Watching the original Tron in 1982 was a mind-blowing experience for so many people that they’ve been holding on to it for nearly 30 years, waiting for a chance to revisit the computerized world of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and his creations. The forward-thinking use of computer effects in Tron really is astounding, but those effects look clunky and dated from our decades-later perspective, and it doesn’t help that they’re deployed in service of a cheesy story with giant plot holes. So to say that belated sequel Tron: Legacy looks amazing is both to praise and to condemn it; 30 years from now, it will probably seem just as dated as its predecessor.
And that will be because, like its predecessor, Legacy is pretty poorly written, with one-dimensional characters, hokey dialogue and a schematic, dull plot. Bridges’ computer genius Flynn has been missing for decades, trapped in “the Grid,” the artificial world that he designed. When Flynn’s son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) finds his way into the Grid, the two generations of Flynns band together to take down Clu (also Bridges, artificially de-aged via CGI), the sentient program that’s gone rogue and taken over the digital world. There’s a bunch of other stuff going on, too, although most of it is convoluted and tedious. Writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (formerly of Lost) have come up with a lot more mythology this time around, but none of it addresses the fundamental inconsistencies of the movie’s universe.
Luckily director Joseph Kosinski, an advertising veteran making his feature debut, has a wonderful visual sense, and the production design, costumes and special effects in Legacy are impeccable. Kosinski takes many of the familiar elements of the original film (light cycles, solar sails, flying discs) and gives them a sleek, modern upgrade. He also uses 3D well, giving the images depth without sacrificing clarity. Legacy looks so great, and Daft Punk’s icy electronic soundtrack is so cool, that the whole thing would probably work better as a music video. It’s just too bad that the plot and dialogue keep getting in the way.