In our retro review of TRON, we hailed it as a milestone in the computer animation industry and a hugely enjoyable piece of escapism which has stood the test of time. Since even before that review was published, we have been patiently anticipating the long awaited sequel to that ‘80s masterpiece, TRON: Legacy with bated breath. Now that the wait is over, was it worth it? Will TRON: Legacy be celebrated as a cinematic opus like its predecessor? We’ll get to that in a minute.
The movie starts in 1989, and we are reintroduced to the original main protagonist, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who by that time had become the CEO of Encom and creator of the Grid, disappear after making a great and secret discovery. Cut to the present and we meet his son, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund, who played Brad Pitt’s Achilles’ cousin, Patroclus, in Troy) who is sent by Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), to investigate a mysterious page originating from the long abandoned Flynn’s Arcade. There he is inadvertently digitized into the Grid where he participates in the games so familiar to Tron fans; disc throwing, light cycle races, the works. He is then rescued by Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and reunited with his father and the trio have eight hours to reach the portal and get back to the real world, while CLU 2, the elder Flynn’s grimly authoritarian avatar with his own designs on the real world, tries to prevent their escape.
The story is not an overly complex one and it even tries to simplify some fairly straight-forward plot elements from the first film. A lot of the original’s computer-slang are gone; the computer language is kept to a minimum. Instead, the movie seems to adopt standard fantasy fare rules, e.g. the hero can use his power to kill the villain, but it will cost him his own life. This sort of makes sense in the context of the movie’s fantasy-themed narrative, but at the same time represents a departure from the computer-themed laws and rules that was aplenty in the first one.
From a technical perspective, the effects of TRON: Legacy are truly astounding. The difference 28 years make, and improvements in visual effects within that period, in particular computer graphic imagery, really shows in this sequel. TRON: Legacy is unadulterated visual candy; it’s is literally sugar for our brains. The world of the Grid no longer look like an aircraft hangar painted black with the neon strips attached – instead it seems like an actual world. The surroundings and the stunts are also visually amazing.
The soundtrack to TRON: Legacy, provided by the French electronic duo Daft Punk, complements the visuals very well – the stereotypically “epic” fantasy music score filtered through a slightly trippy electronic remix. I admit I’m not really a fan of Daft Punk but after watching the movie, I suddenly felt the desire to go out and purchase the soundtrack album.
So going back to our question above, was the 28-year wait worth it? The answer is a resounding YES. TRON: Legacy offers plenty of thrilling action, breathtaking people and places to gawk at, as well as a rock solid score from Daft Punk. Does it top its predecessor? Let’s look at it this way. Tron represented a major cinematic leap back in 1982, but in 2010, CGI is somewhat commonplace. Maybe it was taken a step further by James Cameron in Avatar, but the one is TRON: Legacy is not exactly new. But despite that limitation, there is still plenty of eye candy to enjoy.