By Jason A. Hill
TRON, USA, 1982
Written and Directed by Steven Lisberger
TRON: Legacy, USA, 2010
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
TRON: Legacy has its moments and I admit it is entertaining, but the film falls flat on a weak plot that is little more than a facsimile copy of the original. The original TRON had interesting characters to carry its plot, but Legacy‘s characters will need the 3D dressing to un-flatten these performances. If you saw the original, nothing in this film will surprise you. It seems to be playing on old TRON fans’ curiosity of what they can do with the new CGI, whose best achievement is a young Jeff Bridges’ face. As for new viewers to the franchise, it may entertain but this film plays more like an all-night rave than a plot to save the world from digital oppression.
When the original TRON was released in 1982, computers were still a new thing in pop culture and video games were enchanting a new generation of gamers. It was able to capture a wave of interest in the new technology, as well as the culture, of imagination and the possibilities of technology. The film invented a new form of special effects and took CGI mainstream in a way that didn’t exist before. People often wonder why a film like TRON, with its fairly pedestrian plot, became such a cult phenomenon, but the original TRON was well ahead of its time in every way.
In the original TRON, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a young and gifted software engineer who wants entry into the mainframe of the software company ENCOM. He is looking for evidence that senior executive Ed Dillinger (David Warner) stole Flynn’s code for “Space Paranoids” and presented it as his own, earning himself a big promotion while Flynn was forced out. Flynn’s hacking attempt is thwarted by the Master Control Program (MCP), an artificial intelligence program that controls the ENCOM mainframe. The MCP has taken on a life of its own; it tells Dillinger that it plans to break into the Pentagon database for world domination and blackmails him into compliance.
Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) and Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan) are ENCOM employees who befriend Flynn because of Dillinger’s heavy-handed access restrictions. Together they hatch a plan that will give Flynn direct access into ENCOM so that he can forge a higher security clearance for Alan’s security program, “TRON,” which would monitor communications between the MCP and the outside world. When Flynn attempts to hack his way into the system, the MCP takes control of a nearby laser and uses it to digitize Flynn into the ENCOM grid.
In the grid Flynn discovers a world oppressed by the MCP; soon after, he meets the programs Tron and Yori, written by Alan and Lora, who appear in the likenesses of the users who programmed them. The MCP orders its commander, Sark (Warner), to send Flynn to the video games to be destroyed. Flynn, a maverick at games, uses his skills to escape with Tron, then he, Tron and Yori race to the communications tower to receive the information necessary to take down the MCP and send Flynn back to his world.
TRON: Legacy tries to ride on the original’s coattails simply on upgrades, but just like Windows Vista, you can make it look nice but if it doesn’t work, people will find little use for it. Legacy picks up where the original left off. Flynn disappears and leaves his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) in control of ENCOM; Sam keeps his dad’s spirit alive by hacking his own company and giving away software for free. Still searching for his father, Sam picks up the elder Flynn’s trail at his old video game arcade, where he finds a secret work station housed with a digitizer. From there the film is pretty predictable; it looks great, there are some exciting action scenes and a catchy soundtrack by Daft Punk, but not much else.
Those who make the mistake of trying to make sense of the plot will distract themselves from the tricked-out action. Hopefully you will be watching in 3D.
Jason A. Hill is the Founder, Owner and Editor In Chief of Movies I Didn’t Get.com. He is a film critic and writer of articles and film reviews covering a variety of genres and film news that have been syndicated to many sites in the film blogosphere. He specializes in independent film in the US and Asia.
For more information please contact Jason at JasonAHill@MoviesIDidn’tGet.com.