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Movie Review: Tron: Legacy
Friday, 01.07.2011, 03:00pm (GMT-5)

By Zach Rupp

“Tron: Legacy” rocked the box-office in its opening week, showing $43 million in ticket returns. It’s a huge leap from the first “Tron’s” measly $4.8 million opening, but poor dialogue, bad acting, and dreadfully dull sequences suggest that the sequel’s returns reflect a successful advertising campaign rather than a quality film.

Fans of the original “Tron” will insist that it was a film far ahead of its time, and to a certain extent, they’d be right. Released on the precipice of worst video game crash to date, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would have believed in the massive popularity of video games that exists now and the recent trend in total-immersion gaming of the Wii and the XBOX Kinect. “TRON” was a film that gave great insight into the future of gaming, but it did so at the worst possible time. Considering this, it’s no wonder that the film flopped.

“TRON: Legacy” got the timing just right. Microsoft has just released their full-body sensing camera for use with the XBOX and are planning to do similar releases for all other forms of interactive media. Video game sales are through the roof. And Quantum Engineering—the stuff that makes TRON possible—is much closer to being a reality than ever thought possible. So that makes “TRON: Legacy” a much better movie, right?

Wrong.

“TRON: Legacy” begins shortly after the first “TRON” with Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) relating the story of his adventures on the grid to his son, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), before leaving for a night of work at the office. Unfortunately for Sam, Kevin never returns. Since this is a Disney film and child-abandonment doesn’t typically sit well with the Disney crowd, we can easily deduce that Kevin has been trapped in the grid. Sam, however, doesn’t realize that until twenty years later, after base-jumping from the building of a company he owns. Why was he base-jumping from his own building, you ask? Because he was running from security. But it’s his building, you say? Yes, but he had just entered stealthily to hack the servers and upload some software onto the internet. If that doesn’t answer your question, then nothing will. Yes, I know it’s his building and that he’s just hacked his own company. And sure, I’d have liked some more justification, but that would be like asking for ice cream from the sun.

It becomes clear rather shortly that Sam is the type o’ fool who don’t take no crap from nobody, nah mean? We’re just supposed to accept Sam’s incredibly irrational behavior as part of his character. The good thing is that the mindlessness we’re told to accept from Sam is supported rather emphatically by Garrett Hedlund’s acting skills; a scene in which he declares “what” to his dog rather than asking it is perhaps the best example.

But Garrett’s Sam is really the last of the film’s troubles. The dialogue is often so embarrassingly bad that we find ourselves leaning over the armrest to ask our fellow viewers if we have misheard something. Typically we have not. When Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a special program girl who was born on the grid, asks Sam what the sun is like, the best he can do is say that it’s “warm.” Seriously. Sure, he says other things of the sun; it’s “big,” for instance. But “warm” is the closest he gets to anything substantial.

But don’t get me wrong, “TRON: Legacy” is pretty awesome when it does things correctly. The only problem is that it only does things correctly during its beautiful action sequences. Ever want to see light-cycles in 3D? Now you can, baby! And they are superb. The greatest part about the action sequences? Nobody is talking. Well, you do get the occasional grunt and “we should do this,” but how could that go wrong? Action films have proven that if you take a bad actor and make them sweat and shout, they appear much better than they actually are. For this, we are very grateful. But the sequences that follow the digital violence enjoy torturing the audience through the merciless subjugation to the most banal exposition sequences in any film to date.

I’m not kidding; one scene lasting almost fifteen minutes is comprised entirely of a train ride through the vacuous grid, during which Kevin tells Sam all about the digital world’s history. I’ll admit that I had a few questions about the world at this point and was somewhat willing to listen to Kevin drone on for a few minutes, but none of those questions were even remotely answered. Instead, we get some sappy reunion tale which simply recaps everything we’ve already seen or have deduced from previous moments in the film. Where are the light-cycles? Where is the cool pixel-destruction we were promised in the trailer? Where, God, where? Well, we do get it, but it’s not nearly as satisfying after the train ride.