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Review: ‘TRON: Legacy’

But It Doesn’t Tie the Whole Virtual Reality Together

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

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

Audio

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.

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

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.

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

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"

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