Jen Yamato
Tron: Legacy Review

Jen's Rating:


Digital dazzle over substance.

Who’s In It: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen, Beau Garrett, James Frain

The Basics: After returning from his trip down the rabbit hole in 1982’s Tron, tech genius Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) disappeared again, leaving his only child staring out of a window for many a tearful night. Fast forward to the present, as Flynn’s now-grown son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), deals with unresolved daddy issues by base-jumping off of Encom skyscrapers and dabbling in a little hacking himself. Lured out of rich-kid delinquency by a mysterious message from Flynn’s old arcade, Sam goes into The Grid, plays a few disc wars, rides a few lightcycles, reunites with his long-lost father, and meets his dad’s sexy sidekick (Olivia Wilde) before they all join forces to stop a malicious program from taking over the human world.

What’s The Deal: A sequel to the cult ‘80s sci-fi flick about a programmer sucked into a computerized world of his own creation, Tron: Legacy is almost entirely all digital dazzle and little substance. That’s fitting, in a way; the original film, conceived and directed by Steven Lisberger, was itself accused of focusing too much on spectacle, though its landmark special effects were the stuff of an entire generation’s collective nerdgasm. Tron: Legacy finds an intriguing enough entry into the mythology by dreaming up an extensive back story to fill the intervening years since the events of the first film, but it leans too heavily on a simplistic father-son relationship that fails to evoke actual emotional investment. Worse, it wastes the opportunity to comment on the promises and dangers of advancing technology, something at least presaged by and explored in Tron. It doesn’t help that the characters feel slight to begin with; you can see the actors straining to make something out of the slim script, with results veering from bland (Garrett Hedlund’s flat Sam Flynn) to amusing (Jeff Bridges channeling The Dude as Kevin Flynn and barking out orders as the corrupted program Clu) to admirable in a cutesy way (Olivia Wilde as the childlike warrioress Quorra). Still, with visuals as amazing as these, do underdeveloped storytelling and clunky performances matter?

Well Yes, They Do: Pixar’s Brad Bird and Michael Arnt came onboard to contribute last-minute rewrites to Tron: Legacy; meanwhile, Wilde admitted that she was still calling screenwriters Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis dreaming up new aspects of her character’s personality and look just weeks before filming began. Clearly, director Joseph Kosinski’s priority (and expertise) was in building the ubercool world of a 21st century Tron vs. filling it with compelling characters and story or saying anything of note about the way we live in today’s computer-dependent world. Tron geeks may appreciate the advanced tech trappings of Kosinski’s vision -- and the disc wars and lightcycles and lightjets and references -- but uninitiated film fans will leave with little more than the lingering after effects of a brilliant, empty head rush.

Just Focus On The Pretty Things On The Screen: To Kosinski’s credit, the visuals are as cool as they come. Updated lightcycle designs are sleek and glowy; an early lightcycle game unfolds with dynamic, fluid movements that feel far more advanced than the simple linear races in the original Tron. Disc wars also up the ante with shifting, transparent arenas, navigated with grace by the athletic Hedlund. The costumes of Tron: Legacy have also received a futuristic redesign; expect the fetish/cos-play community to go bananas over the skintight cyberpunk numbers worn by Wilde’s dominatrix-like Quorra and the seductive, plasticized, fembot Sirens who undress Sam upon arrival in The Grid.

The Award For Best And Worst Contribution To Tron: Legacy Goes To: Michael Sheen’s adaptive program with a secret past. As Castor, the pimp cane-toting proprietor of the sleek End of Line club, Sheen serves little purpose other than to jar the audience awake with manic, campy exclamations as the plot plods along. Think Joel Grey in Cabaret spliced with Bowie and the Merovingian from the Matrix films and you’ve got this incongruous ringmaster, saved only by the force of Sheen’s over the top, balls-to-the-wall commitment to the character. It’s a heroic contribution that pays a bit's worth of penance for the filmmakers’ haphazard attempts at storytelling.


Comments (18)

Mark J - 12-15-2010 2:23 PM
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"Nerdgasm: when nerds become so excited they spontaneously throw all their Yugi-oh cards in the air" -adam sessler

Zachary C - 12-15-2010 7:43 PM
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I've yet to see this movie and all i can say is that maybe your right but really could this movie be any more bland than avatar ( the James Cameron one). The only reason people liked that movie was because it was nothing but CG. Look all i can really say is when thinking about Avatar did "underdeveloped storytelling and clunky performances" Come in? In my opinion yes they did but you don't see people saying that about it.

Unlimited Fun - 12-15-2010 9:17 PM
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This movie is going to be awesome especially when Disney said that they have their hopes on this movie and its new kind of 3D. I think, this is the movie where you'll actually be able to see the real 3D actions. Its gonna be a hit.

VladimirVonYagenchov - 12-17-2010 12:58 PM
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again... you're really not a great critic so please stop

Robert - 12-17-2010 6:30 PM
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who exactly qualifies as a "critic" to you, Vladimir? Someone who agrees with your taste in movies? I think you are missing the point about what the job of a critic is

Cody - 12-18-2010 12:33 AM
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What makes a critic is someone who looks at the movie from an objective standpoint and can tell a totally honest opinion of how good the movie is. This has nothing to do with what Wilde said before about the screenwriting or anything else related to the production of the movie. The review should be about the movie itself. To me, as in from my perspective, it seems like she wrote this review before she even saw the movie, saw it, then said yup that's about right. This review in no way showed an objective standpoint on the movie, just as most of her reviews don't. Fun facts about production shouldn't factor into the review of a movie. And I haven't seen Tron 1 and I clapped at the end with the other majority of people in the theater.

Old Tron Fan - 12-18-2010 7:31 AM
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Don't waste your money on the 2D version like I did. I loved the first movie, and this one has few of the spiritual/existential themes that were embedded in the first film's narrative. Bridges is about 25% as fun as the first movie, and there is almost no plot to speak of. Sci-fi fans will be disappointed. The special effects are the only thing worth viewing here... and Jen has nailed this review. 100% accurate.

Dino - 12-20-2010 1:34 AM
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Don't know where to start ... This is probably the worst movie that I have seen in the last 3 month. Since special effects are nothing new to us anymore, well, this movie just offer that without anything excited about it...Funny but I saw people living in the middle of the movie and I should have done that too so I stayed to the predictable end of it. Don't waste your money!

Meh - 12-21-2010 1:48 PM
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I agree with Jen this time. The visuals saved this movie for me. If it didn't look as cool as it does it wouldn't have anything to offer. I guess it was all about looks for this movie.

G Dawg - 12-21-2010 7:27 PM
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Ms. Yamato, I have to respectfully disagree with your judgment calls on the Hedlund's performance. Sure, the script and storyline perhaps could have been more involved and focused on relevant modern issues regarding technology and other such topics although we know that's not what the film aimed to do, or if it did then they weren't explicit enough. Yet I feel like Hedlund was very committed to character and appropriately portrayed Kevin Flynn's son. If you think about it, he would be rather "flat," after all, even being the son of a hipster-cool character portrayed by Bridges, there needed to be a concise differentiation between the two as the father had been gone for most of the child's life.

G Dawg - 12-21-2010 7:32 PM
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Being that far-removed from one's father and having such a gloomy outlook on life I am sure any child would develop a semi-flat affect due to either depressive-like symptoms over time for nostalgic reasons. Either way, he showed different sides, though I will admit towards the end, Sam Flynn could have been just a bit more concerned for his father right when he was about to die, but you could even blame that on the directorial choices made by Kosinski to unravel the exposition in that scene. To keep this short, I evoke to you the scene where, Sam meet's his father. The embrace is warm, the dialogue a bit clichéd, but all the emotion between the two actors seems rather genuine, and when Kevin Flynn walks away and Sam is left...

G Dawg - 12-21-2010 7:36 PM
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...there with Quorra we are shown the faintest moment of joy and sorrow simultaneously. Being an actor myself, I know how difficult it is to produce this kind of emotion, especially on set, with hundreds of personnel standing around, and while I don't remember if it was a continuous shot, or if it was cut (and an eyedropper was employed), Hedlund's tear sure seemed real. I apologize for the length but I felt I couldn't describe it better in less words. Thanks for your time and reviews. Best,

EmptyHead - 12-22-2010 10:13 PM
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I completely disagree with Jen's critique of this film. Did you even watch it? Did you watch it with an open mind? This is another review of yours where it seems you were intent on the rating before seeing it. The films themes were clearly spiritual, infusing the elder Flynn's egomania of the 80's with his awakening in the new Universe. Buddhism vs Narcissism is the story, and it was compelling and well told. But we didn't get a hint of that in your review. I'm starting to wonder about your objectivity and credibility as a film critic.

Jose Melendez - 12-25-2010 8:35 AM
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I can't figure it out, why people such as Roger Ebert gives a great review to this crappy film. This film "Tron" most be one of the most worse film I have ever seen .. it lacks all the good sense of creativities it actually started to look like one the Star Wars sequels, Not to mention the worse screen play but also the badly directed !, some scenes you could actually hear their costume rubber rubbing noise and in some scenes the make up was so badly done that in some actor it was smeared on their faces. .. What a waste of my time, what a waste of money and publicity !, Nothing comparing to the first original film which

Jose Melendez - 12-25-2010 8:40 AM
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I can't figure it out, why people such as Roger Ebert gives a great review to this crappy film. This film "Tron" most be one of the worse films I have ever seen .. it lacks all the good sense of creativities it actually started to look like one the Star Wars sequels, not to mention the worse screen play but also badly directed some scenes you could actually hear their rubber costumes noise and in some scenes the makeup was so badly done that in some actor it was smeared on their faces. .. What a waste of my time, what a waste of money and publicity !, Nothing comparing to the first original film Do not waste your time in Money in this film .. you're better off with a Disney cartoon...shame Mr. Ebert !

semi - 12-25-2010 6:30 PM
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Spot on critique. Visuals were cool but the rest of the movie was empty.

Laura - 12-27-2010 10:02 PM
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"Expect the fetish/cos-play community to go bananas over the skintight cyberpunk numbers worn by Wilde’s dominatrix-like Quorra." 1. The fetish and cosplay have nothing in common besides costumes. 2. Quorra was about as dominatrix-like as a puppy. Might I recommend a dictionary?

BillyBong - 1-04-2011 9:47 PM
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Jen... Donald trump needs to have a word with you..

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