TRON: Legacy

Twenty-eight years ago, a bunch of guys with a computer that had just 2MB of memory — the same size as the little memory stick I use to back up my stuff — somehow managed to create TRON. I shudder to contemplate the size of the computers they used for the sequel.

Twenty-eight years ago, a bunch of guys with a computer that had just 2MB of memory — the same size as the little memory stick I use to back up my stuff — somehow managed to create TRON. I shudder to contemplate the size of the computers they used for the sequel.

It’s only been 20 years between the movies as far as the characters are concerned, though. It starts in 1989, with Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges, Iron Man) as the CEO of Encom Industries and the widowed dad of seven-year-old Sam Flynn (Owen Best). Flynn tells Sam tales of The Grid and promises to show it to him one day. Then the elder Flynn disappears.

Sam then grows up and turns into Garrett Hedlund (Death Sentence). Technically, he owns a good portion of Encom Industries, but for some reason he lets the board of directors do whatever the heck they want, no matter how vile, apparently just so he can have the pleasure of breaking in to ruin all their plans. I guess that’s just something that runs in the Flynn family, but really, you’d think the board of directors would’ve figured out how to stop him instead of letting him make such a habit of this. Though one person on the board, at least, namely Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner of the original TRON) seems perfectly content to let him break past security and climb out onto a beam hanging eighty stories over the pavement if it makes him happy.

Alan gets a page from the office Kevin Flynn had at his arcade. Yes, Alan still has a working pager. That phone number has been disconnected for twenty years — and somehow, miraculously, has not yet been reassigned — but someone’s been paying the electric bill all that time, since the lights, the jukebox, and the video games still work. Sam dutifully pokes around under all the dust covers and finds a second, secret office.

Before you can say “end of line”, Sam gets his first look at The Grid, and it isn’t pretty. Well, it is, visually speaking, but it’s also nasty. Recognizers sweep the streets looking for rogue programs, and they scoop Sam up along with them. Recognizers, by the way, are also sometimes known as stompers — they’re those sort of horseshoe-shaped things that flew around everywhere in the original movie. I didn’t know what they were called before, either.

Like his father before him, Sam ends up getting thrown into the Games, to kill or be killed at the hands of various programs wielding those throwing discs or driving light cycles. Luckily, Sam’s used to really high places, since Tronville is apparently endlessly tall, and no one believes in making floors opaque. And “user”, once a word spoken with reverence or fear, is now a grievous insult and therefore a Bad Thing to Be.

Enter Quorra, pronounced more like Cora (Olivia Wilde). She throws a mean identity disc, drives like Danica Patrick from NASCAR, and is remarkably happy and bubbly considering she lives in what basically amounts to a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk wasteland. I’m not sure I recall ever seeing her so much as crack a smile as Thirteen on House. But here, every time Sam freaks out over her driving, she giggles cutely.

Sam has plenty of reasons to freak out, though. Both of the Jeff Bridges want him in their clutches. The young Jeff Bridges (Clu, not to be confused with the programming language of the same name, and which now stands for Codified Likeness Utility, which I don’t think it did in the first film) wants him in his clutches so he can kill him, and the older Jeff Bridges wants him in his clutches so they can sit around and do nothing together. That will make more sense once you’ve seen it.

There is more plot to this movie, but then, there almost had to be. There’s also more plot here than in Avatar, though again, there almost had to be. I wasn’t too sure I liked Sam — despite his tendencies towards breaking and entering and driving his motorcycle at 103 mph, I wasn’t sure I really believed him as a rebel without a cause, which I think is what they’re going for here. He lives in half a garage with a really ugly dog, so clearly he’s rebelling against something.

In spite of the occasional odd glitch, though, it’s a fun program. I mean, a fun film. The computerized young Jeff Bridges and (briefly) the computerized young Bruce Boxleitner look shockingly convincing overall. (In both cases, it’s a CGI face being projected onto the body of a different actor; and what a thankless role that must be to have on one’s resume. “I stood there and moved around so they’d have a body to put Jeff Bridges’ face on.” I guess you have to start somewhere in Hollywood.)

Anyway, it’s a solid four out of five. They do a good job of connecting up with the previous film without copying it exactly; nor did anyone get drunk with power over all the extra money they had this time and turn it into something barely recognizable as a sequel. I think it’s probably easier to do that when you wait two-plus decades between films rather than two weeks, but still a good job. The effects were stunning. I can’t mention that enough. And there was enough plot to keep me from thinking that I was watching Avatar II. Wait, forget I even said that. I don’t want to think about that yet. I’ll try to distract myself by hoping that Green Hornet turns out to be better than it looks. Yeah, I know, but it’s worth a try.