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Tron Legacy Review

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Tech-savvy twentysomething Sam Flynn (Hedlund) is still bitter that his father vanished during his formative years. But when a mysterious message lures him to his dad’s old arcade, he finds himself plunged into a computer world and forced to battle Clu (B

★★★★★

One wonders what Tron Guy, that portly fanman with bushy moustache and homemade XL bodysuit, will make of Tron Legacy. Until now he has been a walking representation of all things Tron-world: clunky, silly, the toast of nerds, the opposite of glamour. But now, with the arrival of the mega-budget sequel, the game grid has changed. This is a movie of astonishing high-end gloss, fused to a pounding Daft Punk soundtrack, populated with sleek sirens and chiselled hunks, boasting electroluminescent landscapes to make Blu-ray players weep. Tron is suddenly, undeniably cool. But where does that leave the guy with the DIY light disc?

In truth, this is one of the smartest ideas for a reboot in yonks. Where its fellow 1982 sci-fi releases, E.T. and Blade Runner, are still universally celebrated, Tron’s visuals and ponderous tone have aged as badly as Manic Miner. The concept at the Disney film’s core, however, remains beautifully simple: what if a man got sucked into a computer? That notion, revisited with today’s turbo-boosted VFX technology, has now given Mickey Mouse a stonking tentpole. And make no mistake, Tron Legacy — part sequel, part remake — is a proper event movie, complete with nattily digitised Cinderella’s Castle at the start, a journey to a fully realised alien world and the best 3D since Avatar.

Smartly, director Joseph Kosinski (incredibly making his debut feature) uses the bonus dimension as a technique rather than a lick of paint. Just as The Wizard Of Oz switches from black-and-white to colour once Dorothy is hurled into Kansas, so Legacy doesn’t go 3D until hero Sam (a decent if vanilla Garrett Hedlund) gets laser-blasted into the electronic world. The ensuing 20 minutes, as Sam voyages through the neon bowels of Tron-world and finds himself forced to play killer frisbee, is the film’s best stretch. There are deft comic touches, like a twitchily malfunctioning programme shackled to the transport ship, terrifically edited action, and actual sexiness, in the shape of four cyber-sirens. Plus, did we mention the killer frisbee?

Alas, once the plot turns up, the fun starts to drain out like power from a MacBook. Part of the problem is Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn, who was a goofy delight in the original but here is a bearded, barefooted, yoga-practicing sage. Despite Bridges’ always-likeable presence and the fact he talks in Dude-like zen-nuggets (“It’s biodigital jazz, man”), he’s lumbered with Matrix-sequel levels of exposition. Way too much new shit comes to light.

Then there’s Clu, Flynn’s young clone — a CPU chip off the old block? — who’s turned diabolical, enslaved his land and has designs on doing the same to the real world. The idea of pitting a movie star against their younger self has been around for years (a never-produced project called Gemini Man would have seen Mel Gibson as a hit man stalked by his fitter CG doppleganger), but Tron Legacy is the first to take the plunge. It’s a bold attempt which is mostly effective, though Clu’s eyes have a plastic sheen. More damaging to the film is the villain’s scheme, which is so abstract (how exactly are his shock-troops going to invade Earth? Bop people on the head with their glowsticks?) that there’s never much of a feeling of peril.

Still, Tron 2.0 sounds great, looks greater and features Michael Sheen as a gyrating club owner with a fluoro cane. There are lovely details, like the fact the drinks in the End Of Line club have ice-pixels, not cubes, or the lightning that forks in geometric lines. And Olivia Wilde is a slinky delight as Quorra, her naivety prompting some big laughs. Shame, then, that an over-serious mood and sterile dialogue make the third act crash rather than soar.

A triumph of art direction, sound design and Gallic phat beats, but could do with a script upgrade and fun.exe patch.