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Tron Legacy review

So, I went to see Tron the other night, and since it’s a film quite strongly linked to gaming I thought I’d offer some of my thoughts on the film.

Firstly, rest assured that Tron Legacy is nowhere near as bad as its lazy, uninspired, broken videogame cash-in counterpart Tron Evolution. No, Tron the film actually has substance, which is more than we can say for its videogame adaptation.

But not very much substance, we must say. In fact, Tron Legacy is one of the greatest examples of style over substance that we can think of. Sure, there is some semblance of narrative there, but it verges on nonsensical. Clu – Kevin Flynn’s pixellated clone – has plans to take over the real world, but the film never really explains exactly how. It waves off the explanation, preferring to just tell the audience ‘It’d be bad, OK!? Just take our word for it.”

When Tron does try to explore its narrative and delve into the film’s backstory, it’s simply boring. The exposition just goes on, and on, and on, and it never really feels like you’re learning anything interesting or exciting. The characters aren’t brilliant either, save for a brilliant performance by Michael Sheen. He seems to be having more fun than anyone else in the film in playing the role of Castor. Even Jeff Bridges – possibly the coolest man on the planet – doesn’t bring a great deal to his older version of Kevin Flynn, although we do like to see him channeling The Dude from time to time, spouting lines like, “You’re really messing with my Zen thing, man.”

No, there is little real substance to Tron Legacy. This is a film about style, as evidenced from the word go when the Disney Cinderella’s Castle logo is rendered in digitalised form.

The digital realm of Tron, known as the Grid, is absolutely beautiful to look at. It’s Tron for the iPod generation, all sleek, bioelectrical lines and luminescent yellows, blues, reds and whites arcing across a backdrop of black. The Light Cycles, the End Of The Line club, the suits and the characters all look incredibly sexy – especially Quorra, but that’s another topic for another blog…

The 3D isn’t as impressive as we’d hoped, but it’s used cleverly and unobtrusively. In a nice touch the 3D doesn’t kick in until Sam Flynn, son of Kevin, enters the Grid, kind of like when Dorothy found herself in Oz and the black and white of the film suddenly bloomed into glorious Technicolor. It’s not as pronounced as the 3D seen in Avatar, and only subtly plays with the depth of the film, but in many ways this is a good thing. The 3D doesn’t give you a pounding headache like Tron Evolution’s, but it does give the action scenes a greater sense of immediacy.

Take the disc battles near the start of the film. A mix of Ultimate Frisbee with Capoeira these scenes comprise some of the film’s best, perhaps only slightly bettered by the Light Cycle arena battle that follows not long after. Maybe it’s just nostalgia talking, but those scenes are just /damn cool/.

We can’t really stop talking about Tron Legacy before we’ve mentioned one of the film’s greatest achievements, though, and that’s creating a younger, digital version of Kevin Flynn/Jeff Bridges in Clu. Did they need to do it? Probably not, but like we said this is a film where style reigns over substance, so why not? There are issues with Clu. His eyes are glassy and strange, meaning there are times when the film takes a quick plunge down into the Uncanny Valley, but that said this remains a marvellous technical achievement nevertheless. Jeff Bridges’ younger facial features and subtleties are captured brilliantly, and in some scenes we almost, almost forgot we were watching a digital actor.

So, is Tron Legacy worth seeing? We’d say so, if only for the lovely special effects. In terms of narrative the film sways between having too little, and then in the final third having far, far too much, to the point were it forgets to include any actual fun. But like we said it looks great the whole time, and the pounding techno synths-meets-symphony orchestra of Daft Punk’s soundtrack provides the perfect soundscape to the action. Just don’t go expecting anything that’s really going to engage your brain.