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Movie Review: TRON: Legacy
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Tron LegacyTRON: Legacy
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde
Rated PG
Walt Disney Pictures
Release date: December 17, 2010

There are plenty of movies that I can point to as being part of my geek DNA, and the original TRON is one of those movies. I have very strong memories of watching the movie as a kid and it helped to make me the sci-fi fan that I am today. So I have been excited by the prospect of TRON: Legacy since the first announcement was made that it was coming. Now, after almost 30 years since the first film, we have the sequel. Does it live up to the original?

In the original TRON, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) was sent into the world inside the computers, and saved that world from the Master Control Program. TRON: Legacy picks up twenty years later. Kevin Flynn has disappeared, leaving his son Sam (Garret Hedlund), an orphan, desperately holding out hope that his father is still alive. Of course, Sam also gets sent into the computer world, just as his father did before him, and he must track down his father and save the world.

One of the things I enjoyed about the original TRON was its vaguely religious themes and how that tied into the emerging (at the time) technology of computers. I was very happy to see those themes carried over into the sequel. Flynn and the concept of the users were very much gods in the Judeo-Christian tradition. In Legacy, Flynn is still very much a god with a capital G, but the creators have mixed a lot of Eastern philosophy into the mix. I was a little disappointed that the creators didn’t take the religious angle a little farther, what with the creator’s son being brought into the world in order to save it, as it were.

In a lot of ways, this is the major problem with the film. There are some interesting concepts brought up, but they are half explained or pushed to the side in favor of getting to the next action scene. The biggest example of this is the character of Quorra (Olivia Wilde). We are told throughout the movie that she is a big deal, both in the computer world, and potentially for the real world, but it’s never explained to my liking the reason why she’s important. There are elements to her character that I’ve seen before in things like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, and they are done better there, and it’s a missed opportunity to make a thought provoking but still exciting action movie.

Fortunately, the action sequences and overall design of the film make this a film worth watching. The world of the computer is beautiful to look at and feels just like the original movie, if they had had the technology we have today. The contrasting colors stand out and create something that is very unique. No one can get away with using the classic blue and orange color scheme of TRON. I saw the film in 3D and they use those effects very well especially during the bike sequence, and again in the last action sequence. The effects in the film are exactly what I was hoping for. They took the flavor of the original film, but gave it an upgrade in the texture department that makes the world both more believable and more fantastic at the same time.

Jeff Bridges is, unsurprisingly, the best actor in this movie. And he doesn’t do anything fancy in the role of Kevin Flynn. He’s basically playing the character from the first movie and adds in a dash of The Dude from The Big Lebowski to create the godlike creator of the virtual world. However, the film’s creators and effects guys do something fancy in the character of CLU, also played by Bridges. The effects team took Bridges’ performance, and then made him to look as he did when the original movie came out. It’s not always seamless, there are certainly moments when the shots of him screamed that it was an effect, but the result largely works, in no small part because of Bridges’ performance. If Kevin Flynn is a laid back hippie, CLU is the uptight control freak. The difference between the two characters is not just in the years that they remove from Bridges’ face. Flynn is relaxed but scared at times, and CLU is all about the intensity of the moment and trying to exert his vision onto the world. He brings a lot of energy to the film.

The same cannot be said of Garret Hedlund. I don’t want to say that he did a bad job with the role, far from it. Anyone is going to come off as boring when placed next to Jeff Bridges, but the character of Sam Flynn is just another in a string of brooding action heroes, and there’s nothing to make him stand out. There’s just no personality to the character on display, and Hedlund doesn’t do anything to make the character memorable, and the writers don’t help by making him fairly one note. If the movie hung on his shoulders, it would have fallen apart, but Bridges is just so watchable that he brings up everyone around him.

Jeff Bridges is the reason the original movie worked so well, and why it is so fondly remembered by movie geeks of my generation. You could tell he was having fun with the role, while still taking it seriously enough to make the viewer care about the stakes of the movie. He does the same thing here. If he wasn’t in the film I would have a hard time recommending this, but thank goodness he is, because I had a lot of fun watching it and I think it stands up to my expectations. I don’t think it’s quite as good as the original, but it is entertaining and visually amazing. I’m giving this one a very solid 4 out of 5 and I think if you’re a fan of the original, you’re not going to be disappointed. If you’ve never seen the original, I’d recommend that, so long as you’re able to remember that it’s a product of its time.


  1. Nice review :)

    End of line.

    Comment by Vactor — December 18, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

  2. The film could use more comic energy like that, and less computer/fantasy geekiness. Screenwriters Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, like a couple of obsessed fanboys, get so caught up in explaining the movie’s imaginary world that they forget to write half-decent dialogue.

    Comment by Devon — December 18, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

  3. Ya, I liked it a lot. Sure the dialogue wasn’t as tight as it could of been. That was noticed on the episodes of LOST Kitsis and Horowitz helped write. I looked over it as I was enamored with what I saw. It was fun, fun movie. The audience enjoyed it immensely.

    TRON 3 will be quite interesting, and I have a strong feeling of what’s to come, especially if you spell out the themes that the visual cues and plot of BOTH movies have been trying to say. People are gonna flip out. I suspect the character of Sam will be much more animated next go, especially in his new role.

    End of line.

    Comment by Slipstream — December 18, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

  4. I agree about the lead. I’m sick of seeing young useless vacuous talentless actors in these amazing roles that deserve so much more from their supposed top player. I’m guessing nepotism is playing more of a roll in Hollywood these days more than ever. We really need someone to shake that town up. This actor should sink without a trace in my opinion. I could cast better than the monkeys they employ to find ‘talent’ out there right now. Hopeless. We need more people like Harrison Ford, Jeff Bridges and Dennis Quad who actually argue with the script writers and say when something doesn’t work or everything will end up sounding like the Phantom Menace.

    Comment by Lusky — December 19, 2010 @ 7:18 am

  5. I dunno, it was okay in some ways, just so shiney and Disneyfied. There were things I liked and found entertaining, the soundtrack and sound design were pretty cool (maybe not wild or dirty enough though) some of the photography was good. Some aspects of the story were also good, but a lot of it bothered me.
    They upgraded the computer world so much, it just looked a lot like our own world, the mystical shimmering quality of the previous design and ideology was mostly replaced by a darker hyper-real over-stated music video vibe, everything seemed too solid and techy, the whole film was very MATRIX style.
    Some of my favourite things from the original, like the crazy caleidescope, ‘messin with your head’ descent into the digital realm was completely absent. If you’ve put so much effort into designing such a crazy world, then show it off a bit more.
    I was a bit uncomfortable with the trite portrayal of class system steriotypes, with the lower, supposedly more primitive classes being predominantly black people.
    There were a lot more laser guns and scenes of laser gun violence in this film too, like the double turret flying chase scene which felt a little too much like militaristic propaganda to me (why are they happy to show stuff like that, but not reveal the Tron program’s potentially disfigured face).
    Some of the characters were so crap like that CASTOR guy, what a LAME-O. No strangely attractive Frisbee champions this time round.

    I’ve seen far more impressive acrobatic tricks on Youtube, and if they have such amazing ground breaking equipment, why couldn’t they shoot the action in more innovative ways.

    Also, what happened to the energy water from the first film, which was like liquid electricity or something. That was quite significant for me before, because it was almost like a drug reference, the euphoric freedom and clarity they feel after drinking it, really tasting the life-blood of the digital world. No surprise Disney left that out is it, because they’re crap.

    The assignment of good and evil seemed very Disney like too, perhaps it is in the first film as well, but it really bores me these days. The world isn’t much like Disney and Hollywood paint it.
    The female lead is pretty predictable too, even though she acts all tough to an extent, they always defer to the male lead in the end. I’ve heard a lot of girls say they don’t like Tron, and I was trying to bear that in mind when I watched it. I’m not sure most girls would enjoy this film any more then the previous one, because they’re still basically represented as objects of desire in a Boys with Toys setting.
    And Jeff Bridges character Flynn had some stinky lines as well, what with the whole token Zen philosophy bullshit, which clearly had very little to do with real Zen principles, pretty offensive.

    Media studies still makes it hard for me to enjoy most pop-culture entertainment films, seems to get harder to sit through them the more I see the same old shit regurgitated over and over. Make Neuromancer instead people, just don’t let Disney touch it!

    Comment by Gordon — December 19, 2010 @ 9:20 am

  6. I hate to be “that guy”, but you should have someone edit your writing. If you take this as criticism, then please let it be constructive. Your ideas are good, but you should work on your writing.

    “Kevin Flynn has disappeared, leaving his son Sam (Garret Hedlund), an orphan, is desperately holding out hope that his father is still alive.”

    “There’s just no personality to the character on display, and Hedlund doesn’t do anything to make the character memorable, and the writers don’t help by making him fairly one note.”

    These are examples as to how this piece was a difficult read due to the unnecessary punctuation (commas mostly) and the jarring grammar. An editor/proof-reader of your review would have enhanced it exponentially…and if you did have an editor/proof-reader go over your work, then you need to print it out and beat them with it.

    Yeah, I know…Grammar Nazi…etc. etc. etc. I just know that your writing can be better.

    Comment by Mithoviel — December 20, 2010 @ 8:30 am

  7. @Mithoviel
    So, I guess the writer will have to beat me with the print out, as I was the one who looked over this review. We appreciate being notified of errors so that we can fix them, but it’s not ‘constructive’ to point out that there’s an extra word in a sentence. If that extra word really made it difficult for you to understand the sentence, then that says something more about you than anything. This review was far from ‘a difficult to read,’ as it was NOT riddled with errors nor were there incomprehensible sentences. I know you’ve commented on the site plenty of times without being a “grammar Nazi” as you put it, so I’m really not sure why you jumped on this review like this. There’s plenty of other sites on the internet that could REALLY use your brand of ‘constructive’ criticism, I’d be happy to let you know the names of those — not to say I couldn’t use the help here, so hey, if you want to work for free, then by all means, email me any errors you find so I can fix them.

    Comment by Empress Eve — December 20, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  8. You’re right. My comment comes off pretty d*ckish and you can delete it if you choose. I get much more than I pay for on Geeks of Doom, and my comment screams of bitter entitlement.

    Thank you for your hard work.

    Comment by Mithoviel — December 20, 2010 @ 1:02 pm

  9. I have yet to find any review that deals with the obvious ‘spirituality’ of the movie. You touched on it, and noted you wished it had taken it further. You also did something I’d not found anywhere else…mentioning the importance of the girl, the last of her kind due to the ‘genocide’ of the others that CLU had rounded up (Hitler/Anti-Christ style) and destroyed. For me, the themes of Creator, Creation rebellion, redemption/salvation…were all there and very obvious. Yet, reviewers (Christian and otherwise) seem not to notice or ignore it. One Christian reviewer was more concerned with the negative view of ‘zen’ mentions that the reason behind WHY Flynn basically practiced just ‘being’ and not ‘doing’ (he says that everything he does is recorded in the disc and CLU will use it). It is obvious that CLU has become the ‘Satan’ of this world…and Flynn even tries to explain to him that a ‘flawed/imperfect’ being (himself/human) cannot create ‘perfection’. It is never fully explained exactly what Quorra is…Flynn tells his young son, the night he disappears that a ‘miracle’ has happened. We see him relate the story to Sam when he gets caught in the Grid. Heck, they even bear a glowing tattoo similar to that of the Jews during the Holocaust! My daughter (22) noted on her Facebook as the movie ended, “Just saw “Tron: Legacy, or Tron: The Holocaust, or maybe it was Tron: The rise and fall of Lucifer”.

    Still confused why these issues aren’t mentioned anywhere. Oh, and on the technical side, CLU is even BETTER for his ‘not quite real’ look…he is, remember, just an avatar. I think they might have helped with this by making all the others have a less-than-real look to them. All except Quorra of course, as we are told/see, she’s got DNA that can be manipulated via ‘programming’ to repair her! What is she supposed to be? The new and improved ‘human condition’ that science is after? Is CERN going to succeed in opening a ‘portal’ to another dimension and will we actually allow some ‘beings’ akin to CLU and his army to enter our world? These are questions I want to ask the writers…did they realize they have presented at least a few Christians with a bit of Bible ‘history’ that is still being played out? hmmm?

    Comment by Suzi — December 21, 2010 @ 4:09 pm

  10. I’m not really into movies like “Tron” or “Tron: Legacy”. To be an honest person I have never seen neither. I have been reading review after review to get details on the movie so that I can have clue what it’s about and this is very detailed. I do have a co-worker that tells me bits and piece and it seems to be interesting. He is allowing me to borrow “Tron” when I see him again at work. So I’m excited to see it. Then maybe I can order the movie “Tron: Legacy” on PPV in HD and not be confused by what is going on. I hope I like both.

    Comment by Rah — April 9, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

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