Review: Tron: Legacy Thrives ... and Struggles

Tron: Legacy is the best and worst Hollywood has to offer. The positive aspects include amazing visuals, eye-catching CGI, and one of the few legitimate uses of 3-D we've seen this year. The negatives are a complete lack of story cohesion, a bloated running time, stilted dialogue, and a myriad of muddled themes. This is a film you might pass the time pleasantly with, but not one that you'll remember in a year. It borrows liberally from The Matrix and Speed Racer without doing anything artistically significant on its own. A total mixed bag. That's a shame, because the ambition was clearly in place to make something great.

Storywise, we start off the film with Kevin Flynn's son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund). Sam was legitimately traumatized when his dad disappeared; he's a misanthrope with a trust fund as the movie opens. The company his father founded, Encom, is about to release a new operating system, but Sam has a prank up his sleeve. The trick goes off with gusto, but Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) realizes who the culprit is and visits Sam at his waterfront apartment to confront him ... and to give him a long lost message from his pops. Can you guess what happens from there? The trailer or poster might give it away, but we're clearly headed back into The Grid, and the world of Tron, Clu, and Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges).

Tron: Legacy works well at the outset, when the light cycles and disc wars are placed up front. The film looks stunning, and it's easy to escape into this world when the pace is speedy. But after the opening scenes in The Grid, things slow down dramatically. We're subjected to a new character, Quorra (Olivia Wilde), who is interesting but not all that needed or fleshed out. She's Kevin's quasi-assistant / Paduan learner, and her initial interactions with Sam are as confounding as they are inscrutable. Tron: Legacy is a film where the only momentum comes from the expository dialogue. Why must we go to a certain place? Because then this will happen. What will take us there? The vehicle that's over my shoulder. Nothing feels authentic, the film exists because the marketing department has decreed that it must. Where a film such as Children of Men feels visceral precisely because you're figuring out the world with the characters, Tron: Legacy comes off limp because everything is either over-explained or not bothered with at all. Logical problems abound, which wouldn't be a problem if the film were internally consistent, but it isn't. At all. Scenes that take place in a futuristic Tron bar are stylish to the max ... but devoid of any story value.

As such, I can't heartily recommend this as anything more than escapist cinema. It's fun when Jeff Bridges channels The Dude, but I'm not sure the levity fits since they're often talking about the major themes of the film when it occurs. Garrett Hedlund tries his best given the material, but the reunion with his father is all at once rushed and forced. Tron: Legacy shows off a world where everything is eye candy, and nothing is brain candy.

Grade: C