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Review - Tron: Legacy 3D (PG)

Rachel Winterbottom finds style over substance in Disney’s tardy sequel

Written by . Published on December 22nd 2010.


Review - Tron: Legacy 3D (PG)

In 1982, Disney’s Tron became a cult classic. Based on arcade game Pong, the film followed game designer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who hacks into a computer system but finds himself trapped in a world of neon, disc games and light cycle battles.

Somewhat controversially, Disney agreed a sequel (they wouldn’t have survived a remake) and Tron: Legacy was born. First-time director Joseph Kosinski picks the story up 20 years after Flynn (a more mature Bridges) told his son Sam about a new digital frontier he’d created, The Grid, before disappearing.

On the hunt for his missing dad, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is accidentally sucked into The Grid. Inside, he finds a different world to the free and open one his father set out to create. Clu, Flynn’s programme counterpart (a CGI-young Bridges), has taken over, purging The Grid of imperfections, including new life forms that had blossomed, the miraculous ISOs.

In the world of neon lines, Sam is presented with a disc that doubles as a memory stick and a weapon (Apple take note). He’s mistaken for a programme and thrown into the disc games but Rinzler, master of the games (AKA Tron, the security programme), saves him when he realises he’s a user. He’s rescued by the naive but ass-kicking Quorra (the beautiful Olivia Wilde) and the pair utilise her off-grid tyres and retreat back to an aged Flynn’s hideout.

Sam learns his father has been in hiding because Clu wants to use Flynn’s master disc to exit through the portal that reopened when Sam arrived, and is due to close in eight hours. It isn’t long before Flynn trades in his white robes for a cool, neon-lit black outfit to help his son in a race against time to stop Clu and escape through the portal themselves.

The film is a mix of 2D for the real-world opening and 3D for the digital world. For fans of the original film, the main allure of Tron: Legacy isn’t going to be seeing an aged Jeff Bridges in his pyjamas; it’s getting to see a light cycle battle in 3D. But they might be disappointed.

There’s no doubt this is a visually arresting film, but to justify a sequel after 30 years those light streams should be shooting out of the screen and bouncing off your eyeballs.

The neon-lit world is breathtaking – a genuine electronic light orchestra of epic proportions - with or without 3D. Daft Punk and Joseph Trapanese provide a pulsating soundtrack.

Unfortunately, Legacy’s plot and characterisation don’t shine as much. Clu is your bog-standard villain with bumbling sidekick and the only truly foreboding feature is his dead CGI eyes, probably unintentional.

Bridges clearly isn’t afraid of his advancing years - playing an aging country music star in Crazy Heart and now the older version of Flynn. This, however, seems to ensure his lines all include words like ‘man’ and ‘dig’ along with some awful Disney cheese (‘Tron, what have you become?’). His wounded eyes at least belie a genuine talent behind Flynn’s hippy exterior.

Hedlund (Eragon) is fine as Sam, but doesn’t have much to work with when his character can be summed up as ‘looking for his father’. Wilde (House, The OC) has fun channelling Lelu from The 5th Element but doesn’t quite manage the same chaotic mix of vulnerability and violence.

Following an excellent turn in Frost/Nixon, Brit actor Michael Sheen has somehow found a niche for himself in roles that demand a certain level of camp. From a silken-haired vampire in Twilight sequel New Moon to the Ziggy Stardust-esque Zuse in Tron: Legacy, no other actor swings a disco stick quite like Sheen.

It’s an impressive Disney production but this often illogical film suffers from the lack of present danger - the protagonists sneak around in the dark wearing neon but go undetected.

In a time of 3D gluttony, it fails to recapture the excitement of the original and for all its visual pyrotechnics, the special effects can’t hide a lack of depth in its characters and plot.

6/10

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