Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Starring Jeff Bridges, Garret Hedlund, Bruce Boxleitner, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen
Written by Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis
There’s a concept expressed in Tron: Legacy that is a clever one, considering it is based on life inside of a computer program. Kevin Flynn, having discovered the existence of this alternate world in the original Tron, spends much of his free time at night working with his new discovery. During this time, he creates two programs to help in regulating this new world. One of which, Tron (modeled after Boxleitner) and CLU (modeled after Bridges). CLU’s task, according to Kevin Flynn, was tasked with ensuring that imperfections not be allowed to exist on the The Grid. To what they both understood at the time, this task was no problem. Soon enough, spontaneous programs, called ISO’s (isomorphic algorithms) begin to arrive within The Grid. Kevin Flynn is fascinated by this turn of events, and his idea of perfection is expanded to include the unknown. CLU, following orders given at a different point of understanding, turns on his creator and obliterates the ISOs. The Dude, as Kevin Flynn essentially has become (in a nod to his post-Lebowski following), has learned to think and live outside of the box, whereas CLU has passionately and rigorously learned only to define the box. Or something like that.
Meanwhile, Tron, that dedicated follower of The Dude, sacrificed himself to assist in his escape. In the interim, The Dude is trapped in his outside world inside The Grid as the portal between the worlds is closed. Twenty years later, his abandoned son, Sam, has grown and the company Flynn lead has become a monolith. After some fleetingly necessary exposition, Sam finds himself in The Grid at the mercy of and then escaping CLU. It is now, as described, “thousands of cycles” later. What the cycles are, I am not sure. Quorra, one of the ISOs who rescues Sam, says that she longs to see the sun, so I can’t imagine the cycles are measured like ours would be. As Quorra leads Sam back to his father, he finds that his dad, having become The Dude, has long since ceased fighting his creation, CLU, as the attempts have only made him stronger. He has created a little mountain hideaway in the hills, replete with meditation pond and silver apples. His resistance to action is undone by his son and Quorra, and the rest, well, that is for you to see.
The special effects for Tron: Legacy are remarkably fun to look at. The world of soft neon promised in the original are seen to their full effect here. I am unsure how this world is actually constructed within the constraints of micro-technology. Likewise, I have no idea what The Dude ate all the years he was trapped inside The Grid, but the visuals and movement of the plot entice the willing suspension of disbelief, so on we move.
The rules manifest themselves in a couple of ways. Life in The Grid seems tied to the discs behind the backs of both “users” which consist of Sam and Kevin, ISOs, of which Quorra is the last, and the programmed players, which are led by CLU and TRON. When they combat on vehicles, like in the original, the trick is to take the light which trails each vehicle and run it in front of the path of the other combatant. This has expanded to airplanes in the sequel. Why they fight and to what end it serves within the program, I have not a clue. It looks cool, though.
There is a sequence with Sheen’s character the dual named Zuse / Castor. I am not sure the goal of this character other than to give the usually tightwad portraying Sheen to ham it up, Rocky Horror Picture style. Essentially, he was someone to move the story forward, and in the ever-prescient language of The Dude, “Chaos. Good news.”
The Dude compares the coming of the ISOs into the world that CLU was tasked to perfect as “Bio Digital Jazz, man.” CLU did not see things the same way. CLU’s portrayal, also by Bridges, is, effectively Kevin’s opposite. Bridges gives him a mathemetician’s heart and a politician’s influence over his perfect program. One would figure that in the perfect program, all the other programs running within it would not need convincing that CLU’s way is the right way, but I digress.
Another thing that stood out in the performance was that CLU, meant to represent a young Kevin Flynn, looks like a happy video game representation of Bridges. I want to think this is intentional, as to show people in this world are digital, but no one else except the old guys (Bridges and Boxleitner) have this unrealistic effect, so I don’t know what the intent might be. The flashback scene at the beginning of the film also has this weakness. In the days of Avatar, I just don’t know how this lack of definition would be acceptable.
This is all quibbling though. I recently tried to re-watch the original film and, my goodness was it a tough watch. This movie, along with The Empire Strikes Back, shows that sequels can exceed the original. There are some very heady lines thrown in this script by Horowitz and Kitsas. The acting of Bridges is another strength in this film. Playing a wise old man and a dangerous child can be a task, and he handles it with aplomb. Wilde and Hedlund aquit themselves admirably as well, showing more ability than required for an action film. The movie is so much fun to look at and nothing hits you in the head as incredibly dumb. As Quorra represents an original, sentient species, Tron: Legacy puts forth a vision of God being a brilliant man who rolled the dice and enjoyed the chaos only after he made the rules.
(**** out of *****)