REVIEW: Tron: Legacy Is All Moneygrubbing Sequel, Very Little Legacy

Movieline Score: 5

There are good reasons for people to feel nostalgic about the 1982 live action-computer animation hybrid Tron. If you were a little kid when it came out, the spectacle of it might have dazzled you; if you were an older kid, of any age, the novelty of it might have mesmerized you. And from what I've seen, the imagery does look original for the movie's time. That's all the more reason for fans of Tron to feel cheated by the bloated, nonsensical, exhausting sequel that is Tron: Legacy. Even the name seems crass, as if some Disney marketing exec figured that all the studio had to do was slap "Legacy" at the end of the old title and the thing would be good to go.

Right here I must come clean and admit that I've never seen the original Tron. I'm a victim of the Great Tron Shortage of 2010: The DVD is out of print and much in demand, recently fetching upwards of $60 on eBay. A remastered Blu-ray is in the works, but it won't be available until 2011. And although my local rental joint has one copy, there was a waiting list for it, one that unfortunately stretched beyond my deadline.

I realize that to some of you, my lack of familiarity with Tron -- even though I made every effort to see it -- makes me unfit to walk the Earth, let alone bask in the miserable experience that is Tron: Legacy. On the other hand, going in cold has its advantages: It's the best way to tell whether a sequel can stand on its own or whether it demands an insider's knowledge and affection to make any kind of sense.

I certainly hope the latter is the case. Tron: Legacy is an ungodly mess that's great fun to look at for about 15 minutes and exhausting the rest of the time. As far as I can tell, here's what Tron: Legacy is about: The movie opens with a figure who looks a little like the young Jeff Bridges (at least as far as we can tell, from the clever one-quarter-profile shot), and sounds something like the current Jeff Bridges, telling his young son about some Utopia he's on the verge of discovering, or building. When we finally get a good look at the guy's face, we see that he actually does look something like the young Jeff Bridges -- except he appears to have been Animatronicized, or Robert Zemeckisized, or something, and his scarily youthful lips don't quite sync with what he's saying. This isn't Jeff Bridges as he once was -- this is Jeff Bridges as you'd never want to see him.

Bridges, reprising the role he played in the first movie, is Kevin Flynn, and he's about to make a big breakthrough having to do with "the grid" or something like that. Then he disappears. Flash-forward a bunch of years. His kid, Sam, is now grown, and he's being played by a boring actor, Garrett Hedlund. The little computer-game outfit Flynn used to run with his partner, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner, who shows up looking, thank God, his actual age), is now a faceless conglomerate that won't give its software away for free. The script and story -- which have no fewer than six screenwriter pawmarks smudged all over them, although some of them belong to Steven Lisberger, who created the characters and directed the original -- briefly introduce a potentially boring open-source software debate. That unpromising thread is dropped, only to be replaced by a thread -- if you could call it that -- that's actually more boring.

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  • Tomas says:

    I don't want to bust your bubble here but you admit you've never seen the original TRON, which is cool - I get it and you would understand why I do if you had seen it. I think that having never seen it however you would be rather disappointed in the original. It's not really an action movie or a romance or buddy movie or even your standard sci-fi fare. It has all of those aspects to it (in little, unsatisfying, never-quite-realized bits) , but the original was in fact an EXTREMELY slow paced movie(almost plodding, in fact) with amazing visual effects and it's primary theme was that of the quest and the exploration involved in that quest. From what you've described this actually sounds like a true sequel. Of course I haven't seen it yet - I'm going to the midnight showing tonight. You could be absolutely right and I could be wrong, in which case I'll come back and back up everything you said.

  • chuck says:

    It's weird - I'm clearly in the minority in liking this movie. Tron: Legacy isn't perfect, but it is a perfect sequel to a movie that is by no means perfect - the story is thin, the characters are fragments, the stakes are confusing - but something really worked for me in both.

  • SunnydaZe says:

    The original promo for this film (which has no footage from the film) will be remembered as the best thing to ever utilize the Tron universe. It is a perfect short film. I could watch it a million times.

  • hollywoodjeffy says:

    I absolutely love that the Great Tron Shortage of 2010 has claimed its first victim.

  • casting couch says:

    I find reading this grouchy review exhausting.

  • Ronald Gerard says:

    Well, that it took the Mouse Co., almost THIRTY Years to do a "Sequel"; shows they didn't know what 2 make of the original. So WHY, in this age of HollyWood sequel-itis, should we think they'd KNOW WHAT To do in a ret-con, of the film.

  • bob says:
    I don't think the title is crass at all.

  • Aaron says:

    This reviewer is typical of all movie critics. Out-of-touch, elitist, and unhappy unless it's an independent art film, subtitled. Tron Legacy rocked. It was was fantastic. Awesome. Fun. I pity people like the reviewer who cannot enjoy a movie like Tron Legacy. In short Stephanie Z, I think you're completely wrong.

  • TOBY says:

    As a film reviewer, NOT seeing the first film before watching the sequel, makes absolutely no sense. At least in this case of the very strong critique you've somehow felt justified in giving.
    To say you have absolutely no clue on what you are talking about (from reading this one movie review) may be as inaccurate as your review was of Legacy. Legacy was a fantastic film. FX aside, it was an entertaining story with beautiful camera composition work and crisp editing. There were no weak links in any of the actors.
    No fanboy, tongue-in-cheek, pop culture references. Making for a fantastic sequel.

  • Dave says:

    I thought Tron: Legacy was fantastic, and yes, having an insider's knowledge of what happened in the original Tron enhances your experience with Tron: Legacy. It's a lot of little finesses about it. For example: "That's a really big door", or the uncredited Cillian Murphy character of Dillinger are key nods back to the original that new audiences wouldn't get.

  • Trace says:

    ...why is this movie rated higher than Inception?
    ...I know that's usually a joke, but I mean it this time.