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TRON LEGACY
(**½)

Movie Review by:
Jim "Good Old JR" Rutkowski
Directed by:
Joseph Kosinski
Written by:
Screenplay by Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz
Starring:
Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde
Running time:
127 minutes
Released:
12/17/10
Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language.
"... the visuals are a vast improvement, but they also keep the film rooted in outdated nostalgia, rather than unbound creativity."

With “Tron: Legacy,” hitting theaters this week, you might be tempted to track down a copy of its predecessor “Tron,” the 1982 cult sci-fi film that took audiences inside a cutting-edge computer universe called the Grid. But watching the original is a strange exercise in arcade-era nostalgia and utter dismay that such a corny production, with stink-bomb dialogue, homemade costumes and stiff acting (an exuberant, young Jeff Bridges the one exception) could inspire a $200 million remake.

But what made “Tron” endure in our memories all these years wasn’t the film itself, but the excitement it generated when asking us to imagine a fully digital future. Though “Legacy” takes advantage of today’s technology to realize the ideas of the ahead-of-its-time original, it fails to reignite the excitement of a futuristic fantasy from a more technologically sophisticated 2010 perspective.

“Legacy” picks up 28 years after Kevin Flynn (Bridges), a whiz kid programmer and video arcade owner, first found himself stranded in the Grid and facing off with a sinister super program with designs on dominating its human “users.” In the first few minutes, we learn that the young Flynn soon became a figurehead of the computer revolution of the mid-’80s. But he was also an idealist who believed that the free and open flow of information could fundamentally improve the human condition. Yes, he became a digital hippie.

Then one day he just disappeared, leaving his young son Sam an orphan — and the majority stockholder of a multibillion dollar technology empire. Now 27, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is a reckless thrill-seeker whose only involvement with the company is the annual prank he pulls on its sinister board of directors (the likely villains for the next installment). At the urging of his dad’s old partner Alan (Bruce Boxleitner, whose digital alter ego in “Tron” gave the film its moniker), Sam returns to the boarded-up arcade and is accidentally beamed back to the Grid. There he finds his father, who’s been trapped since his mysterious disappearance by the Grid’s power-hungry ruler Clu, Flynn’s rogue digital copy, who hasn’t aged since Flynn programmed him almost 30 years before.

Though “Legacy” is technically a sequel, first-time feature film director Joseph Kosinski spends much of the time remaking memorable scenes from the original and continuing a story that should have been entirely reinvented, instead of recycled. Sure, the visuals are a vast improvement, but they also keep the film rooted in outdated nostalgia, rather than unbound creativity.

What we get is a glossier, 3-D reinvention of the first film’s aesthetic — large expanses of black, accented by glowing neon racer stripes. It’s all-encompassing and quite striking, leaving you somewhat disoriented upon re-entering our concrete world. Kosinki’s most imaginative 3-D contraptions are stunning, though it’s unfortunate that they don’t show up until we’ve slogged through a slow, dreary, middle bursting with overblown political themes.

“Legacy’s” real special-effects star is the technology that brings a realistic and youthful Jeff Bridges to the screen to face off with his 62-year-old self. The conflict between the characters may feel contrived, but the feat itself is quite spectacular (save for the younger Bridges’ Botox-like facial stiffness) and one that will likely be improved upon in the years to come, making for some interesting cinematic possibilities.

Yet here we are in 2010, more entwined in technology than many of us ever dreamed. And although we reap the benefits with “Legacy’s” striking visual effects, it seems that Hollywood is still stuck in the ’80s when it comes to sophisticated storytelling.

TRON LEGACY © 2010 Walt Disney Pictures
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2010 Alternate Reality, Inc.

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