December 16, 2010

TRON: Legacy

I'm sorry, I thought I heard the space baby crying

Grade: B –

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, and Michael Sheen

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 2 hour, 7 minutes

Tilt your head to the side, close one eye, and squint through those polarized spectacles, and you might just glimpse a mirage of deeper meaning in TRON: Legacy, the once unforeseen sequel to Disney’s 1982 sci-fi original. Gimcracks about the creation and evolution of life, religion, and God are encrypted throughout this executable extravaganza. The notion than an entire world can be condensed into terabytes on a jump drive is no less thought-provoking – or loopy – than the kicker to Men in Black in which galaxies are being thumped around a game of marbles.

Frankly, the more you try to think about the plot, the greater the chance of crashing your mental hard drive. Twenty-some years after computer programmer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) vanished without a trace, his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) tracks a mysterious page back to his father’s old video arcade. A little Journey and a few keystrokes later, Sam finds himself uploaded onto the grid, where an aging Kevin has been usurped by his power-hungry avatar Clu (a digitized Bridges circa 1982), who is bent on attaining his creator’s goal of perfection, and world domination, by any means necessary.

A chase to derez baddies and access portals ensues, but dopey plotlines are not the aim here. TRON: Legacy is visual and aural masterwork, a marriage of eye-popping special effects and a vivacious, orchestral soundtrack from the French electro duo Daft Punk that combines classical and electronic elements – think Vangelis meets Moby. At its best, debut director Joseph Kosinski emulates Kevin Flynn’s aspirations by creating a bold new cinematic frontier.

Unfortunately, neither the storyline nor the performances keep up with the film’s sensorial mega-processor. Most of the younger actors, including Hedlund, are as lifeless as computer-generated automatons. On the other hand, Bridges morphs the elderly Kevin into a Lebowski-esque Zen-master spouting New Age bon mots. And, as the only one seeming to grasp the inanity of it all, the always-terrific Michael Sheen pops up as Castor, a flamboyant, alabaster-colored night club owner.

Unlike others films where 3D is an alternate or even favored viewing option, the only reason to ever see this one is in a 3D theater, preferably of the IMAX variety. Disney succeeds in creating an event film that triggers the primordial impulse that first drove us to movie houses. Once the bombast wears off, however, experiencing TRON: Legacy is rather like watching someone else play a video game. What you get is what you see.

Neil Morris

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