Sunday, 1 January 2012

Film Review | TRON: Legacy (2010)

Direct sequels created a significant amount of time after the original film's release are always a tricky beast to handle, and generally garner a wide range of critical response - John McClane and Indiana Jones' respective jaunts into the 21st Century are proof enough of that. Creating a sequel for a film with such strong cult appeal as 1982's TRON just adds to the challenge of the task. In creating TRON: Legacy, Disney not only took on the job of at least matching the technical prowess and improving on the oft-criticised plot of the original film, but also of pleasing firm fans of the original whilst making the world of TRON appeal more to a mainstream audience.

The film picks up soon after where the events of the first film finished. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has disappeared. Despite being the largest shareholder in Kevin's computer company ENCOM, his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) has no interest in controlling the company whilst harbouring clear abandonment issues towards his father. However, when Kevin's friend and business partner Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) tells Sam he's received a mysterious message from Kevin's old office, Sam's subsequent investigation leads him into The Grid - the virtual reality world Kevin entered decades previously - and on a journey of investigation into what happened to his father.

In many ways, TRON: Legacy exhibits many of the same strengths and weaknesses as the original film. The technological wizardry is clearly apparent from the moment Sam steps into The Grid, and gets more and more impressive as the film progresses. The world introduced in 1982 has been appropriately "upgraded". The updated version of the iconic light cycle battle is particularly breathtaking, as is the fast-paced fighter jet chase towards the film's climax. The Grid as a universe is captivating in itself even when things slow down, providing beautiful scenery within which the story can unfold.

Bridges is reliably solid returning to the role of Kevin Flynn and bringing an intriguing mix of spirituality and world-weariness (or should that be "Grid-weariness"?) to the aged version of the character. Impressive too is Bridges' performance as CLU, the corrupt program created by the senior Flynn who acts as the film's antagonist. CLU appears as the younger version of Kevin Flynn, achieved through motion capture and computer animation, and it is to Bridges' credit that his performance comes through the technology and post-production so strongly.

Hedlund's performance as Sam Flynn is good, believable as Kevin's son, although his supposed animosity towards his father never truly comes through. The rest of the cast are fine but never much more.

The film's weaknesses come through pacing and plot, as the story occasionally becomes a little overly complex, tying itself into knots that it can't quite straighten out. Some scenes also become a little slow and self-indulgent from time to time. The End Of Line Club sequence, for example, feels almost entirely unnecessary - although it does provide a key opportunity to showcase Daft Punk's magnificent score for the film - and the plot elements involving Michael Sheen's character could easily have been eliminated to help reduce the film's slightly flabby two hour running time. Sheen's over-the-top performance feels somewhat at odds with the rest of the film too.

Despite its faults however, TRON: Legacy is much more success than failure. You can't help but be entertained and impressed by the action sequences and use of CGI throughout, and the main story of a son's quest to find his father and ultimately take control of his destiny is compelling and well told. Whilst things do slow down a bit too much between the action, the film never gets boring, and the universe created is a thing of wonder from start to finish. In the end, TRON: Legacy successfully establishes itself as a worthwhile and enjoyable continuation of an intelligent and imaginative action sci-fi franchise created almost three decades ago.


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