Olivia Wilde (Quorra) has dropped the doctor routine on the Fox hit television program “House” and has instead disguised herself in a sexy Tron uniform guaranteed to ignite our fires. Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn) has proven once more that he can convincingly portray an eclectic older man with grace and style. The real star of the show however, is Garrett Hedlund (Sam Flynn). Hedlund has the look of Hayden Christensen but he possesses something the more recognizable actor does not, a personality. The one thing, and perhaps the most important of all, that Christensen cannot do that Hedlund can is convince us he has emotions. If we are to root for a character’s success and survival they must portray emotional states or they will come across as one-dimensional and constipated. Hedlund causes us to feel his pain over losing his father at the age of seven in a mysterious manner that in every facet of his life defines who he is.
Sam Flynn begins his once in a century adventure by sabotaging his father’s Fortune 500 company Encom. Annually, Sam performs a new and uproarious stunt to remind the haughty board of directors that he owns the majority of Encom shares. After spoiling their Nikkei (Japanese stock exchange) debut, Sam parachutes off the Encom tower into oncoming traffic. He then undertakes a stunt that would be repeated throughout the film, albeit in graphically different ways. Riding his father’s old Ducati, Sam evades police capture at first and then after being bailed out retreats to his his waterfront home (really a shack nearby a bridge).
When his surrogate father (his real father’s best friend and business partner) Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) pays him a friendly visit, Sam’s world begins to turn upside down. Alan’s purpose for visiting is to confirm once more that Sam has no interest in running his father’s business. He is instead content playing the malcontent contrarian to the board and their ambitions. Having decided Sam is destined to take his own path, Alan reveals some puzzling news that his father paged him the previous evening. After making fun (and rightfully so for owning a pager 20 years later) of his mentor, Sam confirms his father did indeed page Alan from his office at the old and abandoned Flynn’s arcade. Feeling tipsy perhaps or rawly nostalgic, Sam drives his motorcycle to the arcade which is in a neighborhood that time has forgotten.
Once inside Sam turns on the electricity and all of the arcade games from the 1980s (and my cherished youth) come to life. He notices the Tron machine is blocking the door to his father’s office. After dusting off the machine, Sam pushes it aside and reveals a cavernous route to a downstairs work space. Once inside he notices another panel (the surface of a Tron schematic) that brings back memories of his father and causes him to realize Kevin Flynn did not abandon him as a child, he was swept away…as Sam is at that fateful moment onto the grid.
Suddenly transported into a computerized world unlike anything he had ever seen before, Sam is panicked and confused. He is brought to a gladiator’s coliseum to fight for his life against anonymous and cutthroat opponents. This is where the action begins and the 3D battle scenes transport our occipital lobes to a new and better dimension. Sam is equipped with a disk that contains his identity and serves as a means of self defense. After surviving the initial battle and being detected by Clu as a “user” (a living person, not a computer generated codified life form), he is brought before Clu. Sam’s first impression is that he has found his father at long last. Unfortunately for him, he has found Clu, the computer helper who alongside Tron and his father helped sculpt and “perfect” the grid. What Sam discovers is that Clu also tried to murder Tron and has imprisoned his father in their burgeoning computer world indefinitely.
Sam is challenged to an ostensibly unwinnable duel with Clu in front of the gladiatorial crowd thirsty to see him defeated. Clu’s first action as the leader of the Tron world had been to assassinate all of the positive ISO’s (Kevin’s helpers and moral programs). His goal is not only to dominate Tron but to become ruler and commander of Earth as well. He can only do this by escaping Tron. This is why Sam had been paged seemingly by his father. Upon entering the grid an eight hour window started during which any member of the computer world could theoretically escape to Earth and become corporeal. Sam escaped by the thinnest of margins when his father’s protégé Quorra, the last remaining ISO crashes the party and transports him to his real father. The character Clu is identical to a young Jeff Bridges. Through computer generated imagery and graphic manipulation, Bridges is able to appear thirty years younger. The only setback, if that is the proper label for it, is that members of the audience can clearly notice Clu walks strangely. Imposing Bridges’ face onto a younger body must have taken hundreds of hours to perfect.
Once Quorra has led Sam to his father a tearful reunion begins. Waiting for twenty plus years to find out your father has been trapped in a recurring nightmare, while you have been abandoned, must be emotionally stunting. This is the beauty of Tron Legacy. It is a nostalgic film that fills in the blanks of a person’s life and connects the past Tron to this new version of the present and future. Once Quorra, Sam, and Kevin are together the action turns toward a furious pace. A nonstop battle for the world of Tron and for earth begins and the rest is cinematic history.
Casting Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner to return as their original characters 28 years later was a stroke of genius. Both have aged to be sure but that lends credibility to the plot and much needed continuity. Deciding to take advantage of cinematic technological breakthroughs makes Tron Legacy superior to anything that has come before it. It is amazing how IMAX 3D and Disney Digital 3D have been paired to produce the most stunning 3D film of all time. It is also wonderful to witness what the 80s films with their original ideas and creative mastery would have looked like with state of the art 3D technology. From Hedlund to Bridges to Wild to James Frain (Jarvis) I salute the Tron universe and thank Walt Disney Pictures for bringing it and not the cryogenically frozen Walt Disney back to life.
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