28 years. This is how long fans of Tron waited for a sequel to the beloved cult classic. After I watched Tron, I never thought that a direct sequel would happen, nor did I want one. One set inside the same universe, sure, but including the same characters? I didn’t see it happening. Imagine my surprise with Tron: Legacy, which is a direct sequel to 1982’s Tron, complete with a lot of the cast returning.
This sequel actually doesn’t take place in the same computer universe as the first film. That’s the part I would have kept if I was to think about creating a sequel. The 1982 film showed us that computer programs acted a lot like human beings, and that they’re all want to survive for as long as possible. They also worshiped users, their programmers, and this worship actually formed into some sort of religious cult. This was interesting, but it’s something that Tron never really delved into. Tron: Legacy doesn’t either, although it created a new computer world to explore — and this one doesn’t have those religious programs included in it.
Our plot begins with Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) disappearing. This happened a few years after the conclusion of the first film. He’s fathered a son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), who is currently the chief shareholder of his father’s company, ENCOM. One day, Kevin’s friend, Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) receives a page from Kevin, from a number that’s supposedly been disconnected for twenty years. Sam checks it out, is zapped with a laser, and ends up inside of a computer system which is now called “the Grid.”
Like his father before him, he is captured and sent to play video games. Unlike his father, he doesn’t get to play a game involving a ball. The disc that is put on his back is a weapon, and in the first game, he and his opponents throw the disc against one another, hoping to hit the other one and make them disintegrate. He eventually escapes, but is captured again, then being brought to someone in a suit who reveals himself to be Kevin Flynn. Or at least, he looks like Kevin Flynn.
See, this character is actually called CLU, and was a program that the elder Flynn created to help him build the Grid. We find this out in the same scene, so I’m not considering it a spoiler. In addition, he’s our villain for the rest of the film, so it’s important to make note of. After this revelation, we get a light cycle battle, which gets interrupted by Quorra (Olivia Wilde) just as things were getting interesting. She’ll serve as the sidekick for the rest of the film.
We eventually meet the real Kevin, who looks much older than his program lookalike. See, a great deal of effort was spent making Jeff Bridges look like he’s 35 again whenever CLU is on-screen. This worked quite well, and I found that the character looked believable, if a little artificial. That works though, as we’re talking about a computer program, and not a real person.
Anyway, Kevin, Sam and Quorra end up with the task of getting to the portal to take father and son back to the real world. Stopping CLU isn’t the main goal; instead, avoiding him and making sure he can’t get the important disc on Kevin’s back — which we’re told might allow CLU into the real world — is more important than CLU from taking over the Grid. They figure that if they can both escape, a simple press of the delete key would rectify the problem a lot more easily.
Like Tron before it, Legacy is more interested in the action scenes than the characters or the plot. On the action level, it succeeds quite well; most of the time, it’s an entertaining film thanks to how much is happening on screen. The visuals that $170 million allows means that the film looks great. While it might not be as groundbreaking as its predecessor, the Tron sequel still looks incredible, while also maintaining a similar, yet improved, visual style. It’ll still look familiar to Tron fans, but it’s been upgraded enough to have changed with the times.
That’s about how the entire film plays out: It’s familiar, yet distinct enough to be considered a new film. A lot of the elements from Tron have been kept, such as the light cycles, but new ones have been introduced, while older parts have been improved upon. It’s like adding a fresh paint job and a tune-up to an old motorcycle; it’ll only improve it.
Unfortunately, a new sheen doesn’t improve broken-down parts. In this case, those are the plot and characters, which are — if this is possible — worse than the first film. There is no development in regards to any of the characters, while the plot doesn’t have much focus and it also goes on for far too long. Tron only lasted 90 minutes, which made it easier to suffer through. This one is over two hours long, and without a real focal point, characters meander for too long. The action scenes try to make up for this, but they can only do so much, especially when they’re not frequent enough to hold up the film on their shoulders.
It almost seemed as if Tron: Legacy felt it had to do too much, and as a result, it wasted a lot of time trying to please everyone. Fans of Tron might appreciate the references to the previous film, but those not in the loop will grow tired of them and simply wish for the plot to advance. Once it gets going, it’s quite enjoyable, but the breaks and the time it takes to start is cumbersome.
Still, I thought Tron: Legacy was fun. It’s made in the same spirit as its predecessor, meaning that it cares more about action scenes than anything else. That means it’s rarely boring, although this one is when it tries to give “subtle” winks to the fans that have supported the series for 28 years. The visuals and action scenes are the highlights, but the plot meanders and the characters are weak. Fans of Tron will probably have a good time, while others probably will too, even if they won’t enjoy the references that take time away from the action.