Ok, so it’s been almost a full day since I saw this movie and I’ve had to spend quite a lot of time, much more than usual, sorting out what I thought and what I wanted to write about it.
The plot is pretty basic. The 1989 version of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), disappears. Twenty years later his son (Garrett Hedlund), goes looking for him. He gets sucked into the computer world where an evil program, Clu (Jeff Bridges), is masterminding a plot to take over the real world. In the process he encounters many strange people, such as Quorra (Olivia Wilde), and Castor (Michael Sheen), sees a lot of strange places and is eventually reunited with his aged father (Jeff Bridges). They work together to overthrow the evil Clu and save the world and stuff while being stalked by an evil program who seems bent on destroying them (the Stig).
As you may have gathered, the plot is not the big draw here, and that’s a real pity. There’s a lot that could have been done with this story. The story for the original movie, while not great, was good enough and the characters were interesting. That’s just not the case with this movie.
Also missing from the movie is the sense of an original, unique world. Say what you like about the special effects of the first film, but I think they hold up reasonably well and they do a great job of showing us a completely new setting with a fascinating vision. It was a truly different world. But with this movie, the computer world is basically just our world with a few shiny things layered onto it. It’s less original and far less interesting. The programs themselves inside the computer world don’t even look as neat as they did in the first film, and that’s really sad.
Heck I even missed the musical cues from the first movie! Daft Punk’s music in here is just fine, but I liked the soundtrack for the original film, which seemed to suit it to a T. I didn’t expect it to be the same, obviously, but would at least a few references to the original soundtrack have been a problem?
Also, there’s a lot here that really doesn’t make any sense. Several of the programs seem to have no real purpose other than hanging around in arenas watching games. In the original movie all the programs had functions and several had been “kidnapped” by the MCP and made to perform other functions. That made at least some sense, but why would there be programs designed to do nothing but hang out chatting in a club?
Clu’s motivations are also murky at best, and I’m very unclear as to how his giant program army was going to get anything done in the real world. Sure, they could turn up in large numbers, but then they’d try to attack the US Army and get destroyed. End of line.
Even the set-pieces of pretty, like the first disc fight and the light-cycle races, seem purely perfunctory and aren’t as well-visualized as they should have been. There’s no real feeling of danger or menace at any point during them and unlike in the original movie, where Flynn was somewhat feckless and generally had no idea how to fight, thus having to rely on Tron, our hero in this film seems to have taken an A-level in badass, and is able to instantly do anything, anywhere, with no real effort. It actually reminds me quite a bit of the character of Eragon, especially in the movie version.
And yet… and yet… there’s still something decent about this film. Oh, it’s flawed. Heavily flawed. But it’s very cool seeing Jeff Bridges playing these roles. It’s very good seeing Allen Bradley again. It’s very cool seeing some of the little references to the first film. It’s very cool seeing Michael Sheen playing Ziggy Stardust instead of Tony Blair. These are all cool things. And I’ll admit, seeing it in 3-D in the Imax theatre was an experience.
But ultimately I don’t think I can recommend this movie unless you’re madly in love with the first film. There’s really no substance here, even less than in the original, and this film is somehow even less knowledgeable about computers than the first one! Imagine what they could have done had they really milked the “we’re in a computer world” aspect to its fullest!
Further, the story is pretty bad, the effects aren’t great, the vision isn’t interesting and the characters are just dull, especially Sam Flynn, who remains an emotionless cipher no matter how hard Garrett Hedlund tries to act. It’s certainly not really worth spending a fair amount of cash for the Imax experience.
I’ve seldom seen any other movie where the phrase “your mileage may vary” applies as much as it does to this film, and that’s something that’s rather saddening.
(and for a vision of the game world that’s more faithful to the original movie…)