DVD Release Date: Aprll 5, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: December 17, 2010
Rating: PG (for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language)
Genre: Action/Adventure, Science Fiction, Sequel
Run Time: 127 min.
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Actors: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Michael Sheen, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner. James Frain, Beau Garrett

In the early 1980s, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) got lost in the grid, a world of his own making where different factions duked it out for control. They hurled shiny, lethal discs at one another while driving at hyper-speeds on virtual motorcycles.


That story was told in Disney's TRON—catnip to every whiz kid who'd heard about things called "computers" and who responded to the idea of being trapped inside a virtual world. But grown-ups were far less enthused, and the film notoriously flopped.

The intervening years have been rather kind to TRON, which developed a cult following. Its star, Jeff Bridges, put together a string of memorable performances in the decades that followed his turn as Flynn, capped by an Oscar-winning performance in last year's Crazy Heart. In the meantime, the ability to create spectacular digital worlds on celluloid became almost commonplace. The world of TRON was dated as soon as its release in 1982, but on the heels of Avatar and other digital-effects driven achievements in filmmaking, what better time than now for Disney to attempt a sequel to TRON?

The disappointing result is TRON: Legacy, directed by Joseph Kosinski (who's now in preproduction on a remake of Disney's other high-profile live-action movie of that same era, The Black Hole). The new film is dreary enough to make one wonder why so much effort was put into revisiting these characters in the first place.

Opening in 1989, TRON: Legacy introduces us to Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), son of Kevin, who disappeared years earlier, leaving his son to take charge of the family business. One day Sam receives a message from dear old dad and, discovering a man-cave beneath the local arcade, gets sucked into the TRON video game, where he searches for his father. His goal is to find dad and help him return to the real world.

Helping Sam is Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a student who says Sam's dad is teaching her "the art of the selfless." Indeed, when they find the aged Sam, he appears to be meditating. Later, he'll accuse his son of "messing" with his "Zen thing." It's a funny moment—one of the very few in a film that takes itself ultra-seriously. That scene may remind viewers of Bridges' role as "the Dude" in the Coen brothers' film The Big Lebowski, but it's also a bit strange to hear talk of "deities" and "false gods" in a world where most of the creatures are programs. If the film is trying to draw parallels between a video-game world that pits "programs" against their creator and the relationship human beings have to their Creator, it does a poor job of seriously grappling with the ideas.

Indeed, TRON: Legacy does a poor job in pretty much all areas other than its visuals, which, while inventive and worth seeing on a large screen in 3D (an opening disclaimer notes that only certain sequences of the film were filmed in the three-dimensional format), still have limited appeal. The most amazing aspect of the film may be Clu—Kevin Flynn's doppelganger. He moves, speaks and looks exactly like the Bridges of 1982, thanks to the wonders of digital technology. It's eerie and unsettling, more so than any of the Us vs. Them struggles that are supposed to interest us between the warring factions within the film's virtual realm.

TRON: Legacy has plenty of action scenes but feels inert and lifeless in terms of its story development and themes. The screenplay by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (TV series including Lost and Felicity) doesn't have nearly the verve or invention of the film's visuals, yet even that aspect of TRON: Legacy quickly wears off. The end result is a soulless film with several forgettable characters. A nightclub owner, played by Michael Sheen, steals the film from the leads—always a troubling sign when a supporting player outshines the lead actors—simply by appearing to have a little fun with his role. Everyone else glowers, frowns, shouts, fights and takes the proceedings with the utmost seriousness.