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January 26, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

TRON: Legacy


Published 20/12/10 at www.artshub.com.au

I was first introduced to the original TRON movie earlier this year, and mainly because I’d seen The Family Guy parody of light cycles and wanted to know more. And while I harrumphed at the eighties jeans, young Jeff Bridges and the pixellated ‘high-tech’ special effects of the time, I was still somehow entranced by the hedonistic glory of a futuristic era of gladiators. Forget a storyline! Goodbye to character development! Bring on the paper-clip space ships!

With this in mind, it’s a wonder I expected anything more from Tron Legacy. Especially since it’s a Disney film, because it’s not as though Disney are willing to push any kind of major theatrical boundaries. All the main players of a standard adventure film are there; genius, loving father. Brooding, bad-ass orphaned son. A mysterious disappearance, leaving a legacy to follow. And an army of bad guys with terrible aim.

There’s little point relaying the plot, because there isn’t much of it. TRON: Legacy revolves around the theme of a true home and a superficial home. Much like the original, TRON: Legacy opens with Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who has moved on from owning an arcade to being a high-powered computer geek. When Flynn suddenly disappears, he leaves an orphaned son to live with his grandparents and a huge fortune.

Fast forward 20 years and super-brat Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) comes complete with predictably chiselled good looks and a tortured, bad-boy aura. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Hedlund is so painfully wooden and predictable in this role (which may perhaps have something to do with dialogue that’s stiff as plyboard) that the audience can only sigh and go along with it. Iron Man is the how-to manual of creating likable, flawed superhero-esque characters, and Sam doesn’t fit this mould. He’s boring, and it sets the tune for a movie that is similarly structured.

When Sam is finally catapulted onto the famous ‘Grid’, the special effects really come into force. Sam is thrown into the gladiator-style ‘games’ area of the grid, where errant or damaged programs are pitted against each other for the amusement of the masses. It’s a digitally beautiful arena where the flash of a threatening light disc is the one bright spark in an otherwise dark environment.

The special effects do have their limits, though. While the sight of a youthful-looking Jeff Bridges had me fooled for a moment, it doesn’t last the entire movie. Flynn’s computer-program clone, Clu, dissolves from hyper-reality into mere computer technology when the role demands more telling facial characteristics, such as blood-curdling rage.

And although Daft Punk were responsible for the soundtrack, they had very little room to move. Most of the scenes where some irrepressible Daft Punk would have made the moment beyond surreal were instead relegated to the standard swelling of orchestral chords. It was a sorely missed opportunity; what could suit those boys more than women dancing or fighting in skin-tight neon suits?

TRON: Legacy is a spectacular-looking film in many respects, but it is a Disney holiday feature through and through. There’s no effort made, for example, to go beyond what the most basic audience members demands out of plot, character development, and even action. The effects are beautiful, but they’re not revolutionary, which might explain why this is a fairly forgettable film; there’s little to distinguish it from all the other high-tech movies out there.

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