I was determined to re-watch Tron before seeing the much belated sequel, and I’m glad I did. Let’s be clear about the original: it was a flawed masterpiece. Whilst the special effects were truly marvellous (and I’m still amazed today at what they managed to do in 1982), the character development is practically nil and the film is, for the most part, incredibly sluggish. It’s also too boring for kids, yet too childish for adults. All the same, it conjured up a world that hadn’t been seen on the big screen before. Was it ahead of its time? Probably. Indeed, it took The Matrix (17 years later) to make mainstream audiences completely get behind sci-fi concepts such as virtual reality.
Fast-forward to 2010, and we have the sequel that surely no one thought would ever get made. First and foremost, Tron: Legacy is very faithful to the original. The tone is almost identical – as are the long, quiet moments – and they went to the effort of recreating Flynn’s Arcade, down to the particular video game cabinets and the music playing over the loudspeakers. Even the special effects, though vastly updated (but not necessarily superior), hold true to the visual style of Disney’s 1982 feature.
The plot is also inextricably linked to Tron. It’s surprising, after 28-odd years, that they created a film that is so enmeshed with the one that came before, especially considering that most of the audience won’t have actually seen the original (indeed, a friend of mine in exactly that position complained that she had no idea what was going on in Legacy). That being said, it seemed that Disney learnt from one of the mistakes they made in the original, and here have a quickie voiceover at the start, explaining the nature of the new virtual landscape to be explored.
Several years after the events of Tron, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) disappeared. He left behind the company Encom, which is now a powerful force worldwide, and his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund), who owns the majority of the company but finds the idea of running the damn thing distasteful. It’s only when he visits the old Flynn arcade that Sam gets drawn into the world (literally) created by his father.
Legacy contains some of the flaws of the original, though it has at least managed to inject some character development into the sterile landscape. Whilst Hedlund isn’t particularly charismatic or sympathetic (and, at worst, brings to mind Hayden Christensen’s performance as Anakin Skywalker), at least Bridges manages to make the initially despondent Kevin interesting. The other highlight would be Olivia Wilde, and although she may have been cast primarily for her ability to look good in a skin tight bodysuit, she at least manages to make program Quorra an interesting character without completely slipping into the role of either sex vixen or wide eyed innocent.
The special effects are very nice, though at times it is hard to follow some of the action. This is because where Tron’s setting was relatively plain, Legacy frequently opts for multiple transparent levels. This makes it difficult to really take in the setting, particularly when even the occasional lens flare is given the 3D treatment.
Ah yes, the 3D. Interestingly, the film starts with a title card explaining that not all of the film is 3D, but to keep your glasses on regardless. I found that for the real world scenes it was best to simply take my glasses off, since having them on achieved nothing but darkening the picture. Whilst inside The Grid however, the 3D is indeed impressive.
The action scenes are decent but nothing special. Indeed, I still prefer the original lightbike race to the infinitely more complex one here. As I mentioned, it’s hard to get a sense of the arena track, what with all the translucent levels, and this takes away from any potential excitement. The film also makes the mistake of using slow motion on way too many occasions. Once or twice would have been fine, but we see the same trick used over and over.
The supreme achievement of Tron: Legacy would have to be Daft Punk’s soundtrack. Whilst you have to excuse the DJs’ woefully overdone cameo, the score is perfect – full of fat 80s synth lines without ever getting bogged down in the current fad for all things musically from that decade. Some of the more orchestral moments seem dangerously similar to Hans Zimmer’s Inception work, but the good thing about Daft Punk’s creation here is that whenever the film gets boring, you can simply sit back and take in the music.
Overall, Legacy is a strong sequel, considering it started with quite a handicap – a 28-year-old film with its fair share of flaws. Fans of the original should appreciate the respect the director and writers have paid to Steven Lisberger’s original, and it certainly has enough eye candy (and a kick-arse soundtrack) to keep everyone else entertained.Rating: