Over the last decade, blockbusters have been slowly leaving the big kid’s pool of the summer season to capitalize on Holiday ticket sales and a schedule usually clogged with award winning dramas and foreign films (and less blockbuster competition). This December, Disney rolls out a sequel to a film released almost 30 years ago. The results? Fun to look at, but lacking narrative pulse.
The orphaned Sam Flynn discovers that his father Kevin, missing for twenty years, has been stuck in a virtual reality run by Clu, a dictatorial copy of himself
Submerging the story within a computer environment makes it the perfect place for CGI, with whole environments created digitally which don’t disrupt the viewing experience (unlike those Star Wars prequels). Light cycle battles and aeronautical displays are what the film does best, with even the hand to hand combat scenes providing some thrills.
These are made all the better by the production design, which emphasizes sleek lines and brilliant, clean colors to break up the black atmosphere (kudos too for the nameless city displayed in the beginning). Everything looks cool, but not in a laborious quest for our affections (ahemResident Evil) – it just is (being literally underscored by Daft Punk helps).
That’s about all you can say for the film. Jeff Bridges doesn’t get enough time or material to juice any palpable drama from his roles as Flynn or Clu. And speaking of Clu, the CGI work to create a young Jeff Bridges is impressive while at the same time falling into the uncanny valley. When you investigate further you realize his mouth moves like a talking dog in a Disney picture. Sure, that could add to the effect of a computer clone of Flynn, but given the film’s strivings for photo-realism it just looks weird.
Story-wise, it’s merely there as a skeletal frame on which to hang the lighting scheme and action sequences. The only things that stick out are not virtuoso displays of drama, but annoying speed bumps:
SPOILERS, SKIP PARAGRAPH
A masked baddie who has tracked our heroes throughout the film turns out to be Tron, AND suddenly turns good for a deus ex machina save. Further, the conclusion is dragged out in an effort to create suspense that really only pisses people off: Sam moans as he has to leave his father behind, and even when certain doom is upon him, he’s all “No, I can’t leave him.” We’ve seen this a million times from lazy screenwriters, it makes no sense, so please for the love of God quit it.
I went to Tron Legacy with no expectations. So, a well done special effects action film it is. Anything with genuine drama, it ain’t. But as Samuel L. Jackson said to Hammond in Jurassic Park: “It could have been worse. A lot worse.”