Avatar this is not. I know that’s not a fair comparison, but that’s pretty much what Disney wishes it was. The high budget, long gestating sequel to the cult classic tries really hard to be a lot of things and never really becomes anything more than a valid attempt. I wasn’t expecting Masterpiece Theater, and I don’t think anyone else is for that matter. I just yearn for a little more daring, cohesiveness, and “whoa” moments from my visual effects driven extravaganzas.
The initial plot is about the long missing tech genius Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), and his grown son’s attempt to discover what became of him. Sam Flynn (Garret Hedlund) goes searching down the rabbit hole and finds himself inside a computer grid built years ago by his father. In the Grid, programs are represented by people and other such avatars. After a nifty disc fight scene and a fun little light cycle battle, the second plot begins and is about as muddled and poorly explained as the end of The Matrix: Reloaded.
All you really need to know is that there are magical Iso-beings and CLU (Jeff Bridges’ doppelganger) destroyed most of them. Now he’s trying to enter our world and destroy that too. I guess I get it. But why can’t Bridges destroy CLU? And why are programs sitting around watching gladiator games? Don’t they have programming to follow? Why are there nightclubs? Why would a program weep at the derezzed particles of a fellow program? And why the fuck is there a hobo program?
You see, Tron: Legacy suffers from a deadly fantasy film disease caused by an inadequately defined universe. The rules aren’t clear, thus the logic of a character’s actions aren’t clear, and therefore my rooting interest in all the events amounts to zero. For all of the heavy exposition of Inception, at least you knew the parameters.
Legacy was shot in 3D (which is the version I saw) like Avatar, which was pretty cool when taken advantage of, but sometimes the editing/camerawork stifled the effect. Garret Hedlund’s character is defined solely as angst ridden/motorcycle rider and his acting reflects this. Olivia Wilde is fetching and properly adorable, if not completely squandered. Bridges gives a surprisingly annoying performance as the wise old man. But true awfulness is the over-the-top and unnecessary antics of Michael Sheen as some kind of night club owner. Sheen wasn’t funny or amusing, unless you enjoy nails on a chalkboard.
What you’re really paying for are the effects, the sound, and the future world of the Grid, which don’t totally disappoint. The world looks great, the costumes especially. When the film stops jabbering on about techno jargon and actually ramps up the action I was, for better or worse, entertained. However, the Starman Jeff Bridges effect only works half the time, which is inexcusable after the success of Benjamin Button.
The best thing by far was the score by the elusive DJs, Daft Punk. The music evokes the best of what the film wants to be. It’s a bit of 80’s adventure, like The Neverending Story, with the dark moodiness of The Dark Knight mixed together with the loneliness of technology and the funk of Daft Punk.
Basically, it’s the score for the movie I wished I was watching.