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Tron: Legacy

[Rating: 2.5/5]

I’m pretty sure I’ve complained about this before, but here we go again.   The great thing about the advances in CGI and animation the last few years has been that so many things look so much more realistic than they used to.   This is also the terrible thing about these advances, because after all, isn’t the fun of the movies, at least sometimes, that they allow us to inhabit a world that isn’t our own?

“Tron” and “Tron:Legacy” are another example of this principle at work.   The original “Tron,”  while a confounding mess plot and character-wise, is a fun movie because it creates such a captivating visual world of lights and color.   “Tron:Legacy” has taken that world and made it a thousand times more real-looking, and about half as interesting.  In “Tron,”  the lightcycles defy gravity as they make impossibly sharp turns in an attempt to run each other into their trails of light;  in “Tron: Legacy,”  the same game is played, but the bikes look slow and heavy in comparison.   When fantasy becomes reality, it can’t help but be a little disappointing.

But that doesn’t mean “Tron:Legacy” can’t be a fun movie.  By comparison, the script here is much better, though it’s awfully talky and seems more interested in developing a mythology than simply telling a story.  Where “Tron’s” script seemed mostly interested in getting us into the digital world so that cool stuff could happen there, “Tron:Legacy’s” script almost treats the action sequences as a necessary evil.  There’s so much history and explanation in “Tron:Legacy” that one wonders what it’s all there for.   Is there going to be a sequel, or a comic book series, or something?   This film lays way more groundwork than it needs to in order to simply be an entertaining story about people in lightsuits racing and fighting and escaping.

Garrett Hedlund takes the lead as the son of Jeff Bridges, who created the world “Tron:Legacy” takes place in.  Bridges is trapped in that world by a digital clone of himself, and Hedlund unwittingly comes to rescue him.  The biggest problem with Hedlund is that he’s really too good-looking to be a sympathetic protagonist;  he’s the anti-Shia LeBouf.  He reminds me of the bad guys in the original “Karate Kid,”  and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take anyone with a hairdo like his seriously.  Hedlund mostly says things like “This can’t be good” and “You gotta be kidding me” and lets his stunt doubles do the heavy lifting. Bridges is both the wise master and (given the Benjamin Button treatment) the bad guy; and Olivia Wilde is along for the ride as some sort of digital organism Bridges is determined to protect.

Anyway, there’s plenty of fighting and racing and shooting and exploding, and it all hangs together reasonably well until a completely predictably and terribly melodramatic climax.  If you’re going to see this, it’s going to be because of the bright lights, explosions, and crazy ninja acrobatics, and “T:L” supplies those in satisfying quantities.   It wastes way too much energy inventing a backstory nobody’s really going to care about, and it fizzles out at the end anyway.  I guess ultimately it has a lot in common with the original “Tron;”  you’ll enjoy both movies more if you just ignore all the talking, plot, characterization, etc. and let the lights and sound dazzle you.

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