I would have a hard time naming more than ten movies off the top of my head in rapid succession that are as visually stunning as Tron: Legacy is for the bulk of two hours.
Unfortunately, I could also lump Tron: Legacy into the large group of films that succeed almost solely based on their jaw-dropping special effects while providing little to care about in terms of characters, or plot.
But even with it’s slight deficiencies, Tron: Legacy can still be considered a success. The movie is a visual feast with an amazing soundtrack, mediocre acting, and a swiss-cheese level plot. So what if it’s only entertaining, and not an awards contender.
The film bridges us between this and the inspiration for the franchise relaunch right off the bat, and the CGI Jeff Bridges is distractingly Tom-Hanks-in-The-Polar-Express level of creepy. They set the tone for the mediocre levels of acting that pepper the film entirely, by having digiKevin (Bridges) talking to his young son Sam on the last night they see each other before Kevin’s disappearance, and then montaging straight into trying to bridge the twenty years between the two films. They do this admirably, and it gets you into the film without wasting too much time in doing so. Thirty minutes in, it’s already been a nice popcorn flick, with the expectation that it’s going to really pick up.
And it does. When Sam (Garrett Hedlund) ends up on the grid, the action scenes go from stock, well-shot The Fast & The Furious level to The Wachowski’s amazingly vivid Speed Racer levels of awesomeness. It’s stylish, it’s sleek, it’s freaking cool.
Less than an hour in, it becomes obvious that the film has already shot its entire wad with the special effects. They break ground and then just dig around, rather than progressing the visuals in a fashion that would allow you to work your way up the emotional ladder, and then climaxing. It’s over soon, and the rest of the film is mostly just the arduous pillow talk afterwards.
The visuals and phenomenal soundtrack (by Daft Punk) are enough to keep you engaged, and when real-life Jeff Bridges is on screen, his older, wiser Kevin Flynn has tons of potential as a unique, mysterious, compelling character. But the screenwriters show us all their cards really quickly, and it murders any possible tension later in the film.
It’s a Disney movie, after all, so it’s hard to really knock them for some of the film’s flaws. None of them are fatal, and the movie is ultimately bearable, even if it never quit aspires to be anything more than what it is.
The skeleton of the story is fantastic, and there is a ton of potential there, especially given the advancements in CGI since the first film.
Unfortunately, rather than layering the new visual environment (like James Cameron does so well in Avatar) they show us the most impressive visuals first, and then progressively seem smaller and smaller as we approach the climax, which damages the movie overall.
And this brings us to the biggest issue with Tron: Legacy. The pacing. Everything else is adequate at worst, and phenomenal at best. Had they been able to keep the pacing, which directly affects the severely lacking character development needed in a franchise relaunch, well within that ‘adequate to phenomenal’ region, this would have been a really solid movie. Instead, it’s just shoulder shruggingly decent.
Tron: Legacy isn’t a fraud, or even a bad movie. The visuals are amazing, the music is epic, and the film gets us from Point A to Point B in respectable fashion. It’s just another example of a film that could have been just a little more given the right tender loving care, but what we’re left with is a decent movie that could have been just a little bit more.
Final Score: 6.75/10 (Below Average)