Tron: Legacy – The Functional and The Faulty

This past summer at San Diego’s Comic-Con, I had the very rare opportunity to speak with Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges regarding his role in the revival of the Tron franchise.  I had asked the seasoned screen vet what his reaction was when he was approached to do a sequel since the first film came out nearly 30 years earlier.  I remember the original film quite well (now if only my dvd copy would turn up).  Though its effects are quite dated by today’s standards, it is not only a timeless adventure for me, but for many film fans around the globe as well. Sequel murmur perpetuated for literally decades with nothing to show for it.  Then, out of the blue (not the Tron world blue), a script surfaced and was embraced.  Director Joe Kosinski brings you Tron: Legacy.

To bring you up to speed, the original film came out in 1982.  Jeff Bridges plays Kevin Flynn of Encom fame.  Flynn is sort of like the Bill Gates, with his company, Encom, becoming a parallel to Microsoft.  Unfortunately, Flynn’s jaunts into computer land, better known as “The Grid,” seemed to have finally caught up to him.  Flynn has not been seen or heard from since 1989 and here we are well into the 21st century.  His only son, Sam, has spent his adolescent years and all of his adult life, thus far, fatherless.  He occupies his days as a college dropout, with the occasional taunting of software powerhouse, Encom.

The movie wastes little time in getting Sam zapped into the Grid where he meets up rather quickly with the villainous CLU, whose face is a very CGI’d, but very, very believable.  Let me just say this; it is absolutely uncanny as to how close the likeness is to a late 1980’s Jeff Bridges.  Yes, there are scenes in the film when it’s rather obvious that what you’re looking at is not a human face, but that of a digitized creation.  However, the believability of CLU’s appearance vastly outnweighs any moments of trepidation when it comes to visual convincing.  Even the voice sounds like a younger Jeff Bridges.  What’s to stop Hollywood from making a new movie tomorrow starring Humphrey Bogart or James Dean?  It’s incredible where technology is going, but I digress.

CLU has done his best to make the “perfect” system which has to do in large part of eliminating any program he sees unfit, inappropriate, or imperfect.  If it doesn’t mean being immediately de-rezzed (killed, if you will), then the programs are carted off to the games, where thousands of spectators witness competitions pitting one innocent program against another in a battle of life or death…or shall I say existence or derezzing?  Sam finds himself in the midst of this mess, which to him is life or death, as CLU’s right hand man, Rinzler, bedazzles onlookers with his use of dual discs and astounding acrobatics; all at CLU’s beckon call.  His agility and fighting craft is second to none and Sam realizes this in a very quickly.

The action sequences are nothing short of entertaining, as the light cycles, previously only capable of right angle manuevering, now speed about in reckless fashion, taking wide turns, executing aerial jumps and performing hard stops in order to outdotheir opponents.  Returning are the familiar walls of light that trail behind the cycles, which can prove deadly to careless drivers who collide with them.  Between the big light cycle event and the disc duels, it’s one big barrage of excitement.  Then, that’s it.  There are not lulls in Tron: Legacy.  There is a lull that runs from the moment the light cycle bash is up to the final conflict at the end of the film.  Okay, there’s a throwdown somewhere in the middle of that snore-fest, but it’s not enough to rescue the attention span.  The Tron: Betrayal graphic novel was more entertaining than the movie and that’s no knock against the book.  There just ended up being too much explaining and talking that didn’t need to be there.  It felt far too drawn out when the time could’ve been better spent showing more than just the film’s one light cycle sequence.  Use the tanks!  Blow up a Recognizer!  Something!

The visuals are amazing.  Everything looks magnificenty smooth, pristine and ultra sanitary in the computer world.  Though the colors are focused on glowing whites, blues, and oranges, the limited color scheme comes across beautifully.  It did feel like something was missing with the hazy auras now gone from the characters on the Grid, but I guess we need to chalk it up to improved technology.  Perhaps that little bit of ambience from the first film could’ve been used here in some capacity.  Nevertheless, Tron: Legacy offers up a wild ride for the eyes.  I will say, avoid this film in 3D, which is what I experienced it in.  The audience was shown a message on screen stating that the film was shot in 2D and most of the scenes are in 2D, but to keep your glasses on for the entire film when encountering those 3D moments.  Those 3D moments can be counted on one hand, no joke.  Not only that, but the scenes in 3D were so unexciting, that it didn’t up the ante for a more encompassing experience in any way, shape, or form.

The acting comes across quite well, with the film boasting names such as Michael Sheen (Underworld), Olivia Wilde (House M.D.), and Garrett Hedlund (Friday Night Lights). Then there’s the aforementioned Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, Crazy Heart) to add that dominating acting presence to the mix.  Even the original Tron himself, Bruce Boxleitner, comes back for this overdue sequel.  Despite the ensemble of talent, however, arguably one of the film’s highest marks is its soundtrack.  It fits P-E-R-F-E-C-T-L-Y in this movie.  Techno-beat junkies, Daft Punk, were brought in to put together the score for Tron: Legacy. Not a better sound would be as befitting for the film’s environment as what was assembled here.  From the opening synthesized keyboard paying homage to familiar sounds of 1982, to the thumping night club beats of more the modern flavor, Daft Punk didn’t just hit it out of the park, they drove it into the next zip code.

In closing, it’s safe to say Tron: Legacy started out with a bang, then cooled off and remained that way for far too long.  As inviting as the landscape looked and as brilliant as the soundtrack was, it wasn’t enough to download a higher grade for this tech-fancy film.  I’d give it about a ‘C’ since story rules over all and this lumbered around a bit.   I certainly wasn’t looking for straight action from start to finish, but something a little more than what was given would have been nice.  You can’t bring the audience up, then slowly drop them, only never to bring them back up again.  It’s inefficient movie-making; a flaw the plagues Tron: Legacy.  I wanted to love this film in the worst way.  I was anticipating it more than I did Predators earlier this year and even Iron Man 2.  Maybe I set the bar a little too high in my mind, but I also didn’t expect to find such a sleep-inducing delivery at times either.   I’m giving it another go this weekend, but my history has shown that revisiting a less than spectacular impression only renews the boredom.


11 Responses to “Tron: Legacy – The Functional and The Faulty”

  1. Brian White

    I heart this flick.

    It’s hard to find a showing around me not in 3d, which is ironic because the 3d was no better than class of the titans.

    But the soundtrack…this is what dreams are made of 🙂

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    I have been prepared to not be too hyped about this movie fairly early on, but I’m still excited for my IMAX viewing, with scenes supposedly comparable to Dark Knight’s IMAX presentation. I’m certainly not expecting that caliber of filmmaking to apply to the movie as a whole, but I hoping to have fun.

    Regardless, I’ve been listening to the Daft Punk soundtrack, and it’s fantastic. More thoughts when I write up a review.

  3. Sean Ferguson

    I don’t have the same reverence for the first movie that a lot of you guys do since I didn’t see it as a whole until this year. I had only seen bits and pieces of it throughout the years so while I appreciated the ambition involved in creating the world of Tron, I wasn’t as impressed with the script or direction of the movie.

    This sequel looks interesting and I want to see it in IMAX 3D so I’m hoping it’s better than the first one. The special effects should at least be pretty good and Jeff Bridges has returned so that’s always good.

  4. Gerard Iribe

    I’m seeing it Saturday night in a real IMAX screen. I think it’s in 3-D, too.

    Are there any 2-D showings anywhere? Ironically, if there are, they won’t be presented in IMAX which will defeat the purpose of those scenes shot with IMAX cameras.

  5. Gerard Iribe

    Ah, I just found some interesting info on this flick.


    Update: Some people have been asking me this question, so maybe I wasn?t clear about it in my initial post. The IMAX presentation will not be zoomed in or cropped. Kosinski was very clear to me in saying that IMAX moviegoers would see more of the movie at the top and bottom of the frame. No, the movie was not shot on IMAX cameras ? it was shot using Sony CineAlta Fusion 3D cameras. I know that camera has a native 16:9 frame, which is close to the 1.7:1 frame of the IMAX presentation. So its very possible that the extra hieght was captured in camera during the shoot, and cropped out for the theatrical presentation. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was shot on that camera series in 16:9 and cropped to 2.35:1 for the release. But the bottom line is: Its not zoomed in or cropped, you will see more in the IMAX release.

  6. Gerard Iribe

    Here’s even more info:


    “Our approach is not like Avatar, which I think is 3-D from the first shot to the last. Ours is sort of a Wizard of Oz approach. Ninety-eight percent of the 3-D is in the world of Tron. The 3-D really starts once we get into the Tron world. It’s a combination of technologies that [Robert] Zemeckis [and James Cameron have] been using in terms of the completely digital motion-capture of a character and for the live-action camera system. We used a camera developed by James Cameron’s company. We used a newer generation of camera than the one used on Avatar. They built it specifically for us.”

  7. Aaron Neuwirth

    I *heart* you Gerard

  8. Gregg Senko

    Kosinski needs to sit down with me, a fan, for the real story on 3D. They can shoot this movie with a camera invented by the second coming of Da Vinci and if it still looks like it did last night, it’s nothing to write home about. Like ’em or not, some of the best examples of 3D films are Avatar, Step Up 3D, and Alice in Wonderland. They all make impressive use of the technology without getting hokey. If Hollywood keeps this up (weak 3D), 3D is going to disappear faster than they originally planned. The final product just doesn’t come close to equalling they hype.

  9. Gerard Iribe

    Gregg, Alice In Wonderland was shot in 2-D and converted in post. Tron was shot using 2nd generation cameras built especially for the film. The way I’m understanding these developments is that the theater you saw the film is garbage. I don’t care if it said IMAX on there, if it’s not projected on a six story screen (OG IMAX) then it’s not valid.

    @Aaron – are you seeing this on a six story IMAX screen or the on a Lie-MAX screen?

  10. Aaron Neuwirth

    A real god-damnded IMAX screen. The one in Irvine, CA, the biggest in California, if not most of the U.S. I believe. None of this IMAX-lite crap. And sorry, Alice in Wonderland looked like crap in IMAX 3D, didn’t help in my already experiencing a lack of joy in that film. I’m glad Sean approved of the 3D blu-ray, that makes me hopeful.

    That being said, Step Up 3D (shockingly) is still one of the best uses of the format that I have seen this year. So I’ll still stand behind Gregg on that one.

  11. Brian White

    Gerard is right about the IMAX thing. Crocker Park is considered an IMAX LITE, but the whole 3D thing…in general…just sucks and IMO…is ruining filmmaking. I don’t want to see Star Wars in 3D. I want to see new Star Wars tales! And yeah…AIW was shot 2D.