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'Tron' fails to upgrade for younger audience

December 20, 2010|Bob Garver | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Jeff Bridges stars in "Tron: Legacy."
Associated Press

I hate to admit it, but I didn't do my research before seeing "Tron: Legacy." That is, I never saw 1982's "Tron." The movie came out three years before I was born, so I didn't see it in theaters. I never bothered renting it when I frequented video stores. It isn't even available from Netflix. I went into "Tron: Legacy" without a clue.  But then again, so are most people.  

Disney wants to make "Tron: Legacy" its big hit of the 2010 Christmas season. For it to be a hit, it needs to be seen by lots and lots of young people, people even younger than me.

Is this an audience that is supposed to have seen the original? Going in, I doubted it.  I thought for sure that the film would be more of a remake, something to give fans of the original an update with modern special effects while standing alone as an entertaining introduction for a new generation. But "Tron: Legacy" either requires deep knowledge of the original film or the film is just poorly thought out on its own.  

The story is that software CEO Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) went missing in 1989. It was rumored that he was working on perfecting a virtual world.  His son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), doesn't believe his father's alive, but is still interested when he finds out that a call was made from his father's long-vacant office. He goes to investigate, only to be sucked into the virtual world that his father created.  

Kevin created this world so users could log on and enjoy themselves in a stylized landscape. The selling point of the movie is that we get to enjoy the impressive visuals of this world. But at no point does the world look enjoyable. Everything is murky, save for occasional lines of neon light. All the people are pale and all the locations look like they've been rented from a tacky laser tag arena. Why did Kevin think that this world would be appealing to gamers and why did Disney think that this world would appeal to viewers?  

At first, Sam's only goal is to escape from the virtual world. But then he realizes that his father might have been stuck here all these years as well. He meets the ruler of the virtual world, who must be his father since he looks just like his father did when he disappeared.  

Alas, he is meeting Clu (also Bridges), an evil virtual clone of his father who was designed to keep order but instead rules as a tyrant. Clu battles Sam in a virtual arena, in a deadly game with rules that the film thinks are self-evident (they are not). Clu appears to be winning when Sam is rescued by a girl named Quorra (Olivia Wilde).  She takes him to her mentor, the long-lost Kevin.  

Sam, Kevin and Quorra spend the rest of the film trying to get back to the portal from whence Sam came. The problem is that Clu can use the same portal as an opportunity to get out himself, and enslave all of Earth in the process.  

Apparently, mankind cannot possibly stand up to an artificial being that has never existed in the real world. But then again, what advantages and disadvantages would humans have against living video game characters.  

Again, the movie might have provided an explanation that just went over my head.  Maybe there was an explanation hidden in the 1982 film, one that I was supposed to know going in. I don't know exactly why the movie doesn't make any sense, all I know is that it doesn't. I doubt better visual effects would have been able to save the film, but it certainly doesn't help that they are as equally unappealing as the story.  You'd be wasting your time logging on to "Tron: Legacy".

One star out of five.  

"Tron: Legacy" is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action violence and brief mild language.  Its runtime is 120 minutes.    

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