The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Tron: Legacy
Jeff Bridges looks younger thanks to high-tech CGI.

I first saw Tron in 1982, at the age of 14, when it played my local mall four-plex as part of a double feature with Grease 2. (Weird, huh?) I distinctly remember being blown away. The film had visuals that were groundbreaking for the time, and my friends and I were totally enthralled. A couple years ago, I re-watched Tron for the first time on DVD. Although dated, the look was still cool. The story, on the other hand, was far more incoherent than I'd remembered. Nevertheless, I - and many others - retain fond memories of Tron, which has been given a high-tech update with Disney's new sequel, Tron: Legacy. The upshot is that, like its predecessor, the movie has enough dazzling visuals and awesome action to generally compensate for a story that often feels a little thin.

Jeff Bridges plays Kevin Flynn, once the world's most famous and talented videogame designer who, in the original, got sucked into a computer system he created, known as "the Grid." Garrett Hedlund plays Kevin's now-grown son Sam, who has never understood why his father left one night and never came back. Sam is a rebel who, out of resentment, refuses to exercise his stockholder's options over Kevin's company, despite the fact that others are taking it in a direction Kevin never would have approved of.

During a late night visit to the arcade his father owned, Sam discovers the machinery that allows a user to enter the Grid. He, too, gets sucked in, only to discover that, for over twenty years, Kevin has been trapped in there by the entity known as Clu (also played by Bridges via a computer-program that makes the actor look two decades younger.) Kevin created Clu to carry out his work in the Grid, but the program has now taken over, determined to rid it of imperfections. Since the entry portal has been reopened, Sam has only a limited amount of time to get his dad back out into the real world. Helping them is a mystery woman named Quorra (Olivia Wilde) who has her own reasons for wanting to take Clu down. The being known as Tron is in there too, but I won't describe his function so as not to drop any spoilers.

Does that plot description make any sense? I understood the shell of it - enough to follow along - but all the stuff with users and programs existing together, not to mention the intricacies of the Grid, isn't as fully conceived as it really ought to be. Like its predecessor, Tron: Legacy just asks you to take it for granted that an actual flesh-and-blood human could somehow exist inside a virtual world. Don't ask how an anatomical body can function in a digital environment; you'll just be frustrating yourself if you do. The occasionally clunky dialogue doesn't do a whole lot to tie everything together, either.

As a long-time Tron fan, I have to say that, yes, a really strong story would have been nice. The original didn't have one; you'd think the makers of Tron: Legacy would want to fix that problem. They didn't. Still, what I personally wanted from this sequel was what I got from the first one: groundbreaking visuals and amazing action. Tron: Legacy delivers on these things, big time - and with superb use of 3D, no less.

From the minute Sam enters the Grid, this movie becomes a great ride. Visually, it builds on the look of the original, using modern CGI technology to kick everything up about ten levels. I love that they didn't reinvent the Grid, but rather remained true to its roots while making it more up-to-date and immersive. Every shot is filled with technological beauty, all of it rendered in such detail that you can easily lose yourself. The 3D helps on that count. There has been much debate as to whether 3D is the future of cinema or a fad that audiences will grow tired of. Tron: Legacy is a great example of why 3D should stay. It's used properly here, as a tool to wrap this fictional world around you so that this imaginary place comes alive. The combination of astounding graphics and appropriate three-dimensional imagery really gives the movie punch.

There were moments in Tron: Legacy when I felt giddy, simply from the visceral experience it was giving me. The light disc fights and the light cycle chases from the original are revisited here, to even greater effect than before. With the graphics and the 3D, I felt like I was speeding along on one of those cycles, right next to Sam. The finale adds something new that fits perfectly within the series' mythology: light jets. Just as the cycles leave deadly ribbons of colored light behind them, so do these planes. It's both gorgeous and exciting to watch them engage in a dogfight.

Once again, I do wish the story had been more thoroughly conceived. It would have taken Tron: Legacy from a fun movie to one that is both fun and intellectually engaging. (A theme of whether information technology should be free to all is introduced, yet never explored for anything even approaching its inherent potential.) Judged solely as big-budget popcorn entertainment, though, it's a blast. The ecstatically good-looking visuals, magnificent 3D, and brilliant score by electronic duo Daft Punk combine to create a sensory experience worth having. This is as close to getting trapped in a videogame as you will ever get.

( out of four)

Tron: Legacy is rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language. The running time is 2 hours and 5 minutes.