I hadn’t even known of Tron’s existence prior to trailers early this year. After seeing the visual orchestra in a 30 second clip, I went and watched the original, and was utterly surprised at the 1982 film. It’s clear why Tron is a cult classic – it’s a very decent film! Sadly, the sequel does not follow suit, only allowing our eyes to gorge on a graphical feast.
Taking place far after the events of the original Tron film, Sam Flynn, the son of prolific computer programmer Kevin Flynn, is left orphaned by his disappeared father. This aside provides us with the basis of Sam’s character, a misaligned yet brilliant 27 year old hotshot with too much money to burn and too much wit to hold substantial relationships. The first segment of the film brilliantly details Sam’s character and the ongoing plot of the film through a police chase, a break-in at his father’s company, and a dashing exit. It all falls flat on its face by failing to make Sam likeable, entertaining as it may be. His nonchalant, too-cool-for-school attitude is a far cry from the persevering, raging genius of his father nearly three decades ago. Sam is the current, sad present Flynn, a misshapen Bruce Wayne who has never grown up.
Properly portrayed by Garrett Hedlund, Sam Flynn is a rich brat with no direction. It makes him unapproachable to the audience because of his billionaire status, his expensive Ducati, his whimsical knowledge of computers and his loner lifestyle. In fact, most of the very few characters in Legacy are difficult to like, and not at all like the characters from the original Tron, with the notable exception of Bruce Boxleitner’s Alan Bradley. Even Jeff Bridges, who also reprises his role from the original, has completely changed from Kevin Flynn to “The Dude” Lebowski, constantly referring to everyone as “man” in that laid back tone of voice we’ve come to know and love in the 90’s classic.
The basic premise makes sense enough, though it’s clear that continuity and intellectually stimulating plot is not the highlight of Legacy. The 3D animation is, along with a visual acuity normally reserved for runway models. The stylistic imagery in Legacy is clean and crisp, with every character in the computer world ready to strut their stuff. Only father and son stick out, lacking perfectly formed hair, eyebrows, flawless skin and the now-iconic red or blue stripes of light. The animation is awesome, in the truest sense of the word. The digital city is just incredible, and the few completely digital combat sequences are just incredible to watch. Choreography, however, is on par with B-rated TV.
One side effect to the convoluted plot was the need to make Bridge’s character some 30 years younger, for his younger self in the introduction and later as CLU, the paternal Flynn’s rogue program looks just like Kevin Flynn in his youth. Yet that non-wrinkled appearance is all digitally done, but unlike the exceptional work on Brad Pitt’s face in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, there’s also a disconnect between the actual body of CLU and Bridge’s digitally rendered face. It just looks fake, like recent television sets can make video appear too smooth. Far from making Bridges younger, it removes us from the clean-cut world of Tron entirely, CLU’s face a juxtaposition of the makeup driven digital world.
Ironically, the only other character who would need such treatment would be Bradley, who plays an integral part of the cyber world, but always behind a mask. Had his character, the actual Tron been highlighted more openly, the betterment of the plot could have suffered through additional facial transferring.
Even the minimalist emotions displayed in Legacy are more akin to The Good Shepherd than actual, honest-to-goodness emotions. This makes sense, because the only two human characters worth caring about are both geniuses. Their conversations are awkward because they read each other like open books. Perceptive audiences will notice, while others may have the whole father-son story go way over their heads. Yet even then, there’s so little to actually appreciate and enjoy outside of the wonderful visuals that Legacy doesn’t match its namesake. It’s a forgettable film in every way that matters, but fun for at least part of the two hours it runs.