said, you can never find one when you need one, and the crushing weight of incomprehensibility makes Tron: Legacy almost unwatchable. Indeed, viewers would be better switching off round about the 70 minute mark, since there’s not much after that that’s worth seeing. Jeff Bridges plays both hero and villain, but Bridges Jr looks like a Halloween mask; all the CGi in the world can’t make him look like his younger self. Garret Hedlund makes for a colourless lead, and while Olivia Wilde looks iconic, every time she opens her mouth it sounds like a machine code dump. So when Sam Flynn meets up with his father Kevin to defeat the villainous Zuse (Michael Sheen, just awful here) it’s hard to raise much enthusiasm for the fight.

Returning to the scene of the crime a decade later, Tron: Legacy’s flaws are more than apparent, but as a catalogue of state–of–the-art effects shots, it’s still pretty impressive. The look, the sound, the tech specs are bang-on; while the result is a train-wreck, it’s a big, beautiful, expensive train-wreck that really is something of an apex in glossy, vapid movie-making. With goofy Condorman–level jokes mixed with po-faced tech-talk, Tron: Legacy has one of the best looks ever for a big movie, and one of the worst scripts; it’s no surprise that nobody has been sucked into this particular glitchy matrix since.

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  1. i would be hard pressed to tell you what happened in the original of this franchise, having not watched since the 80s. How many Movie/Game roll outs happened together like that?

    • And I guess while there are fanboys who know every details, for the rest of us, it’s just a big shrug. The Tron brand could be huge, but there’s layers of waffle to sit through to get to the action…when they recap the story in Legacy, I had zero understanding of what they meant…

  2. I flew to NYC (for the first time ever!) so I could watch this on IMAX. I still have a Tron:Legacy shirt with a glow-in-the-dark logo.

    Catching it in IMAX was well worth it (although the 3D was meh). It really is spectacular in picture and sound.

    I think you are too hard on the script. Its worst sin isn’t technobabble; it is that it is so conventional. 40 years later, the original still feels fresh. And it probably always will, because Hollywood just doesn’t make movies with that kind of verve every day (or year).

    Ultimately, Tron: Legacy joins a raft of modern reboots and returns that are technically proficient but lack the storytelling craft of their predecessor: See also: The Force Awakens v. Star Wars, Mad Max: Fury Road v. The Road Warrior, Kong: Skull Island v. King Kong (1933). I like each modern iteration plenty, but only Fury Road is in the same class as its predecessor.

    • Yup, the IMAX was good for this film, even if the script wasn’t. I’ve got a low threshhold for tech-talk, but you may well be right; the story just falls away after the lightcycle and disc-arena set-pieces are over, and it’s a fairly conventional vortex-based finale. Totally agree about reboots, they can throw money at them, but few capture the original verve; as you say, Fury Road is the best of them, (and seems least likely to spawn a franchise…)

  3. I actually thought this film was pretty satisfying. The Daft Punk score was decent and the visual effect are great. The original TRON film started out the same, and eventually became a favourite amongst the fans. Can’t wait for part 3.

    • …and that’s part of what’s weird about this subject. I love the look, and the sound, and the concept of the film, and will be there for part three, even despite the shortcomings mentioned….

    • I suppose at least their consistent in the way the let the souffle boil over each time. each time I watch this, I think it’s brilliant for 60 minutes, and then am bored by the end. How can something be so good and bad at the same time? and three decades later?

  4. I know the original was groundbreaking in visuals, (the making of seems more fascinating to me than the actual movie) but it didn’t pull me in even though I like the sparkly visuals, so I’ll pass on this one. A Nope.

  5. I really enjoyed this and always hoped that Tron 3 would come from it. Sadly, that just wasn’t to be. Considering that the Tron: Uprising cartoon was even cancelled part way through the season, I suspect the Tron franchise will never see the light of day again.

    Thank goodness I can always rewatch the original….

    • I don’t see why they can’t make a great Tron movie, they’ve got the look and the design….love the appearance of this film, one of the best ever. But the dialogue…

      • I know, right?

        I have to admit, deep down, that I STILL hope for that 3rd movie. With all the reboots and reimaginings constantly going on, you’d think someone could write a good movie.

        Heck, I’d “almost” settle for a Tron reboot just to see what they could do with the graphics.

        • Or at least they could save themselves 5 years of R and D by just using the original designs; they got it right the first time, and if they’d just keep it simple, I reckon all ages would dig it. Sleeping giant of the IP world.

  6. I remember the original, and even playing the video game! But I’d already forgotten all about this. Never got around to it. Doesn’t seem worth bothering with now.

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