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Review: ‘TRON: Legacy’

But It Doesn’t Tie the Whole Virtual Reality Together

Above: "TRON", the next generation. Garrett Hedlund plays Jeff Bridges son in the sequel to Disney's 1982 "TRON."

Audio

Aired 12/15/10

The critics on the KPBS Film Club of the Air discuss "TRON: Legacy."

Transcript

As a friend and fellow critic recently told me as the number of '80s remakes and rip offs continued to roll in: "When will they stop raping my childhood?" Well not any time soon as the new "TRON: Legacy" (opening December 17 throughout San Diego) serves up new abuse.

You can listen to our discussion on the KPBS Film Club of the Air or read my review.

I know there are a lot of people out there who hold the original 1982 "TRON" very dear to their hearts. I'm so sorry but I think most will be disappointed. But probably nothing I say will stop them from spending their hard earned money on this sequel. They will want to find out for themselves and maybe some will be able to overlook att the flaws to find something to appreciate. But I think even diehard fans of the original will have a hard time finding the good in this bland, pretentious sequel. If you will not heed my warning to avoid this snoozer than at the very least avoid the 3D version and see it in IMAX 2D. Simply put, the 3D sucks!

The original film was about hacker/arcade owner Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who is literally abducted into a video game by the evil Master Control Program. Flynn is reconstituted into a bright, geometrical 3-D world of computers where he joins forces with Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) to outwit the Master Control Program that holds them captive in a complex computer game. In "TRON: Legacy," it's Flynn's son (Garrett Hedlund) who ends up entering a wild cyberspace landscape, this time in search of his missing father. He meets a new Tron and a new kind of evil.

Jeff Bridges with his CGI facelift in "TRON: Legacy."

Walt Disney Studios

Above: Jeff Bridges with his CGI facelift in "TRON: Legacy."

First of all let me say that the digitally youthened Jeff Bridges is creepy beyond words and looks out at us with dead eyes. Really? This is the best state of the art technology can deliver? Second, any film that opens with a disclaimer saying that not all of the film was shot in 3D, some scene were deliberately 2D, is beginning on wussy grounds. Now add in the fact that the film feels like it's ripping off "Star Wars" (one chase is like the pod race scenes from "The Phantom Menace" and another is like the dogfight in "A New Hope") and maybe "Rollerball" too, and then pads the film with long, dull philosophizing between meager action scenes, and you have a recipe for disaster. The only two things keeping me awake were the cool score by Daft Punk and Michael Sheen's over-the-top performance as the villainous Zuse. He's like an effeminate version of Malcolm McDowell's Alex in "A Clockwork Orange." He chews up virtual scenery like crazy but at least he has some energy and passion. Everyone else is sleepwalking through this thing.

Bridges tries to Dude-ify the Flynn character with laid back lines like "you're interrupting my Zen." I half expected him to ask for a White Russian and throw out a rug, you know the one that tied the whole room together? But it's a stiff hollow performance. He's even worse as the youthened computer generated Clu. Ew! Garrett Hedlund is likable as Flynn's son Sam and Olivia Wilde is sexy cute as Quorra, and that's the kindest thing I can say about their acting.

"TRON: Legacy" could survive on style alone if director Joseph Kosinski knew the first thing about style. There are certain design elements to the film that look sleek and attractive but Kosinski doesn't know how to parlay those elements into a deliberate and effective style. Even though the bulk of the film takes place inside the cold world of a videogame, Kosinski doesn't know how to invest any human warmth into his characters, they might as well be chess pieces to be moved about.

Even the light cycles were a bit underwhelming in "TRON: Legacy."

Walt Disney Studios

Above: Even the light cycles were a bit underwhelming in "TRON: Legacy."

The script by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz is pretentious and entirely lackluster. It's badly written with dialogue lifted from other movies and long stretches of absolutely nothing happening. If you haven't seen the original "TRON" in years you may not remember that it too was slow and pretentious. But it was cool because it was the first film to really put you into a game, and it marketed a fun set of toys to go with the movie. If you go back to the film now it may not hold up to the affection you remember having for it. But for many people it is the film of their childhood and there's nothing that can shake their affection. (That's how I feel about "Star Wars.") But this new "TRON" doesn't seem likely to engender the same passion and affection.

"TRON: Legacy" (rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language) was a painful experience on multiple levels. So if you feel the irresistible need to go to "TRON: Legacy," put a blindfold on and crank up the music then you should be okay. And as a final note: Kosinski is set next to direct a remake of another bloated Disney sci-fi epic from the past, "The Black Hole." (Scratching head and mumbling curses under my breath.)

Companion viewing: "Gamer," "Crank 2," "TRON"

Comments

Avatar for user 'IanForbes'

IanForbes | December 17, 2010 at 8:17 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

While the film itself is a bit of a snooze fest, it's rife for mockery and should make for an excellent Rifftrax!

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Avatar for user 'vormaen'

vormaen | December 17, 2010 at 9:26 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

The only thing pretentious is this poorly written review. I'd say Beth is completely jaded and has no right to be reviewing a film she knows nothing about. Stick with your martial arts shtick and horror movie lust. You're just just another lost cause reviewer who forgot that judging a film by it's content did not take a backseat to the effects. I've watched the film, and was a fan of the original, and by no means is it disappointing. I remember a time when films were supposed to be fun, and you, my dear are about as fun as watching wood rot.

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Avatar for user 'iheartnerds'

iheartnerds | December 17, 2010 at 10 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Hi Beth,

I saw you at the film on Monday and I was waiting for your review and I'm glad that I'm not the only one. I was bored after the first 40 minutes and really did start to doze. It was just poorly paced.I've been waiting for this for more than two years and have to say I could honestly tell my hardcore sci-fi nerd friends that I'm not going to pay to see this... (which I usually would do)

I did enjoy the disc action sequence but after the light cycles the movie continued to ramp down. And was just super inconsistent. I did rewatch the original Sunday night and yea it was slow but it was more tongue and cheek and there was an actual villian and threat. Whereas this movie's villian of Clu wasn't really all that threatening to me. I just felt nothing. Maybe I've seen too many movies or I'm just tired of crap. I'm definitely not excited for a sequel.

I wanted this to be good, but I felt myself feeling a similar reaction that I felt when I left the theatre after the first Star Wars prequel...well maybe not that bad.

Are you going to the Christmas Horror Movie Fest?

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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | December 17, 2010 at 10:29 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Yes going to the Xmas Horror Fest. The Original TRON did benefit from David Warner as the evil one, he's so good at being bad. But you're right, Legacy, had no real villain. And that was only one of its problems.

And yes Ian, RIFFTRAX! Sorry they keep raping your childhood.

And vormaen, glad you were able to have fun at the film.

Thanks for the comments.

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Avatar for user 'Vaughn'

Vaughn | December 21, 2010 at 10:10 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Original FILM was far more ground-breaking, believable, with better real world and virtual transitions to tell the story. This is just a fancy update using special effects to tell an father and son tale. Wait for the dvd.

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Avatar for user 'The0ne'

The0ne | December 21, 2010 at 2:02 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

I have to agree with Beth on this one here, for the most part. I rarely cuss in real life but this movie had me cussing all through it. What were the thinking when they made the sequel? Had they no sense or shame on what they were writing about. There are so many things wrong with this movie, some covered by Beth already.

The digital young Jeff is done well actually, but the eyes will always be dead as it is the "main" part of a digital character that is the most challenging to make real. Any animator knows this and can let it slide, But that doesn't mean the audience will understand it, and the only thing they can do is say "this is creepy." And rightfully so.

Zuse was very annoying and I ponder at the character and the scene as it dragged on and on. It is as though they were trying to match the exact same bar/dance scene from matrix and failed horribly. Granted Beth is corrected that he is the most animated character in the entire movie. Now that is sad once you really think about it.

For the love of the original film itself, even if you didn't grow up with it like many of us, don't go see this movie. I grew up with the film, became an engineer because of it, wasted countless quarters playing the original game, always dreamed of creating my own light cycle, etc. But this crap of a movie had my cussing like there was no tomorrow.

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Avatar for user 'The0ne'

The0ne | December 21, 2010 at 2:08 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Oh, had wanted to say I almost walked out and demanded my money back after sitting through what seemed like 20mins of 2D crap in the beginning. I didn't pay for 2D and they were to lazy to shoot it in 3D, how lame is that. And it was suppose to be shot on purpose? Yeah, that was a good one there Disney.

So if any of you do you see it in 3D, don't bother wearing your glasses in the beginning until the kid enters the 3D world.

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