Tron Legacy 3D: Impressions (Movie)

I was 11 years old when the original Tron was released in 1982 (yes, I’m old – you do the math).  At the time it made a significant impact in the movie industry for touting some original and never before seen special effects.  As a result it left a lasting impression on my childhood.  28 years later I’m watching it for the first time with my son – who also happens to be 11 years old (whoa, that’s a bit freakish).  Unfortunately, but not without expectation, Tron didn’t leave a comparable impression on his youthful imagination – overly saturated with movies like Avatar and videogames like Star Wars The Force Unleashed.  It’s safe to say that movie effects have improved over the last quarter century.  Still, with plans for the 2 of us to see Tron Legacy in the theater (and in 3D), I felt it necessary for the boy to at least get a better understanding of the back story.

Looking forward to Tron Legacy since the first images were presented at last year’s ComicCon I made the conscious decision to avoid all reviews of the movie before seeing it for myself.  Other than knowing that Jeff Bridges was reprising his role as Kevin Flynn I really had no idea as to where the director (Joseph Kosinski) was planning on taking the story.  With such a gap between the 2 movies my fear of a complete turd pervaded my thoughts more than I cared.  Thankfully, Tron Legacy was not representative of my last bowel movement. In fact I found myself entertained more than I was expecting.

Legacy begins with a brief re-introduction to Kevin Flynn as he recalls his cyber-adventures to his young son, Sam.  Scattered about Sam’s bedroom are a number of Tron toys and posters that represent his father’s continued success as both a video game developer and CEO of the software corporation ENCOM.  All seems well with Kevin Flynn until his mysterious disappearance.  Cut to 20 years later and Sam is now a man who’s had to deal with a fatherless childhood and a reluctant “legacy” as heir to the ENCOM empire.  After some prodding from Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner – the man doesn’t appear to have aged) Sam finds himself back at his father’s abandoned arcade looking for clues to what happened all those many years ago.  After locating a hidden computer room, conveniently placed behind a Tron arcade game, Sam’s curiosity eventually transports him into the very world his father used to tell him bedtime stories about.

From there it’s all light cycles and tight-fitting spandex (if you’re a fan of Olivia Wilde this is not necessarily a bad thing).  Much like the Tron from 1982  Sam’s initial reactions are of confusion and uncertainty until he realizes that he is not in a dream but actually in the grid – and it’s never looked better.  The special effects, although continuing to be a large part of the movie, have evolved to reflect the gap in time.  Where Tron was more of a wasteland, devoid of any significant life, Tron Legacy has transformed over the years into a bustling society ruled, not by Kevin Flynn but, by his cyber alter-ego, Clu.

Aside from the numerous Tron references Legacy’s greatest contribution was in acquiring Jeff Bridges to sign on for not one but two roles.  Playing the now aged character Kevin Flynn, as well as the computer-generated Clu, fans of Tron won’t be disappointed.  Having been an admirer of Bridges’ work for many years nothing really comes close to his performance as The Dude from The Big Lebowski.  It was clear during several scenes that Bridges’ Flynn character was starting to merge into The Dude – either by accident or directed to do so.  I wasn’t the only patron in the theater to recognize these vocal transformations.  There were several chuckles and Lebowski-like comments made from my fellow movie-goers.  Perhaps it was his iconic dude-like beard or in the fact that he was playing the role of a computer-based messiah figure with intentions of making the world a better place . . . man.

Tron Legacy could have easily fallen into the format of your every day movie sequel – some are worthy of your time while others you realize, sadly, that you’ll never get that time back.  Thankfully, it was both a treat to watch as well as a great way to relive some of my fonder childhood memories.  The fact that it was in 3D made this experience all the better.  3D technology has been confirmed over the last few years as making considerable improvements over the gimmick that it once was.  Legacy makes subtle use of this effect and it’s appreciated all the more.  Although Tron Legacy may not be the right movie for everyone I do feel that you need not be a fan of the original to have fun with it.

Written by Bill Braun

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