Tron: Legacy

Kevin Flynn – “You’re messing with my Zen thing, man!”

You gotta love Jeff Bridges. Even in a cold, empty, artificial blockbuster like “Tron: Legacy”, the guy manages to bring a modicum of warmth, soul and spontaneity, coming off like a cross between The Dude and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Original Trilogy, old Kenobi, that is. I make this precision because most everything else about this flick feels closer to the “Star Wars” prequels, particularly the performance of Garrett Hedlund, who’s almost as uncharismatic as Hayden Christensen was in “Attack of the Clones”.

From what I understand, when it opened back in 1982, “Tron” seemed to be way ahead of its time, notably for its use of computer-generated imagery and the way its story embraced the then still nascent world of video games. 28 years later, practically every big Hollywood production relies heavily on CGI to dazzle and, both from an aesthetic and narrative standpoint, many blockbusters now seem to be big-screen versions of video games.

As such, a movie like “Tron: Legacy” doesn’t seem all that unique in 2010 and, even though the creators of this sequel clearly put a lot of time and money into updating the special effects, the result is hardly revolutionary. As for the use of 3D technology, it’s fine I guess, but I’m still waiting for a film that even approaches what “Avatar” accomplished in that regard…

That being said, “Tron: Legacy” could still have at least been an entertaining watch, but I can’t say it really is. The screenplay by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, for one, is a laborious affair, full of exposition scenes detailing the workings and the evolution of the virtual environment Kevin Flynn (Bridges) created in the original and where, we learn, he’s been trapped for 20 years because Clu (Bridges again, made to look younger through a not-so-convincing digital makeover), an avatar which he created back in the day, has turned against him and taken control of The Grid. It’s up to Flynn’s son Sam (Hedlund) to find his old man and return to the outside world with him, which ultimately appears to be a pretty easy feat to pull off.

Or more precisely, it never seems like the characters are in much danger, as the whole thing feels oddly static and lacks in urgency. Even the famed disc battles and Light Cycles races aren’t all that exciting. First-time director Joseph Kosinski is probably to blame for that. The impression I get is that he was so busy perfecting the clean, minimalist design of the virtual landscapes, vehicles, costumes and weapons that he forgot to try to make us care about the characters and what happens to them. As mentioned, Bridges is fun enough, and I also enjoyed Michael Sheen‘s goofball turn as an androgynous club owner, but Hedlund is thoroughly dull, as are Olivia Wild and the rest of the cast members.

Watching “Tron: Legacy”, it hit me that in bringing this franchise into the 21st century, the filmmakers wanted it to be “The Matrix”. Alas, it’s not even “The Matrix Reloaded”. At best, it’s the Wachowski’s “Speed Racer”, if that…

The one element of “Tron: Legacy” I loved unequivocally is the score by French electronic music duo Daft Punk, which is all kinds of awesome, more so than anything on screen. As far as I’m concerned, you might as well skip the movie and just buy the soundtrack.