Tron: Legacy (2010) Movie Review


“Tron: Legacy”, Joseph Kosinski’s sequel to the 1982 cult fave “Tron”, starts out promisingly enough. Okay, that’s not entirely true, it starts out idiotic, but idiotic in a way you can cope with. Sam Flynn (Garett Hedlund) is an orphan. His father, cyber-visionary/digital freedom fighter Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), disappeared in 1989 immediately after telling his young son about a “miracle” he experienced. In 2010, the elder Flynn’s videogame company, Encom, has transformed into a global technology juggernaut. While Sam has controlling interest in Encom, he prefers to let the board of directors run the company, choosing instead to live the life of a bored, motorcycle riding twenty-something that has never worked a day in his life. And he plays yearly pranks on his own company, like putting their new operating system on the internet for free, then base jumping off of the Encom Tower.

Through a series of improbable events, and entirely unexplained technology, Sam finds himself sucked into “The Grid”, a three-dimensional world that exists inside a computer, or a chip, or maybe just the “Tron” videogame at ye olde family arcade. In “The Grid” programs take human form, and Sam has to fight for his life against guys in helmets and tight black suits with neon piping, while a bass heavy score by Daft Punk rumbles around.

Sam discovers that the overlord of this world is a guy named CLU, a program his father created in his own image, and charged with building the perfect system. Only CLU has been corrupted, and rules like a fascist dictator, putting on gladiatorial games to appease the masses. Just in time, Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a badass rogue warrior program, or something like that, rescues Sam from this high-tech Thunderdome.

Up until this point “Tron: Legacy” is stupid, but in a flashy, entertaining way. There are some decent chase scenes, ample action, and the world of “The Grid”, especially the light cycle sequence, looks pretty awesome. The whole thing is set up like an epic scale videogame, which is exactly what you want it to look like. Pace wise the story moves fast enough that you can ignore all of the gaping plot holes and dumb shit, and just gawk at the eye candy. In reality the best parts are little more than updated elements from the original “Tron”, but it is fun to watch.


After Quorra rescues Sam, however, the movie takes a giant crap. Quorra takes Sam to his father, who lives “off the grid”, which basically means out in the wilderness where you need something like a cyber Jeep to get to. Bridges plays Kevin like a watered-down version of The Dude from “The Big Lebowski”. He’s a Zen programmer who meditates, reads philosophy, and says things like, “Dogs are cool, man”. His shtick gets old real quick.

All of the action stops for what feels like an hour, and the movie becomes a series of awkward flashbacks as the script attempts to explain everything that happened in the two decades since Kevin disappeared, and half-hearted emotion between Kevin and Sam. It’s tedious, and kills any momentum there was. Without all of the bells and whistles to prop up the weak ass story, you realize how paper-thin it really is, and “Tron: Legacy” begins a sharp downward spiral that lasts for the rest of the film. What plot there was grinds to a screeching halt, and you get bored for a while. By the time things actually start to happen again, you’re too disinterested to care. And what does happen involves Michael Sheen doing what amounts to an obnoxious, over the top David Bowie impression. In a stupid movie full of stupid shit, this is by far the stupidest.

The overall effect is something like a science fiction soap opera where you’re never quite sure what is at stake. CLU plans to lead some sort of army from “The Grid” into the real world, and apparently that will be bad, but it’s unclear how, or why, or what it will actually entail. “Tron: Legacy” is full of vain attempts to make some obscure point about striving for perfection at the cost of destroying the perfect things that are right in front of you, and selflessness and sacrifice. It really, really wants to mean something, anything, but ultimately it has nothing to say.

You can forgive a movie with no story if there are at least characters to latch on to, but there aren’t any of those either. There is no emotional core whatsoever. Sure, Olivia Wilde is nice to look at, but outside of that, don’t expect to care much about anyone since the characters are as empty as the rest of the movie. The only consequential decision Sam makes is to go looking for his father, and then winds up getting sucked into cyber space, which doesn’t seem to surprise him at all. In fact, he takes all of the crazy stuff that happens to him in stride, and accepts things like doing gladiatorial battle in a digital arena as a matter of course. Maybe the life of young Sam Flynn is just so exciting that this is on par with an average Tuesday night. When he tries to explain to Kevin what the world is like now, it is painful. And CLU (as well as the young version of Jeff Bridges that appears in the first scene) is a plasticine, stone-faced CGI representation of, well, a young Jeff Bridges. He looks like a cutting room floor leftover from “The Polar Express”.


If “Tron: Legacy” was 40 minutes shorter it would still be stupid and pointless, but it would at least be pretty to look at. But alas, the damn thing clocks in at an unnecessarily long two plus hours. There are a few laugh-out-loud moments, but the laughs aren’t intentional. Whenever Kevin says pretty much anything get ready to chuckle. After the first half of the movie, “Tron: Legacy” is dull, to the point of being excruciating. There is one tent pole action sequence later in the movie, but you’ve already seen it, and seen it done better, in “Star Wars”.

Maybe, just maybe, if you can get past the glaring story problems and bland characters, and don’t ask too many questions (like how the hell do these people get sucked into “The Grid”? Where do their bodies go? At least “The Matrix” deals with that.), then you might be able to enjoy “Tron: Legacy”, but don’t count on it. Which is too bad, because the movie started out looking like it might be dumb, but at least entertaining, and wound up completely vanilla and toothless instead. The word disappointment springs readily to mind.

Joseph Kosinski (director)/Edward Kitsis (writer)/Adam Horowitz (writer)
CAST: Jeff Bridges…Kevin Flynn/CLU
Garett Hedlund…Sam Flynn
Olivia Wilde…Quorra
Bruce Boxleitner…Alan Bradley/Tron




About Brent McKnight

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Brent McKnight lives in Seattle with his dogs. He likes beards, movies where things explode, and overcast skies. His three favorite movies are "Rubin and Ed", "A Bittersweet Life", and "Out for Justice". He wishes his knees didn't hurt. On Twitter @BrentMMcKnight

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  • Someone

    you know what would be shinier and nostalgic than tron:legacy?

    it would be an epilepsy inducing crossover between tron and the lawnmower man.

    period.

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

      LMAO!!! HERE HERE!!!!

  • Dylan1382

    this movie was good not as good as the original but good

  • Milky_stainz

    thanks for the review, gonna go watch it with the lowest of expectations and hopefully come out with minimal disappointment.

    PS Tron and Lawnmower Man needs to go on a retro 3way with Max Headroom

  • Dman

    I enjoyed it. I find it refreshing to go to a movie that is not some indy drama suckfest. In the end it’s the moviegoer that decides not some critic.

    • Rawleyking

      Love your comment Dman. So true.

      And to the original critic of this article, they really need to loosen up. What a fun hater! It’s a movie for crying out loud.

      Tron Legacy was Awesome!

  • T’Sc00pz

    Where do their bodies go? They’re digitized into The Grid, duh.

    Have you seen the first one…?

    Tron: Legacy surprisingly stayed true to the originals dramatic atmosphere (which is mostly interactions between a user and personified programs) and the visuals stunned me as the original did in the 80′s.

    Loved it! If you liked the first Tron, I highly recommend Tron: Legacy!

    • Marc Ohhhh

      reading this comment just erased all the memory i had of reading the review above. going to go watch Tron Legacy.

    • qklilx

      I was wondering the same thing. Brent briefly implied that he’s seen the original, but his review screams the opposite. I won’t say that there aren’t plot holes, but the ones he mentioned are instantly gone if you’ve seen the original, which is usually a prerequisite for watching sequels.

  • Hela

    Tron legacy was alright,I didnt really care for the first film…all sfx and shiney lights and bass. but it was fun.

  • Shazam!

    Gee… tell us what you really think!

    I get that you’re miffed about this movie – clearly – but as a point of criticism, when you’re reviewing something, works like “dumb” and “stupid” are entirely empty due to their entirely personal nature and tend to make people tune out the rest of what you’re saying.

    Your job is to write a review, not a manifesto!

  • http://www.hornygoatweedhealth.com Horny Goat Weed

    Going to see this film tomorrow and I can’t wait, hope its not one of those huge let downs, but most are saying its great. Jeff Bridges is a good actor so ive got some expectations for it.

  • ak267

    I grade it a C+.

    I left the theater not remembering much of the soundtrack (unlike Tron 82 with the mezmorizing Wendy Carlos scores) while the plot was just….”there”….like milktoast. I felt as though the cast “phoned it in”. The CGI-3D effects were a waste on regular movie screens, but great on IMAX 3D.

    What made the original Tron so memorable was the combination of special effects from matte paintings/hand drawn animation to white screens/CGI and memorable music. Also, it had a campy feel to it with a storyline 15-20 years ahead of it’s time. Flynn had a comedic feel to him which drove the plot as the first “user” to enter the grid. His reactions with the grid’s programs (who had imerging AI’s) were memorable….Flynn learned that the programs were more “lifelike” than he gave credit while the programs learned that users weren’t robotic/monolithic but “curious creatures”.

    The CGI of Tron Legacy is top notch but the story/characters were lacking. Disney must of thought that whiz-bang effects were gonna rule the day but TRON fans, awashed with CGI effects from Terminator 2-3, Jurassic Park, and the Matrix series, wanted more. We expected great special effects but we wanted back our “old Flynn” and the old campyness. Instead, we got the Disney boardroom pulling at our nerdy heartstrings and playing us for sentimenal saps.

  • ak267

    I grade it a C+.

    I left the theater not remembering much of the soundtrack (unlike Tron 82 with the mezmorizing Wendy Carlos scores) while the plot was just….”there”….like milktoast. I felt as though the cast “phoned it in”. The CGI-3D effects were a waste on regular movie screens, but great on IMAX 3D.

    What made the original Tron so memorable was the combination of special effects from matte paintings/hand drawn animation to white screens/CGI and memorable music. Also, it had a campy feel to it with a storyline 15-20 years ahead of it’s time. Flynn had a comedic feel to him which drove the plot as the first “user” to enter the grid. His reactions with the grid’s programs (who had imerging AI’s) were memorable….Flynn learned that the programs were more “lifelike” than he gave credit while the programs learned that users weren’t robotic/monolithic but “curious creatures”.

    The CGI of Tron Legacy is top notch but the story/characters were lacking. Disney must of thought that whiz-bang effects were gonna rule the day but TRON fans, awashed with CGI effects from Terminator 2-3, Jurassic Park, and the Matrix series, wanted more. We expected great special effects but we wanted back our “old Flynn” and the old campyness. Instead, we got the Disney boardroom pulling at our nerdy heartstrings and playing us for sentimenal saps.