Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, Bruce Boxleiter, Serinda Swan, James Frain
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writer(s): Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz
Cinematography: Claudio Miranda
Original Score: Daft Punk
Running Time: 127 mins.
So, it’s been a long time coming and in this year of belated sequels (Wall Street) Tron Legacy may just be the most eagerly anticipated of them all, the hype for this “movie event” as the trailers boom has been built up to fever pitch with a slow drip feed of teaser trailers leaking from the last two Comic-Con’s and the realisation that a sequel to the 80’s favourite Tron was possible in terms of realising the vision director Kosinski had in mind, helped in no small part to last year’s 3D event movie, Avatar.
Like Avatar, Tron Legacy comes at us amidst a tide of expectation, the hype doesn’t help as film’s rarely live up to it especially when it has continued for so long, also like Avatar this is a film that promises the pushing of technological boundaries. Cameron had mo-cap’d blue folk, and Tron Legacy takes the process a stage further. Meaning we have the welcome return of Jeff Bridges to not one but two roles, returning as Encon and 80’s Tron character Kevin Flynn, but here’s the coup, Bridges also plays the villain, Clu, created using mo-cap and the de-aging process implemented for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button he provides yet another stepping stone in the age of anything being possible by way of CGI trickery.
Having a Bridges sr. vs. Bridges jr. setup is tantalising and more than value for money in the acting stakes, but while the digital creation of Clu is impressive it is not perfected meaning he looks a little stilted and artificial at times. Thankfully it works here given the film’s nature, which means the film-makers could just about get away with claiming the slightly off look is intended, that aside it is not an issue that distracts but rather adds to the villains menace. The question is, is there anything more to be seen other than a digital bag of tricks?
Well, in truth not really, but what a bag of tricks it is. Tron Legacy is a film with the same emotional depth and story problems that faced Avatar, which means it not only shares that films strengths but also its weaknesses, albeit with character types that aren’t quite as stilted something helped by Bridges presence and an assured if pedestrian turn by Garrett Hedlund, an actor for whom standing in the supporting ranks of films like Four Brothers and Troy should change quite promptly following this. Bridges is as eminently watchable as you’d expect, as Flynn he is like the God of the grid stepping in and causing standstill with his mere presence and purring lines about “zen” and “karma”, he is The Dude, just a little less stoned!
Clu is the coup though and as mentioned before the slightly stilted, but hugely impressive, effects add a level of originality to an otherwise linear story that carves close to a Star Wars-y vibe right down to the final aerial battle on light-planes. He is a menacing and foreboding villain without ever becoming camp or OTT even in his most dastardly acts, on the flip side are a handful of “other” turns that either make little impact or too muc in the worst possible way. Olivia Wilde fits the former while Michael Sheen puts in a career worst turn as a sub-Bowie “fixer” of sorts that bring to mind the camper elements of The Matrix sequels, no good thing by a long stretch!
Add to this a smattering of quite frankly baffling ideas contributing to the world of The Grid and the reason for Flynn’s return and the discoveries therein and you have the worst kind of plotting, linear and confusing all at once. On the plus side the setting alone provides room for enough spectacle and some of the greatest visuals of the year, set pieces are free-flowing and all hit the mark it’s just the flab of confusion and dullness stringing them together where Tron Legacy falls flat on its face which is a great shame given that when Daft Punk’s score (one of the ears best incidentally) kicks in and the light-cycle/plane/disc battles go you will be transported to another world.
There’s an hour’s worth of A-grade film in Tron Legacy including some of the years finest effects and action scenes (enhanced rather than hindered by 3D for a change) along with a cracking and pitch perfect score by Daft Punk, unfortunately it is strung together by a rather pedestrian plot that problematises itself by inserting baffling ideas that scream of desperation for some depth, but come across as downright dull.