Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen, James Frain, Anis Cheurfa. (2010, PG, 125 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 17, 2010
There's absolutely no shortage of stunning eye candy in this spiffy, sexy, and frequently thrilling sequel to Disney's 1982 game-changer Tron. There is, however, a certain lack of connectivity between the digitally enhanced characters onscreen and the user – excuse me, "audience" – in the flesh. That's not going to be much of a drawback for the film's two core demographics, namely proto-gamers who grew up with the original film and its clunky-but-supercool arcade version, and the newest iteration of gameboys (and -girls), who, like their ancient forebears (that'd be me), enjoy nothing so much as being dazzled by ribbons of colored light and the onrushing notion of “singularity” with the machine. Alas, this machine has a ghost in it, and, not surprisingly, it's the spirit of Tron v1.0. Debuting director Kosinski, emerging from the fittingly dual worlds of architecture and commercials (both skill sets are put to good use here), has created a virtual world that's far more seamless and immersive than the one we visited in 1982. Here, the grid – that sleek inner world of the game created by programmer Kevin Flynn (Bridges) – is all crystalline club life and roaring, tempestuous crowds craving gladiatorial blood(-less)sport. Visually, it owes a great debt to both 2001: A Space Odyssey and, more recently, The Matrix. It's a stunningly gorgeous yet innately chilly vision of the inner lives of man and machine. Set 20 years after Flynn and Alan Bradley (Boxleitner) – both reprising their earlier incarnations via digital Ponce de Leonization – first teamed up to save the world, Legacy finds Flynn's Ducati-riding offspring, Sam (Hedlund), sucked into the game this time around. The grid is no longer the utopian ideal Flynn imagined it could be. Instead, his digital doppelganger, Clu (Bridges again), has taken control and is plotting escape into the real world. Not so fast, dude. What's actually surprising about this Tron is how much sly humor the half-dozen or so screenwriters have infused it with. Bridges' current take on Kevin Flynn turns out to bear more than a passing resemblance, in both couture and manner, to The Big Lebowski's Dude. Sheen's thoroughly impressive channeling of a mixture between the Thin White Duke-era David Bowie and the contemporary Alan Cumming, as well as a snarky, brief cameo by French electronic duo Daft Punk, allows Tron: Legacy to achieve a kind of gonzo gamer high art. It's still a soulless machine for making Disney mountains of cash, of course, but you can feel it striving to be more. Which is, at the end of the game, what singularity is all about.