With Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde with Michael Sheen with Cilian Murphy and Bruce Boxleitner
Music by Daft Punk
“The Grid. A digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they traveled through the computer. Ships, motorcycles. With the circuits like freeways. I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see. And then, one day – I got in.” – Kevin Flynn
So you’ve probably seen all these mixed reviews of the film, you might have even read that “TRON: Legacy” made $3.5 million at its midnight premier (which is more than “Inception” made). So you also could be wondering if the fact that I (a really, really pompous film snob) went to the midnight showing, paid $16 for a 3-D IMAX ticket, and had to get up at 5:45am for work – was worth it.
Fuck yeah it was.
The plot is thin, yet I was drawn into it and really enjoyed the direction the film was taken. It starts out in 1989 with a young Kevin Flynn (an incredible reversed aged and voiced Jeff Bridges) talking to his young son Sam about TRON, about the future, about computers. It’s a nice little explanation for those who hadn’t seen the original “TRON” film.
Flynn now has his rightful place as the CEO of Encom and is building software that will be free of charge, so that anyone and everyone have access to the future. But on the night Flynn sits with his son, it’s the last night that anyone will ever see Flynn.
Flash-forward to current day, there is a meeting at Encom late at night; the board is sitting in a fancy conference table in the ultra fancy building. They are minutes away from unveiling their latest operating platform. The board is filled with a bunch of snobby elitist that would make Dick Cheney proud. This time we see an older Sam (Garret Hedlund) breaking into Encom with hopes to sabotage the announcement of the new operating platform.
The board is all ra ra with their plans to essentially rip the public off, everyone by Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) is happy. He pipes up and announces his unrest with the new “vision” of Encom, and chastises the board telling them that Kevin Flynn aspired to make all this software freeware – making it available to all of the public. The Chairman of the Board essentially ignores Bradley and applauds Edward Dillinger (in a cameo by Cilian Murphy) who was the lead designer on the new software. Of course Murphy looks like a slime ball – and don’t forget (or for those of you who haven’t seen the original film) Edward is the son of Ed Dillinger the villain of the first film.
Sam successfully sabotages Encom’s unveiling and get arrested and then returns to a cozy little garage he calls home. While he cracks open a Coors Beer (drinking in a Disney movie!?) Bradley is inside of Sam’s “home”, and they go through some banter about how Bradley is Sam’s surrogate father figure – yada yada yada. Bradley tells Sam that he got a page from his father’s office, and tosses Sam the keys.
Sam goes to investigate the rundown and barren Flynn’s Arcade. He turns the power on and Journey starts to blast from a juke box. He looks around, discovers the TRON video game, and then a secret door. Needless to say, Sam accidentally stumbles into Flynn’s office, and gets laser beamed into The Grid.
This is where the movie gets kicked into high fucking gear. The Grid is unlike the old version; it’s a cold, dark and electronic virtual reality. It looks fabulous. Sam gets scooped up, and forced to play games against other programs. Instead of the Master Computer and Dillinger being the villain, its Flynn’s program he made back in 1989, Clu (which is the reversed aged and voiced Jeff Bridges). And Clu is fucking nasty.
While Sam fights his way through the games, he eventually gets challenged to a light cycle race by Clu. Clu is whooping shit, and he’s cheating (because he can), and Sam gets saved in the nick of time by Quorra (Olivia Wilde) who is the protégé to Flynn who lives in exile just outside of The Grid.
Once we see Flynn, he’s old and grey and has a beard. He wears a robe and is meditating. He’s very much Zen-like, and he uses words like “radical” and calls his son “man” – so pretty much Flynn is still very much a beatnik. Sam and Flynn devise a plan to escape to the portal that Sam entered in that will be closing soon, while trying to elude Clu, who’s master plan is to build an army and enter the portal and transcend to reality.
This film does have somewhat of a skimpy plot, but once we listen to Flynn tell us how he created The Grid, and “life began to manifest” – it becomes this mythical story, a fable and Flynn assumes the Christ-like figure of creating a world and creating life, while Clu the program that was trusted to help him – turns on him and seizes control of The Grid (a reflection of Judas).
While the screenplay may not be all that great, the special effects and the dual performance by Bridges more than makes up for it. Bridges churns out another solid performance as the prophet Flynn, while taking a step back and playing an evil computer program that isn’t a far cry from a fascist leader. There is an excellent scene prior to the climax where Clu gives a speech to a mass number of programs that are in square formations, and he boasts and yells about how they are about to cross over, they are going to take over their programs because they (the programs) are more efficient.
The highlight of the film is the beginning of the second act, where Clu challenges Sam to a light cycle game. The special effects were the best I’ve ever seen (remember or not, I never saw “Avatar” – fuck you James Cameron). The 3-D was sharp and popped from the screen, the sound, the images, the engineering of this sequence are executed flawlessly.
Another highlight is Michael Sheen in a small role of Zeus, who is an ally to Quorra, who is a homoerotic flamboyant club owner who distracts the evil programs with beautiful women and music (Daft Punk makes a cameo as the DJ’s of his club). Sheen is excellent in his small and pivotal role.
This film isn’t without its problems. Aside from the screenplay, some of the acting is a little stiff and seems forced. Garrett Hedlund who plays Sam isn’t terrible – but he’s not that great either. Let’s just say he hits a homerun compared to Hayden Christensen in the new Star Wars trilogy. Olivia Wilde is good, but she’s mainly there because she looks GREAT.
Clu has a masked henchman, and without ruining the identity, when you figure out who is behind the mask, they kind of bitch out by not using the same technology that they used on Jeff Bridges for that character. I thought that was just a poor choice.
While watching the film, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Bruce Boxleitner. I was really glad he was in the film, and I he was good in his limited role, but don’t forget that his character Alan Bradley’s program is TRON. He’s TRON! Yet it’s Bridges who gets all the glory. But after all, he is Jeff Bridges. Duhh.
Yet another reason to see the film is for Daft Punk’s amazing score. It flows and hums, it sizzles and cracks – it’s the perfect sound for this film. It’s incredibly electronic and buzzing. I’m going to buy the original score to this film, it’s that good.
The last thing I would like to say about my theater experience was that there were these beat off kids sitting behind me and my party. And every time, I mean every single fucking time Jeff Bridges (Flynn, not Clu) opened his mouth they would utter out their best Keanu Reeves’ impression “yeahhhhh Duuuuude!” Hey I think it’s cool that you guys are seeing TRON at midnight, and I think it’s cool that you guys dig “The Big Lebowski” – but listen here motherfuckers, Jeff Bridges was the Dude before the Dude. Nough said.