With its dazzling special effects, striking score from Daft Punk and canny use of 3-D imagery, â€œTron: Legacyâ€ proves a transportive cinematic experience that takes audiences on an entertaining quest through a wonderfully weird digital frontier.
While vast technological improvements have allowed first-time director Joseph Kosinski to dramatically upgrade the visuals, the long-awaited sequel still pays loving homage to the groundbreaking 1982 cult favorite â€œTron.â€ But â€œTron: Legacyâ€ has been made to stand alone, which is vital since Disney failed to re-release the original film on DVD or Blu-ray in advance of the sequel's theatrical bow.
â€œTron: Legacyâ€ opens with computer pioneer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) regaling his young son Sam with stories about â€œThe Grid,â€ the digital frontier he has created and can literally traverse. Kevin goes into his office one night and never returns.
Having grown up an orphan (his mother is dead; this is a Disney movie, after all), Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) becomes a rebellious daredevil, a brilliant programmer in his own right who refuses to take his place at the helm of his father's company, Encom.
Sam seems content to spin his wheels until family friend Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) brings word that he has received an inscrutable page from Kevin. When Sam enters his father's old office inside the long-abandoned Flynn's Arcade, the younger Flynn is pulled into â€œThe Grid.â€
The digital universe proves both dangerous and gorgeous, with its color scheme of midnight black, electric blue and neon red, its population of outlandish humanoid programs and its exotic gladiatorial games. Sam is dispatched to the gaming arena, where he must engage in souped-up versions of â€œTron'sâ€ memorable identity disk battles and light cycle races.
Sam learns his father is alive and trapped inside â€œThe Grid,â€ the prisoner of his computer doppelganger Clu, a program Kevin created to perfect his digital realm. But perfection is a subjective concept, and Clu's quest for this elusive ideal has turned him into a deadly tyrant.
With the help of Kevin's wide-eyed but battle-ready protege Quorra (Olivia Wilde), the Flynns must fight their way to a portal that will lead them back home but avoid allowing Clu out into the real world.
As with â€œAvatar,â€ the film's high-tech achievements are paired with a timeworn storyline, but â€œTron: Legacyâ€ brings more fun and less preaching to the proceedings.
Hedlund shows off genuine star power, while Wilde brings sweetness and enthusiasm to her enigmatic warrior. Michael Sheen steals the show, channeling â€œZiggy Stardustâ€ as the mysterious night club denizen Castor, and James Frain snivels effectively as Clu's toady, Jarvis.
Bridges again plays Kevin Flynn as a charmingly reckless genius, but â€œDudesâ€ up his performance with a â€œBig Lebowskiâ€-style Zen attitude that contrasts effectively with his ravings as Clu. Unfortunately, the computer-generated efforts to revert Bridges, 61, into a 35-year-old look fake and plastic, which isn't such a problem when the technique is used for Clu. But the few scenes featuring the younger Kevin Flynn prove distractingly bad.
Otherwise, â€œTron: Legacyâ€ represents a remarkable convergence of visual and aural greatness, with Daft Punk's pulsing soundtrack enhancing the sci-fi wonders.
Like â€œAvatar,â€ this high-tech cinematic trip demands to be seen in 3-D with a killer sound system, preferably in an Imax house.
â€” Brandy McDonnell
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen and James Frain.
(Sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief mild language)