TRON: Legacy

Jeff Bridges goes back to the Grid

Given his background in high-end TV commercials (for Nike, Apple, Halo 3), you’d expect director Joseph Kosinski’s first feature, TRON: Legacy, to be a pretty slick package. Which it is. What lifts the movie out of the techno-trash wasteland of pictures like Terminator Salvation and the Transformers films, however, may be Kosinski’s beyond-film-school C.V., which includes graduate architectural studies. Where many movies in the sci-fi fantasy genre suffer from a garish digital sprawl—we’re not watching stylishly articulated action, only money being spent—Kosinski’s neon-bathed CGI environments have solid structure, and moments (in IMAX, anyway) of pop-monumental splendor. The movie was also shot in a species of 3D that doesn’t dim the imagery or make your eyeballs ache; and it’s powered by a sensational score, by the French electronic duo Daft Punk, that fuses with the visual elements in an unusually exciting way.

Legacy is of course a continuation of the story begun in the 1982 TRON, a landmark in the introduction of computer-game imagery into mainstream filmmaking. In that movie, Jeff Bridges played Kevin Flynn, a disgruntled software engineer shafted by his former employer, a devious corporation called ENCOM. In the process of striking back at ENCOM, Kevin was suddenly digitized and sucked into the company’s mainframe computer, where he entered a fantastical world populated by humanoid program avatars, among them one called Tron, which was operated by Kevin’s friend, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner, back along with Bridges for the new movie, too). Kevin and Tron joined forces to outfox the company’s malevolent control program, and in the end Sam managed a return to the real world to wrest ENCOM away from its shady executives and to become the company’s CEO.

It helps to know that backstory, but Legacy stands up pretty well on its own. The movie opens with a prologue, set in 1989, in which we see Kevin with a seven-year-old son, Sam, to whom he tells stories about the computer world he calls the Grid, and about his dream of a digital universe that will be “free” and open and not controlled by, say, some devious corporation. Then one night Kevin disappears. Flash forward 20 years and Sam (stalwart Garrett Hedlund) has grown up to become a technological guerilla, carrying on his father’s campaign for digital emancipation. The story gets underway with the receipt of a signal—a signal, it seems, from Sam’s long-departed father.

Considering the complexity of filming with 3D cameras, it’s remarkable that Kosinski elected to add another layer of complication by casting Bridges both as the present-day graybeard he is—now playing a middle-aged Kevin Flynn—and, through vintage images and digital face-mapping, as his younger self, playing the 1989 Kevin and also a character called Clu, an avatar created by Kevin years earlier who’s now a megalomaniacal tyrant in the computer world. The seamless attachment of Bridges’ well-remembered ’80s face onto another actor’s anonymous body has an uncanny effect, especially when Kevin and Clu face off in the same scene. It’s not creepy in a rotoscoped, Polar Express way, but it is eerie. Any initial distraction fades, however: The director maintains focus on the movie’s father-and-son theme, to which Bridges brings his usual huggy-bear warmth.

Entering the Grid himself in search of his father, Sam finds the old man hiding out in a remote villa with one of his digital creations, a beautiful protégé named Quorra (a lively turn by Olivia Wilde). Sam wants them all to make their way to the Grid’s exit portal and return to the real world. But there’s an army of Clu’s soldiers to contend with, and much gladiatorial combat to endure in a vast stadium filled with howling programs. There are also extended “light cycle” chases (which sometimes teeter on the edge of Speed Racer tedium). Best of all, there’s an uproarious visit to a penthouse disco run by a fey party monster named Castor (“Libations for everybody!”)—a character played by Michael Sheen, in a platinum mullet, at a hysterical pitch that puts his campy vampire in the Twilight films deep in the shade.

It’s hard to accomplish much that’s really new in the cinematic sci-fi world by now, and some of the visual furnishings here inevitably ring bells. There are echoes of Metropolis (and, in the stadium scenes, unsurprisingly, Nuremberg); and some of the sets have a pronounced Kubrickian flavor, particularly Kevin’s villa, with its luminescent floors, and Castor’s outré nightclub, which is pure Milk Bar. Still, this is a fantasy world realized at a high level by a director with a little more on his mind than the size of the pyro budget. It’s about as brainy as this kind of genre fun gets.

Kurt Loder is a writer, among other things, embedded in New York. 

Editor's Note: This article has been modified from its original version.

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  • ||

    Awesome. Definitely gonna check this one out.

  • ||

    I have no interest in this film. The only thing I liked about the original was the video game.

  • Mike M.||

    I liked Discs of Tron better; I was addicted to that sucker for a good while.

    End of line.

  • jasno||

    Ditto that. I loved the separation of running and aiming. Someday I'm going to build a cabinet just for playing DoT.

  • ||

    I still can't get the Tron video game music out of my head nearly 30 years later, especially the part where you have to shoot all the spiders or whatever they were. The movie bored me but the game fascinated me.

  • Steve||

    Since both the game and the original movie sucked pretty bad, can we now conclude that Hollywood has officially run out of ideas?

  • We||

    We concluded that fifteen years ago, and again five years ago, and again last Friday.

  • ||

    Looks like Hollywood's critics have run out of ideas too!

  • ||

    What? That movie was fucking ahead of its time!

  • We||

    Steve disagrees. Somebody is wrong, unless everybody is right, since art is subjective, unless it isn't.

  • Steve||

    Art? A pile of crap, by any other name, still smells like $#*&!

  • We||

    Careful. Mustn't attempt to define art. This is a libertarian site. You know who else tried to define "art"? Yup. The State.

  • ||

    Dude, you're not supposed to leave the question unanswered, with the implicit answer being "The Nazis."

    You need to learn the art of subtle hyperbole.

  • ||

    You're SUPPOSED to... sorry

  • Derp||

    Good Beefheart reference.

  • cynical||

    You know who else learned the art of subtle hyperbole?

  • ||

    You know who else tried to define "art"

    France?

  • ||

    Now Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston, that was an original Hollywood idea! What?

  • Ted S.||

  • El Duderino||

    If you saw the original movie when it was actually released, you would probably appreciate it more.

  • ||

    Exactly. Tron and Star Wars were first-of-their-kind films. It's hard to appreciate either unless you had never seen anything remotely like them before. In a theater and everything. I'll still never forget the opening scene in Star Wars. I was in the front row--whoa! And Tron was cool because there had been no story before which took place inside a computer. It raised a lot of interesting questions about computers and society, which we all take for granted now.

  • ||

    I will probably go see this in the IMAX at Pacific Science Center, just because it will look cool. If it's any good, as Kurt alludes, that will just be a bonus.

  • ||

    Yeah, I am seeing this at the IMAX next week.

  • ||

    Agreed. Looks to be worth an IMAX trip, unlike Harry Potter. 7.1.

  • ||

    I really didn't think much of Tron when I first saw it in the theater and then later on home video. But I watched it about 10-years ago and it made far more sense to me. I still think it's a bit thinly-drawn, but once you grasp the computer system metaphors, the movie improves.

  • ||

    As if you could grasp "computer system metaphors". You still think RAM is what your wife does to you with the strap-on.

  • ||

    That's SugarFree in those xtube clips?

  • ||

    Yup. All of them.

  • ||

    I will never watch another amateur married southern bear cuckcold pegging clip the same way again!

  • ||

    cuckold

  • ||

    cockcold?

  • ||

    RAM is what your wife does to you with the strap-on

    Ha ha ha! I am so using that!

  • El Duderino||

    Reminds me of Microsofts famed Critical Update Notification Tool...

  • scared to expose drug use||

    Somewhere along the line (presumably when i drank and did drugs more frequently) I figured out how Tron was spot on prophecy of the Browser Wars and the rise of Linux.

  • El Duderino||

    TRON was about the uncontrollable nature of complex computer systems. I first realized this while reading Kevin Kellys "Out of Control"

    http://www.kk.org/outofcontrol/

    Here is another good book that helps to understand the complex technological environment that is growing more and more out of control (I mean this in a good way). "The Singularity is Near" by Ray Kurzweil

    http://singularity.com/
  • ||

    "a disgruntled software engineer shafted by his former employer"

    Is there any other kind?

  • Brett L||

    One of my former co-workers now owns a craft beer and wine bar, and just opened a retail shop that carries the same. So, I guess ex-software engineer is the other kind.

  • ||

    a "disgruntled ex-software engineer" is not another kind of "software engineer". Ex- creates a new classification, which makes the objects different types.

  • Brett L||

    He's no longer disgruntled. He was shafted by his former employer.

  • ||

    I knew I should have tried to explain my point with source code...

  • ||

    bool disgruntled = stillEmployed == 1 ? true : false;

  • ||

    Yes. (I think)

  • Brian D||

    Coming soon: Tron Regruntled

  • 0x90||

    I see you get paid by the line.

  • 0x90||

    (I was addressing Episiarch)

  • ||

    Unnecessary whitespace is for meatbags.

  • ||

    I see you get paid by the line.

    HAHA total burn!!!

    Note: I have no idea what the fuck this means...only that I want to hang with the cool programmer kids.

  • Wind Rider||

    Careful Josh, they may not take you on a snipe hunt, but they'll probably insist you play D&D with them.

  • ||

    This actually begs the question..

    We have bar meets and boat cruses...why don't we have a reasonoid guild or clan or whatever you would call it for online multi-player games?

  • ||

    I see you get paid by the line.

    Er, if so he must not be getting paid much.

    It reminds me of those heady days of debugging APL, digging through the manual to figure out whether the tilde-overstruck-by-backslash operator was left or right associative.

  • Steve||

    A gruntled software engineer shafted by his former employer?

  • El Duderino||

    The kind that becomes the employer...

    Bill Gates
    Steve Jobs
    Woz
    Times 2010 "Man" of the year.

    To name a few...

  • ||

    a sensational score, by the French electronic duo Daft Punk

    Was I wrong to presume that Daft Punk was merely an iteration of ICP or 2 dillweed hipsters and should be ignored?

  • ||

    If you lump everything into those two categories then you should be ignored.

  • ||

    Not everything, db, just the things you like.

    I asked the question with zero exposure to them, beyond pictures of Daft Punk and douches on Gawker sites praising them, which is enough to condemn them by any sane standard.

    Hopefully, it's better than what I've heard for Battle for Los Angeles, which is abominable.

  • ||

    They're not really my thing, and the soundtrack is a bit generic, but I respect their production skills.

    The hipster-douche:troglodyte dichotomy is pretty lame dude.

  • ||

    I was psyched when I heard they were doing the soundtrack, but it just sounds... soundtrack-y. I needed some Alive 2007 afterwards to remind me why they are awesome.

  • Poppin' Caps lock||

    I need something Discovery- or Homework- like before I'll be reminded of that.

  • ||

    I've disappointed you again, haven't I?

    Oh, woe is me.

  • sunny black||

    "..douches on Gawker sites praising them, which is enough to condemn them by any sane standard."
    +10000 for dissing gawker.

  • ||

    Hopefully, it's better than what I've heard for Battle for Los Angeles, which is abominable.

    Nooo!!!

    Dammit, I was hoping it would be good. :-(

  • ||

    OH MY GOD you're a juggalo.

  • ||

    Dude, Daft Punk is awesome, and they are certainly not hipster.

  • ChicagoSucks||

    Yes. Not even the same ballpark.

  • ||

    Was I wrong to presume that Daft Punk was merely an iteration of ICP or 2 dillweed hipsters and should be ignored?

    No.

    Disney should have just used the original score.

  • El Duderino||

    I fail to make a single connection between Daft Punk and the Insane Clown Posse.

  • ChicagoSucks||

    I can't even come up with an analogy for it. It's just not a valid comparison. I wish I could say "Comparing Daft Punk to ICP is like comparing X to Y." How do you compare a couple of artists who are arguably responsible for the global popularization of a niche genre of house music to a couple of rappers who don't understand how magnets work? The closest thing I can think of would be something along the lines of "comparing Daft Punk to ICP is like comparing the Blue Man Group to the Boogie Man."

  • mr simple||

    Clu, an avatar created by Kevin years earlier, now a megalomaniacal tyrant in the computer world.

    So it's pretty much following the South Park Tron/Facebook spoof plotline.

    The first one was fun enough, though I think you had to watch it in the 80's and be young enough to appreciate video game tech to enjoy it. This may be the first time I test Kurt's opinion.

  • bobbyoshea||

    how much would you pay to have olivia wilde dressed like that in your bedroom?

  • SFC B||

    A trillion dollars.

    Which our upcoming need for hyperinflation will make it possible for me to afford.

  • sunny black||

    ...tell her you're into universal healthcare and she'll totally smile at you like you're a shiny new toy.

    Question: would you do it?

  • Trespassers W||

    I don't get her. She's flat and kind of funny-looking. Why fawn over this one in particular?

  • ||

    Geek girls, or actresses associated with geeky things, get graded on a steep curve. I could name three or four girls you won't give second look if she was the cashier at Starbucks, but would result in me being flamed to the very gates of Hell if I posted them even on this board, and I'm not in the mood.

  • Trespassers W||

    Nail, head, ah I see you've already met. I though it might be a case of Gillian Anderson syndrome.

    Anyway, all I'm saying is, y'all don't be surprised if she turns out to be a dude.

  • sarcasmic||

    She is an Obamaphile.

  • Barf Vader||

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

  • El Duderino||

    They wanted to print a one trillion dollar bill, but the zeros wouldn't fit on the bill without having to radically retool the printing press.

  • ||

    Did anyone else get an Adidas ad featuring Tron-related gear? Very sneaky, Google ads!

  • El Duderino||

    I dont get ads.

  • sarcasmic||

    She quit House for this?

    It better be good. Her replacement is not nearly as nice on the eyes.

  • CavMedic||

    That's thirteen?!?

    She looked loads hotter on House (of course the lesbian make-out scenes helped with that).

  • sarcasmic||

    Yup. Olivia Wilde.

    She could put a woody on a statue.

  • ||

    Her replacement isn't nice on anything, for that matter.

  • ||

    Amber Tamblyn always looks like she smells of milk and cigarettes to me.

  • ||

    I liked her performance in The Ring. She was totally believable as a dead person.

  • ||

    She quit House to work on Cowboys and Aliens and she's coming back mid-season as is.

  • sarcasmic||

    cool

  • ||

    Unless the E! channel lied to me. Bastards have done it before.

  • ||

    computer-game imagery

    Just to be sure, Mr. Loder, that's not meant to be the expansion of the CGI acronym is it?

  • ||

    a landmark in the introduction of computer-game imagery into mainstream filmmaking.

    In 1982 no video game looked as good or anything like the original Tron.

    It was not video game imagery. It was a dream of what video game imagery might look like in some possible future.

    If it was Video game imagery by 1982 standards it would look like this:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/0a/ET2600-JD.png

  • ||

    That was pretty much my point. Based on the context, I really think he meant to say "computer generated imagery", since tron WAS a "a landmark in the introduction of computer generated imagery (CGI) into mainstream filmmaking"

  • ||

    Dude look at the times we posted

    It would have been physically impossible for me to read your post before i posted mine.

    One thing that is cool is we both had the exact same idea in our heads at the exact same time. Spooky.

  • ||

    You expressed the idea more comprehensively, but left off the contextual connection in the article. My response to you was my attempt to tie-our posts together into 1 coherent idea.

  • Wind Rider||

    Oh, just shut up and get a room, if you're gonna get all creepy with that mind meld shit.

  • El Duderino||

    Mommy, are they doing a 69?

  • ||

    It’s hard to accomplish much that’s really new in the cinematic sci-fi world by now

    Huh? Aside from the new techniques that are being developed all the time? I guess if you already believe this idea, it will definitely be true for you. Closing one's self to possibilities and all that jazz...

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    In the trailers I've seen, I didn't find the CGI-young-Jeff-Bridges face to be very convincing. Maybe they've cleaned it up some for the final cut, but...there's over six billion people on this planet. Surely, somewhere, there's an actor or two who look enough like Jeff Bridges that they could pass for him in this movie?

  • ||

    there's over six billion people on this planet. Surely, somewhere, there's an actor or two who look enough like Jeff Bridges that they could pass for him in this movie?

    Sure, there's probably someone out there who looks EXACTLY like Bridges....but is this doppleganger the right age for the part?

  • CavMedic||

    Maybe they should let this character play the young Jeff Bridges and his Reuben J. Cogburn character from the new True Grit play the old Jeff Bridges.

  • ||

    In the trailers I've seen, I didn't find the CGI-young-Jeff-Bridges face to be very convincing

    The CGI character is a computer program.

    it is not as if a real Jeff bridges teleported here from the past would not have played the part in the same ridged fashion.

    What do you expect him to give that devilish grin from Thunderbolt and Lightfoot? It would have been out of character.

  • ||

    The Clu abides...

  • ||

    Good point. The original CLU played by a real Jeff bridges was very clunky and robotic.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    The trailers show a scene where young Jeff Bridges walks out of his son's room before disappearing forever or whatever. His face looks just fake enough to bother me.

  • Tim||

    One wonders if we haven't created by posting here little Tron like avatars inside the Reason server who are, even now being forced into sadistic death games by a leather jacket clad despot.

  • ||

    Your proposition is incomplete without an explanation for how the situation results in multi-posts.

    Lightcycle collision maybe?

  • ||

    The Jacket would have one hell of time keeping the warty avatar from raping all the other avatars.

  • STEVE SMITH'S AVATAR||

    STEVE SMITH ENJOY ACCESS VIOLATION OF LONELY HIKER PROCESS! STEVE SMITH FIND HIKER BACKDOOR AND WANT TO LEAVE TORJAN, BUT STEVE NO LIKE CONDOM! STEVE SMELL DEADBEEF...

  • Old Mexican||

    [...]we see Kevin with a seven-year-old son, Sam, to whom he tells stories about the computer world he calls the Grid, and about his dream of a digital universe that will be open to all, and not controlled by, say, some devious corporation.




    I kind of expected such, Flynn not being, instead, worried about the Grid being controlled by, say, a devious FCC director.

  • ||

    Suspension of Disbelief gets in the way of your alternative scenario: A devious bureacrat? C'mon, I'm not buying it, even for fiction.

  • ||

    A devious bureacrat? C'mon, I'm not buying it, even for fiction.

    It worked in Ghost Busters.

  • ||

    Dickless was devious? I must've missed that scene.

  • ||

    Dickless was devious?

    Well he tried to be when he first showed up, but was shut down by Venkman.

  • Man of the new normal||

    What no one remembers is that Lacy Underalls from Caddyshack was in the original Tron.

    Judge Smails: "Lacy's mother has sent her to us for the Summer."

    Dr. Beeper: "Must be a nice change from dreary old Manhattan."

    Lacy: "Yes, I was getting really tired of having fun all the time."

  • ||

    Holy shit you are right!!!

    Her's were the second set of boobies I ever saw.

    The first being in Conan...

    I know the dates are screwed up but we had Home Box Office.

  • jon||

    Movies are meant to entertain, we sometimes lose sight of that fact. This movie was entertaining to me at least. It is consistent with todays movies: Lots of CG, less on content (story) just sit back and take it in. Its all about the Hollywood money machine.

  • jon||

    OH btw: at the end I kinda wondered why didn't Kevin Flynn do that at the beginning... if you watch the movie you will know what I mean.

  • ||

    Just saw the movie tonight, story and characters were so boring. Daft Punk was the only thing that made this movie watchable. I think they nailed the "atmosphere" of the movie 100%. Basically it was Blade Runner without a story... God, I love Blade Runner; really is the best Sci Fi movie ever.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Movie was both sort of cool and sort of stupid. Main character is blasé but hates IP so he's actually a villian too. I wish the fascist imperial TRON army had gotten into the real world only to find themselves totally unable to do jack shit.

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  • wubai||

    How about mbt kisumu sandals this one: there are X driving deaths a year- what % of driving deaths (or serious injuries) involve alcohol, or other intoxicating substances? kisumu 2 People are pretty darn good drivers when they are not impaired.

  • jiusuan||

    good

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