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December 15, 2010

REVIEW: ‘Tron: Legacy’ glows bright but lacks life

Posted in: Movies

WELCOME TO THE MACHINE: On Friday, the Disney film “Tron: Legacy” picks up the story of the 1982 movie “Tron,” which was neither a critical nor commercial success but somehow still echoes in pop culture as an early signpost of the digital era’s glowing frontier. “Tron” is remembered more for its ideas and images (and its namesake video game) than for its story or characters, and that is a challenge presented to this new film, which is directed by Joseph Kosinski and stars Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde. We’re counting down to the release date and today’s post is an excerpt from the review by Los Angeles Times Film Critic Betsy Sharkey.

tron bar REVIEW: Tron: Legacy glows bright but lacks life

Beau Garrett and Garrett Hedlund in "Tron: Legacy" (Walt Disney Co.)

Tron: Legacy” is as much legacy as Tron. You can feel the deep imprint left by the 1982 cult classic with every flip of a light disc, every zoom of a Lightcycle, every wrinkle-resistant smile on Jeff Bridges’ computer-sanitized face. With a homage around every corner, heavy hangs the crown.

As it was in the beginning, “Tron: Legacy” takes us into a glow-stick world inside computers where the games are lethal and the mind can get lost, albeit with new players, a new story line, a new director and nearly three decades of improved technology including all the whiz-bang-wow the latest 3-D has to offer. Unfortunately, there’s not nearly enough new life.

Bridges is back playing an entire galaxy of roles — OK, three variations of the Kevin Flynn video game-making genius who started the whole thing. There is his current-day self — a sort of older, wiser, Zen Flynn; his 20-years-younger self, which should make anyone considering plastic surgery queasy; and his Clu-less self. (For any non-Tronites, Clu is the “program” created in Flynn’s image that lives in the computer grid. If you’re a computer “user,” you’ve probably got a “program” in there too, just FYI.)

jeff bridges REVIEW: Tron: Legacy glows bright but lacks life

There’s a blank space between the end of “Tron” and the beginning of “Legacy,” during which Kevin built a video-game empire and had a son, Sam, who is 7 by the time we first see dad tucking him into bed. Meanwhile, his off-hours are spent teleporting back to the grid. Risky business as it happens, because Kevin, the real one, we learn, has been trapped in the grid for the last 20 years, keeping himself occupied by expanding it into a trillion-watt world radiant against a perpetual dark night. So “Legacy” is definitely tripping the light fantastic more than ever, though tripping (and I don’t mean in a substance-enhancing way) more than you’d wish.

As most of us, including Zen Flynn — flowing white robes, beatific smile, yoga trances and all — know, too much reverence for the past can hold you back. At some point, the kids need to fly solo and create their own future. Instead, Joseph Kosinski, an edgy commercial director making his filmmaking debut, is so concerned with getting it right that he doesn’t quite get “Legacy” where it needs to be, which is to unimaginable heights of invention.

tron bike REVIEW: Tron: Legacy glows bright but lacks life

"Tron: Legacy" (Walt Disney Co.)

As the story opens, Kevin’s son, Sam (an appealing Garrett Hedlund) is now a 27-year-old rebel with abandonment issues, a souped-up motorcycle and a very cool bachelor pad, paid for by the mega-conglomerate of a family business he’s washed his hands of. Kevin’s old partner Alan (a.k.a. Tron in grid-world and reprised by Bruce Boxleitner) has been watching over the kid since Dad disappeared.

One night, Sam is paged back to the old Flynn video arcade. The ancient equipment that first teleported Kevin is still there and in a flash the son is following in his father’s footsteps after all — into the grid where the beautiful warrior princess Quorra (Olivia Wilde) will serve as his guide. Sam’s searching for his dad and sorting through those abandonment issues are what screenwriters Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz spend most of their time plotting, leaving the sci-fi thrill factor in need of attention…


— Betsy Sharkey


tron poster REVIEW: Tron: Legacy glows bright but lacks life

“Tron: Legacy,” the Hollywood premiere

Free “Tron: Legacy” screening on Dec. 15

Tron” creator on “arcane, dark cinema voodoo”

Daft Punk gives “Tron: Legacy” a pulse and power

Daft Punk rocks the grid with “Derezzed”

“Tron” designer hoped “to write a new chapter of beauty”

Tron: Legacy” —  a film of visual marvels

“Avatar,” “Tron” and “Surrogates” – second life as cinema

“Tron” ARG takes a twist in Bay Area

“Tron: Legacy” director: “We are on a new server now”

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