Who's In It: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Michael Sheen
The Basics: Backing up a bit for newcomers, in the original Tron Jeff Bridges was a software engineer/game designer who finds himself trapped inside "the grid" of a computer, his digitized self battling a tyrannical power structure bent on dominating all of life as we know it. Nearly 30 years later, that alterna-Bridges has "perfected" itself and trapped the flesh-and-bones Bridges back in The Grid. It's up to his long-abandoned adult son to right all wrongs and hurl all those glowy information disc thingies at the bad people so they shatter into tiny shards of glass-like code-crumbles and fall into the black oblivion.
What's The Deal: All the money is on the screen. They took their 200 million bucks or however much this cost and they made a dark ride that's more thrilling and coldly beautiful to look at than anything else you've seen at the movies this year outside of Enter the Void. Can't follow the plot because of all the made-up jargon? No worries, just think good people vs. bad people (you'll follow who that is unless you're asleep) and prepare to have your senses pounded by a wickedly loud, bass-heavy laser show. Best of all it's not cheeky; it doesn't wink at you. It takes itself as seriously as the original, as seriously as you want it to, giving new audiences a way in and old-school Tron-heads plenty of insider love. (For example, check out the bartender at the End of Line Club. You may recognize him.) I'm actually going to buy a ticket to see it again. I never do that.
The Drawbacks: That jargon. They throw it at you and don't really explain it. If you're really attentive you'll figure it out. And even if you're following along you'll be smirking from time to time at the gobbledygook-ishness of it all, especially when Jeff Bridges gets all free-jazz with his philosophizing and optimistic futurism, talking about "isomorphic algorithms" for a better tomorrow. There's also Michael Sheen's weirdly fey Joel Grey-in-Cabaret-like character. He purses his lips a lot and there doesn't seem to be a reason why. But other than that stuff, it's all thumping sound and spectacle, a candy rave for your eyes.
The Daft Punk: They have an extended cameo as the DJs at the End of Line Club, obliviously bobbing their heads in a rectangular window as chaos and explosions rumble all around them. And more importantly, they're responsible for the film's perfect fit music. The original movie more or less invented this band anyway, with its Wendy Carlos score of clonking noises and atmospheric whooshes. Add some house beats to that, put Tron-like helmets on the DJs and there's your band's awesome gimmick.
The Digitalface: "Young" Jeff Bridges--it's an unsettling, freak-like motion capture performance--is so disconcerting to look at that his non-humanity actually enhances his character's badness. They are this close to making digital people look real in movies, but still about a million years away in terms of how that image makes you feel about the "person" you're viewing. Creepy. Enjoy.