Artificial Continuum

Saturday, December 18, 2010

When Disney released Tron over twenty years ago it created a cult phenomena. Although the digitally created video game adventure was not a huge hit with critics or the box office, a legion of die hard fans kept the fuel for the film alive for decades. Talks of a sequel to the classic have been in talks for years, and yesterday Disney unveiled the sequel, Tron: Legacy, to the world. With a new mythology, hero, and bigger and flashier special effects, the question was whether this sequel would capture the spirit of the original. In many ways, both good and bad it does.

Tron Legacy picks up twenty years after the ending of the original film. Tron's protagonist Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) after building his corporate empire to new heights disappears into the night, leaving behind his son Sam (Garret Hedlund) in the process. Years go by and Sam is left alone to fend for himself and the company. However, one night Sam is informed that his father may in fact be alive, trapped inside the digital world he created more then twenty years before. Sam is soon catapulted into a world of electronic chaos as he is forced to find his father and save both realities.

Tron Legacy is almost dutifully faithful sequel to its cult favorite predecessor. In fact, it suffers from some of its same flaws.

The majority of what is wrong with Tron Legacy lies in the script by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. While high in concept and featuring several story points that are actually rather intriguing, the writing is ultimately the film's downfall. The character's, despite having some strong background work, do not grow as the film progresses. The general plot also covers all too familiar ground. However, the writing's real downfall comes from its terrible dialogue. Hitting every possible cliche, character's spout out lines that become laughable. The only exchange that ever really hits home surrounds a rather genuine dinner sequence between Sam and his father. In fact its the character high point of the film.

The actor's for the most part do their best with the script they are given. Garret Hedlund is only competent at playing the film's protagonist, but yet again he is given little room to work. Olivia Wilde fairs much better as the mysterious and sexy Quorra. In an incredibly artificial world, Wilde feels oddly genuine. Jeff Bridges also performs well as both Sam's father and the villain CLU. However, the true scene stealer of the entire film comes from the short appearance of Michael Sheen's flamboyant club owner Castor. His digital insanity becomes oddly captivating, and his surrealism hits a mark that the rest of the cast never manages to.

The real star of this film are the visuals. Like its predecessor, Tron Legacy's incredible art design and special effects are eye popping throughout the course of the film. Bolstered by above par 3D effects, director Joseph Kosinski wows with creative and fun visual set peices. From disc duels to light bike battles, Tron delivers on the action and spectacle that its video game premise promises. A less obvious achievement is the digital deaging of actor Jeff Bridges for his role as CLU. Modeled after the 1980's Bridges, CLU is incredibly convincing throughout the course of the film. There are few moments where the true nature of the deaging process becomes apparent, but these are fleeting and do not take away from the effect.

Another standout is Daft Punk's score. Mixing electronic dance beats and orchestral cues the French techno duo create an audio treat that complement the visuals in almost perfect fashion. In many ways, Tron functions better as a music video/light show then it does as a film.

Ultimately, despite featuring a decidedly subpar script, Tron Legacy is a fun and faithful adaptation of the original classic. Although sure to be as hit or miss as its predecessor, the film does have its audience. It's loud, pretty, and at moments a whole lot of fun. Just remember to plug your ears whenever a character opens their mouth.

Score: -B