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"TRON: Legacy" Review

Most of the reviews I've seen for TRON: Legacy have been BRUTAL - like, "It sodomized my goldfish and parakeet!" levels of upset. The amount of nerd rage seemed to ratify my negative impressions from the sneak preview Disney put on a couple of months ago. Take a moment to go read that before continuing this review. I'll wait...

Back? Good. The short of it all is that TRON: Legacy isn't as bad as the haters have said; it's a better movie than its predecessor; however, it's not that good a movie for most of the reasons I laid out in the preview. While everything we were shown in that sneak happens in the first 40 minutes or so, the rest of the movie doesn't really hold much more in the way of surprises or thrills.

What's Hot:

• Two words: Olivia Wilde. As I noted, she was the most interesting thing in the preview and she's the best thing about the movie and I don't mean just because she looks like this:

No, she's the most ALIVE thing in the movie despite being a program. Wide-eyed, inquisitive, compassionate and fierce, she's the closest thing to a real PERSON in a movie full of archetypes and cardboard cutouts. That she's as hot as an overclocked CPU and one of only two women in this sausagefest doesn't hurt either.

What's Warm:

• The look of the movie, all dark and cloudy and electro-luminescent. I saw it in digital 2D (the sneak was LieMAX 3D) and frankly I don't see how it can benefit from wearing sunglasses that will make things darker. (A friend saw it in full bore IMAX 3D and tried to convince me it was worth the $9 upcharge from the twilight show I saw and to him I say, "pfffft.") The upgraded Recognizer and Solar Sailer (now some sort of freight train) are cool, but again are only meaningful to those who saw the original.

• Jeff Bridges is cool, but he's waaaaaaaaaaay too much like the Dude from The Big Lebowski for my tastes. The digitally youngified version for flashbacks and as the evil Clu program are OK, but no match for the flawless work in Benjamin Button and Avatar. It never looks natural, but like a really good special effect. Now, this lifeless version on Clu makes some sense - he's a program and only can simulate emotions - but when the other programs aren't similarly stilted, well, then it's just poor FX work.

• There are actually a few moments where the movie almost has some semi-deep things to say, but it gets buried in the gobbledygook and shiny stuff, so it doesn't matter much in the end.

Now a pause for more Olivia Wilde:

What's Cold:

• Also as predicted, Garrett Hedlund is a total stiff as Sam Flynn. As I remarked to my sidekick, McHatin, after the movie, "With all the pretty boy emo actors femming up Hollywood these days, why couldn't they find someone with some ability to emote on screen?" Hedlund is stiffer than armor panels in his suit with a constant look of inappropriate bemusement on his blank mug. That he looks nothing like his old man doesn't help, but he makes poor Hayden Christensen look like Ewan McGregor in the thespian department. I didn't like him, couldn't relate to him, didn't care a whit about him or his story. That's a hat trick of fail there.

• I've never understood the logic inside the TRON Universe and it doesn't get any clearer here. The programs act as individual people with personalities, but what is the real world (pardon the pun) analog to this? Does your Excel or Firefox exhibit any personality; what are the programs then? No one is walking around saying they're a ATM security protocol, you know? Users are treated as something more special - deities of a sort - as when Sam is nicked in a battle and bleeds instead of dropping crystalline pixels like a shattered disco ball and his opponent stops trying to kill him. Which leads to another problem: In the first movie we see Kevin Flynn (Bridges) scanned and disassembled by the laser and then re-assembled on the Grid. Here, the picture just blacks out and Sam's not in Kansas - or Vancouver - anymore. (Again, if you haven't seen the first movie...) Accepting that he's been converted into a digital entity in the computer, why is he still bleeding? Does this mean he can't be de-rezzed?

Time is explained as moving differently in the Grid - Flynn explains at one point that hours inside were mere minutes outside - so considering he's been trapped for 20 years and has aged like his son, how long in digital dog years has it been? The need for TRONland to be an alternate universe disconnects it from being a glimpse into what you're computer is doing. Another plot point involves programs going missing; it's revealed they're being converted into an army by Clu, but does that mean when I want to play Bejeweled one day it won't work because it's been conscripted to join an army meant to invade our world. It. Doesn't. Make. Sense. The Matrix got crazy in the sequels (e.g. If humanity is all locked up in the power plant pods, why are there massive gun emplacements to hold off attacking ships?), but the fundamentals had some sussable logic to them.

Compared to the original, benefiting-from-nostalgia-and-fading-memories TRON, TRON: Legacy is less cheesy and hella slicker, but doesn't bring anything compelling to the table. You don't need to see it in 3D; the plot is irrelevant and in the end a little confusing; it's obviously meant to be a giant set-up to a franchise but doesn't imply that there's anything interesting to explore on the Grid; it's just there and unlike the fervent nerd ragers venting on the Intartoobz, I can't get too worked up about it. It's just too meh to provoke much emotional response at all.

End of line.

Score: 5/10. Rent the Blu-ray if you've got a nice home theater, otherwise catch it at a dollar show.

One more for the road:

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: Another unexplained thing is how stuff gets into the Grid like the shelf full of antique books Flynn has in his 2001 bachelor pad. When you see how he got stuck in there, it begs the question, "Where did the books come from?"

Another scene has father and son discussing what's changed about the world. The usual liberal crap - war, improper distribution of wealth - gets name-checked (for social relevance, don'tchaknow?) but the very method that's bringing these complaints to your eyes - the World Wide Web - goes totally unmentioned. Dumb.


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