Full of mind-blowing special effects, Tron: Legacy revives a 1982 movie that gained a cult following despite flopping at the box office. The Tron franchise is a case of technology catching up with a concept as the movie delivers fantastic thrills the original could never match.
The story follows young Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) as he searches for his missing computer-wiz father, Kevin (Jeff Bridges). He finds some dusty computer equipment and a laser that fires up despite decades of inactivity. Presto, Sam is transported, bodily, into the computer world his father created.
Taking a cue from The Wizard of Oz, upon entering "The Grid," the film launches into 3D fabulousness. Populated with sentient computer programs, The Grid is a world of flashing lights, fantastic vehicles, and otherworldly perfect people with glowing skin-tight suits. Sam soon finds himself playing a game of dodgeball with a deadly, shining discus. Soon, he's moved on to a fatal demolition derby racing light-trailing motorcycles. It's all very cool, made the more so by Daft Punk's perfect score that pulsates in the background.
The Grid is controlled by a powerful program entity, named Clu, who has been tasked with creating the perfect world. Like other great villains before him, most notably Javert in Les Miserables, his rule is all justice and no mercy. Mistakes are to be eliminated and nothing is so fraught with mistakes as human beings. Rated PG, the movie is intense in sensory input, but not in violence, sexuality, or language. It's appropriate for upper-elementary-school children. The 3D is fantastic and worth the extra price.
Although the script sets up some biblical parallels with a Creator and Son in conflict with a fanatical devil character, like other promising concepts in the film, these fizzle away to nothing. This is not a thinking movie. Plot lines disappear, never to be revived. The central conceit of entering a computer game is never adequately explained.
But once disbelief is suspended, it's quite a ride. As with Avatar last year, the reason to see Tron: Legacy is for the experience. Lights flash. Radiating discus hurl through the air in 3D. The music pounds. In the end, you're left exhausted and satisfied. Tron: Legacy is what a 3D action flick is supposed to be; nothing more, but certainly nothing less.