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.