Disclaimer: I have not seen the original Tron.
Tron: Legacy is a Christmas season blockbuster that is a follow up to the original Tron film which explored the intriguing concept of humans literally entering into the digital world of computer games. Tron garnered a cult following after its release nearly 30 years ago and today its unique neon light aesthetic is still recognizable even to those who haven’t seen the film.
Legacy opens with a hilarious take on a fictionalized equivalent of Microsoft’s headquarters, called ENCOM here, just before a product launch. A group of stuffy men in suits sit in a boardroom as ENCOM CEO Alan Bradley proudly announces the launch of a new operating system. “What’s the difference between this version and the old one?” asks a colleague. “The number on the box! Hahahaha!”
“But seriously,” Bradley goes on to say, “this version is unhackable so the public will have to pay out the ass to get it”. Enter Tron‘s protagonist Sam Flynn who sneaks past ENCOM’s single inept security guard and steals the program and uploads it onto the Internet for free. Then he climbs to the top of the building and escapes by base jumping to the street below before riding away on a motorcycle.
I must say, watching this glorified and heroic portrayal of computer hackers pirating licensed software online is absolutely bizarre coming from a huge corporation like the House of Mouse. It was both entertaining and unexpected however and heightened my engagement with the film.
Sam is a troubled young man who’s father, Kevin Flynn (Bridges), disappeared twenty years ago presumably into the world of The Grid. Not long after this software heist, Some Guy shows up at Sam’s place who we’re told is his father’s friend and who I am guessing was important in the first film as the camera seems to revere his presence even though he hasn’t done anything. This Guy tells Sam to visit the local arcade as he received some instructions via a pager which could be from Sam’s absent father.
Sam follows the instructions and whammo! he’s in The Grid. There he meets a Kevin Flynn. A digital clone version that’s turned evil that is. For the sake of clarity, he identifies himself as ‘CLU’, rather than being called Kevin Flynn #2 or anything like that. Sam performs some stylized acrobatic kung fu before riding away on a bike with a mysterious sexy lady who saves him. She takes him to his real dad, the now middle aged Kevin Flynn who has a sizable bachelor pad that has smooth lines and minimalist furniture like in those catalogues. The Real Kevin Flynn is hiding from CLU who is out to get him.
I don’t know if this is consistent with the original film but Jeff Bridges plays CLU like he’s a Bond Villain and he plays Kevin Flynn like he’s The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Flynn is an aging hippie who, despite his self imposed exile to hide from the villainous CLU, is clearly still enthralled to be living in The Grid and is happy to explore ‘bio-digital jazz maaaan‘ via meditation from the comfort of his tatami mat.
In fact, when his son suggests they return to the real world, clearly Kevin is happier with the idea of staying put in a digital world where he is seen as the living embodiment of God to many of its citizens and he gets to shack up with Olivia Wilde every night. Unfortunately for him, his son Sam is the very epitomy of Gen Y and as soon as Kevin goes to his room for a nap, Sam defies his orders and goes back out into the open to confront a nightclub owner called Castor, thus forcing Kevin to follow him against his better nature.
The rest of the film is an enjoyable action adventure romp which admittedly I don’t really understand the finer details of who’s a clone and who’s a robot but I can appreciate nonetheless for the film’s appealing visual design and excellent soundtrack from Daft Punk. Look out for the entertaining cameo from Michael Sheen as Castor the Night Club Owner as well.
Between Tron and Inception, 2010 was a pretty good year for off-kilter big budget blockbusters that offered something challenging and fresh for audiences. Of course, its back to the same old shit in 2011 where we can expect a fourth Pirates of the Carribean and the latest instalment of Transformers but for a while there, the going was pretty good. Tron Legacy is an entertaining film where to a large extent the film’s style is its substance but thats no bad thing in this instance. The Grid looks spectacular and is filled with interesting inhabitants. The harshest critique I could offer Tron Legacy is that Sam himself is a bit of a bland lead but that may well be a design choice so that he acts more as a cipher for the audience to see the world of The Grid through his eyes.