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 dads 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.