In 1982, I saw “TRON” for the first time. I was six years old and I loved a movie. It transported me to a world unlike any other. And it began (or released) my lifelong obsession for science fiction film. When you love something unconditionally for years, you start to feel a sense of ownership for it. So it was with cautious optimism I followed Disney’s bold decision to journey once again into the world of “TRON.”
“Tron: Legacy” picks up the story many years later, as Sam Flynn searches for his father, Kevin Flynn, lost to the world for two decades. Amazingly, this is neither a remake nor a re-imagining, but a direct sequel. Disney was quelling my fears.
The film’s visual aesthetic is the first thing that will grab you and it is absolutely irresistible. I loved the look and design from the opening titles, but once Sam is transported to the Grid, every shot holds a new latex fantasy full of curved metal and neon landscapes. In fact, the breathtaking visuals in this film are so complete and striking and abundant that you may find yourself taking them for granted. Try not to do that.
In direct contrast to its predecessor, there is an inherent life to the aesthetic that translates to much of the film. Kevin Flynn’s “2001”-inspired home seems cold, sure, but it also seems like someone actually lives there. Instead of gliding, Recognizers rumble through the air. Daft Punk’s excellent score has as many sweeping melodic strings as it has electronic beats. And the light cycles have a real weight to them. You can feel it when their riders take a sharp turn or derezz after slamming into a wall.
Speaking of the light cycle sequence: Holy Crap Crap. The light cycles racing on the game grid was the most memorable sequence in the original film, and here you get the sense that the filmmakers knew that and wanted to do one better. The bike’s design, the multi-level grid, the open cockpits that allow for using disks in lethal ways, the palpable sense of speed, and every tangible impact, left me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
Unlike the cold and calculating computer in the original film, in “Legacy” the villain is a passionate and distinctly flawed program named Clu. Kevin Flynn created him to help bring order to chaos, but Clu has decided perfection demands bringing harmony by force. While Flynn and Clu have possibly the most interesting relationship in the film, the focus is not on Flynn’s technological offspring.
Instead, “Tron: Legacy” is ostensibly Sam’s search for his father, and in this, the narrative feels a bit linear at times. We’re following Sam Flynn as he runs down the court and back and there aren’t many surprises once the story gets going. When the pace slows a bit much, like when Sam goes to the End Of Line Club, or when an action set piece feels less original, like the aerial dogfight near the end, the story is left exposed, and you may find yourself wishing for a complication or two.
But as a follow up to the seminal film from 1982, the movie’s heart is always in the right place. Indeed, the most remarkable thing about “Tron: Legacy” is how perfectly it compliments the original. Flynn’s cyberspace world of twenty years later required the original film as a jumping off point, yet “Legacy” could stand on its own. Better still, one could watch the original and then immediately watch this sequel and it would be a surprisingly seamless experience. “Tron: Legacy” is a real Tron movie. And that’s one heck of a compliment.
brian w. williams