Editor’s Note: Germain’s review, which originally appeared earlier this month, has been republished for opening weekend…
I almost don’t want to say how much I liked TRON: Legacy. Going into a film cold is always the best way to see it and before seeing this heavily marketed, long gestating sequel, I’d unfortunately heard several well-known critics shower the film with negative adjectives, suitably lowering my expectations. With that mindset, I enjoyed the film immensely. So, I apologize if I rebuild any of those lowered expectations when I say that TRON: Legacy is the epic, thrilling adventure you were hoping for, complete with all of the flaws so commonly made in a Hollywood blockbuster.
Mere seconds into TRON: Legacy, the film sucks its audience in. We hear the voice of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) explaining The Grid, a digital space he created years ago in the first TRON film, and the camera swoops in to reveal that he’s describing it to his son, Sam. The year is 1989 and we, the audience, have our focal point. For both us and Sam, so much time has passed since the groundbreaking first film, we welcome the reminder of exactly what world we are in and when Kevin Flynn disappears, we’re just as curious as Sam as to his whereabouts.
Of course, the audience knows where he went. He’s spent years on The Grid, a computer generated blend of black, blue and orange which is the setting for most of TRON: Legacy. But it’s the stuff that happens before the film hits The Grid that really sets the tone. Flashbacks and news stories tell the story of Kevin Flynn’s rise, disappearance and set up an intriguing new world. In this world, the grown up Sam (Garret Hedlund) is rebellious and a bit of a prankster. We follow him around a bit, collecting information at a pace that simultaneously resets our TRON memory while keeping the mystery at the forefront. So, once Sam makes his way onto The Grid in search of dear old Dad, we’re emotionally invested and ready for a ride.
If it’s anything, TRON: Legacy is most certainly a ride. It hits the ground running with almost non-stop action for the first third of its running time. This is when we see Disc Wars, Light Cycles and all that good stuff you remember from the trailers. Plus, the visuals are awe-inspiring. Then the introduction of Quorra (Olivia Wilde) marks the beginning of a plateau as we’re force fed obligatory expositional dialogue trying to explain the plot. “All your questions will be answered,” Quorra tells Sam and that’s where TRON: Legacy has its first hiccup. Those answers largely come in one scene which feels clunky and confusing. Still, Wilde’s wide-eyed performance and glimpses of Bridges channeling The Dude help the film power through until the pace picks up again.
To describe any film as “a roller coaster” is a complete cliche, but TRON: Legacy is almost begging for it. Director Joseph Kosinski, whether he knows it or not, has constructed the film as such: There’s the quick build at the beginning, a whole bunch of action at the front, a lull in the middle and an exciting twisty, turny finish. But, like a roller coaster, the slow parts are forgivable because the ride is so much fun and that’s what TRON: Legacy is, one of the most fun films of the year. Its biggest flaw though, back to that pesky roller coaster analogy, is that nothing changes by the end. The audience will be exhilarated, entertained, but once you get out of your seat, everything is the same. None of the characters in the film have any real arc. Even when you think they are about to exhibit an arc, it doesn’t progress through to fruition.
What does move through to fruition is the score by Daft Punk. The electronic super stars do an Oscar worthy job of combining pulse pounding electronic beats with hummable themes and bombastic orchestral arrangements. The resulting music is the fuel that fires all of TRON: Legacy and even in scenes that feel superfluous, the score is always there to keep it interesting.
Also, the 3D is some of the best we’ve seen to date – especially if you see it in IMAX 3D where several scenes were converted into the large screen format. These scenes work like The Dark Knight, with the aspect ratio changing sizes, but are more impressive and immersive than the ones in that film. They’re worth the price of admission alone.
Admittedly, you have to forgive TRON: Legacy for a few things in order to truly enjoy it. The CGI on the young Jeff Bridges character, Clu, isn’t always perfect. There are scenes and characters in the film that feel completely pointless (Hello Michael Sheen!) and some of the story is slightly unclear. For many people, these issues might be too much to forgive and, most of the time, I’d be one of these people. This time, for some reason, I’m not. The world of TRON: Legacy, with its incredible visuals and fascinating story, sucked me in making the problems melt away. The film is simply too much fun to care.
TRON: Legacy is every bit the exciting adventure Disney has been promising to deliver for several years. It also has all the flaws you’ve, unfortunately, come to expect from a big budget blockbuster. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an awesome time at the movies. Forgive and have fun.