In the Mix

Review: ‘Tron: Legacy’ in 3D

December 16th, 2010

Courtesy Disney

Light cycles help provide the action in "Tron: Legacy," just as their animated counterparts did in the original "Tron," released in 1982.


Like its predecessor, “Tron: Legacy” includes gaping holes in its plot that leave you scratching your head — even more so when you try to reconcile what’s going on here with what happened in the original version from the early ‘80s.

Trying to wrap your mind around this movie is an exercise in futility. In order to truly enjoy it, you’ve got to sit back and enjoy the ride. To borrow a line from main character Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), it’s “biodigital jazz, man.” Just let it happen, and your mind won’t implode from all the discrepancies.

In “Tron,” the year is 1982 and the movie’s namesake is a security program (think of it as anti-virus software before anyone knew to call it that) designed by software company Encom. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a disgruntled former employee trying to hack his way into their computers when he’s digitized and somehow transported inside the system, where he ends up meeting a digital version of Tron.

Compare that to “Tron: Legacy,” which apparently takes place in the present, but opens with a flashback to 1989 (Head-scratcher #1: Where did those seven years go?). Flynn has a young son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), and is still employed at Encom, which now develops operating systems instead of national defense programs. Instead of hacking his way in, Flynn is apparently the programmer behind his company’s Master Control Program.

One constant? Flynn’s, an arcade named after the elder Flynn, which is fully operational in both movies — in “Tron: Legacy,” while covered in dust and apparently left undisturbed for more than 20 years, Sam is able to walk in, flip a few switches and fire up a jukebox and all the games in the arcade, including one called Tron (Head-scratcher #2: What happened to Space Paranoids?).

Not only is the real life '80s video game used in the updated movie, but so are action figures from the first flick. Which means that, yes, the online warrior version of Tron does show up again this time around, and even goes on to face off against Sam shortly after he crosses over to the digital domain.

Don’t get it? Me neither. Want another mind-screw of sorts? Great!

In the new movie, just as in the original, Bridges plays multiple versions of himself... sort of. The ’89 flashback version of his character uses Bridges’ voice, but his face is pure CGI. That same, “ageless” version of Bridges shows up later as Clu, who is apparently interchangeable with the MCP for the purposes of this new movie.

BEFORE YOU throw up your hands and walk out of the theater, however, keep in mind that around the 20-minute mark of “Tron: Legacy” is where the fun really begins. Just as with “Tron,” this movie is best appreciated with your overall sense of logical reality and any cynical tendencies thrown right out the proverbial window.

(It also helps to go back and watch the original before heading to the theater; search a bit on YouTube and you can find the entire movie floating around on the Internet. Not only will you appreciate the attention to detail in the new version, but you’ll also catch a number of references to the old movie that might go unnoticed without a refresher viewing of the first one.)

This time around, Sam is the hacker, and even though he’s a majority shareholder in Encom and could have replaced his father on the company’s board of directors, the 27-year old considers himself a rebel, launching cyberattacks on the company’s servers and running from police on his father’s rebuilt Ducati motorcycle.

That is, until he’s summoned back to Flynn’s by a mysterious page. Yes, as in a numeric page on one of those devices that came before cell phones with text messaging capability. One of his father’s friends at the company, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner, who reprises his role in the new version), still carries a company pager from 20 years ago, just in case Sam’s father needs to get in touch.

And when he does, Bradley sends Sam to check it out.

(Head-scratcher #3: Did Bradley know what Flynn was up to for the last two decades since his program, Tron, is still around, and if he did, why not step in to help bring him back from the “other side” of the digital divide?)

As Journey’s “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” and Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” play on the jukebox, Sam discovers his father’s secret office and manages to digitize himself as well.

It’s at this point that “Tron: Legacy” starts to deliver on its hype, especially when watching the IMAX 3D version as I did at Dole Cannery earlier this week. The original “Tron” was more animation than anything, while the update uses special effects and 3D technology to really amaze audiences. Nearly three decades after the first movie was released, director Joseph Kosinski has the cinematic tools necessary to tell this story in a much more realistic manner.

MY NOTES got pretty simple at times, yet they were still able to convey my excitement over what I was seeing.

As a child of the ‘80s who grew up with Atari and Nintendo, the sight of a video game coming to life in such a realistic manner used to be the stuff of daydreams and make-believe. Not anymore.




Watching the way “Tron: Legacy” reintroduced some of the same storyline aspects most folks remember from the original movie (i.e. identity disks, light cycles and facing off, deathmatch-style, against another program in a virtual Colosseum) was a trip — as was the way Bridges’ character spent 20 years stuck in a digital world, only to turn into some type of cross between a Zen master, surfer, herb-smoking hippie and neon robe-wearing Obi-Wan Kenobi.

At times, the movie felt like a mash-up of the best that “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and “Top Gun” have to offer (if the digital world were outer space and the “programs” relegated to battling against each other were fighter jet pilots instead, that is).

Throw in 12,000 watts of Dolby Stereo surround sound and DLP Cinema technology available via IMAX 3D, plus a pulsating soundtrack courtesy of Daft Punk (who even make a cameo appearance; make sure to pay attention to the scenes inside the End of the Line Club), and all that you’re missing is a joystick — and a headset so you can talk trash to other players while whipping a glowing Frisbee at them.

WITHOUT GIVING too much away, the ending of “Tron: Legacy” resolves the conflict the entire movie is based on, yet still leaves quite a few openings for sequel(s).

And, for the first time since I started watching these types of new-school 3D movies in theaters, I can honestly say the technology doesn’t feel like its used as a gimmick here. I’ll gladly pay the outrageous prices being charged these days — nearly $20 to watch a movie? — for another chance at seeing this one again on a big screen with those funny glasses.

But that’s only after I buy the movie’s soundtrack off iTunes.

‘Tron: Legacy’

Rated PG-13

125 minutes

Opens Dec. 17 in theaters

6 Responses to “Review: ‘Tron: Legacy’ in 3D”

  1. Anonymous:

    Nice review, but dude, at least get the title correct.

    It's "TRON: Legacy" not "TRON: The Legacy."

  2. Yertari:

    why do people do that.. so annoying.

    Tron:Legacy, Tron:The Legacy, basically the same thing..


  3. Anonymous:

    Well since you asked why people do that, one is the movie's name, one is not. If instead of Yertari, I called you Yertaro, would that not bother you? Basically the same, right?!

    I think it's important to pay attention to specifics, whereas you find it "annoying." I find when people don't care about being correct, that's annoying. Don't mean to offend, but I just wanted to tell you why I "do that."

  4. Anonymous:

    two fraqin' hours? damn!!

  5. SciFinatic21:

    I did watch this movie twice--once in Disney Digital 3D, and once in IMAX 3D. I didn't notice much of a difference between the two, but I was glad that none of the cheesy pop-out 3D effects were used. The digital world was all filmed in 3D, whereas the real world was filmed mostly, if not all, in 2D, making the digital world actually seem more real than the "real world."

    You can clearly see the impact that the last three decades of pop culture have had on this sequel, and yet the movie offers something truly unique and original. The visuals are truly like nothing you've seen before, and the soundtrack
    is a hypnotic blend of symphonic orchestration and minimilast electronica.

    I agree with the 3.5 rating, as the plot holes are enough for some people to feel disconnected. However, Tron Legacy is a roller coaster of sight and sound that you can't afford to miss--the first must-see-in-3D movie since Avatar.

  6. LienDTK:

    Nice, that's helpful for me!

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