TRON: Legacy (PG, 125 mins)
Director: Joseph Kosinski
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
And yet for all that it’s tatty and incomprehensible, it retains a certain place in the affections of many people, partly due to a blind nostalgia for all things 80s, and partly because of its status as the first film ever to make extensive use of computer generated visual effects, something that was more or less unheard of in 1982.
Occasionally as much rehash as sequel, TRON: Legacy starts out in 1989, where Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) tells his young son Sam stories about the video game he invented called TRON. But when Kevin goes missing and is presumed dead, Sam grows up as a rebellious orphan, and 20 years later (and played by Garrett Hedlund), his father’s software company is being mismanaged in his absence.
This means there’s some irrelevant corporate shenanigans to wade through first, before Sam is told by his father’s old friend Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) that he received a message from him. Investigating, Sam stumbles across his father’s secret office at his video arcade and, just like Kevin before him, is sucked into the video game world.
This is where the movie ought to take off as a riot of fights and races, as Sam is mistaken for a computer programme and forced to take part in gladiatorial style combat. He meets who he first assumes to be his missing father, but is in fact Clu (also played by Bridges), a programme Flynn created and who has designs on breaking out into the real world. But his real father is also there, and they must team up to try and stop Clu.
Once the plot is explained it hits something of a higher gear and there’s a certain amount of pleasure in soaking in its sheer moxie and goofy mythology. But it’s all somewhat uninvolving, essentially just a parade of shiny things that combines buckets of cool but empty pyrotechnics with out and out craziness, much of which seems plucked from someone’s imagination with no thought as to how it might fit into a cohesive whole.
In the plus column is a thunderous Daft Punk soundtrack but one of the most entertaining things about it is actually just seeing Jeff Bridges looking like he did in the 1980s, while there’s a bizarre cameo from Michael Sheen who seems to be channelling Malcolm McDowell doing a Bowie impersonation.
Clearly the effects here are infinitely superior to those featured in the first movie, but that doesn’t necessarily make what we’re watching any more fun or exciting. Yes, it’s all incredibly dazzling and gleaming, but it never sets the pulse racing, is frequently rather dull and, most of all, makes absolutely no sense. Just like the original then.