Director: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde
Runtime: 127 mins
As a Christmas blockbuster, Tron: Legacy comes as a bit of a surprise. The original, after all, had a somewhat limited appeal, and one that’s hard to transpose to 2010. Released in 1982, it suffers to an extent from being a product of its own time, when personal computers were just about to take the world by storm and arcade games enjoyed a huge amount of success. It was these two phenomena that served to drive up the popularity of the film; computers were being talked about as if they might one day be major players on the world stage, something which – at the time – was simultaneously scary and exciting.
Now, we live in an information age, where a typical household in the developed world has at least a couple of computers, not to mention the plethora of gadgets that people use on a daily basis, and it’s this progression that Tron: Legacy suffers from. Perhaps realising that the original film serves more as a nostalgia piece than something more prescient, director Joseph Kosinski produces something altogether darker, and in a world where the ideal isn’t a world where pcomputer rograms function to serve humanity, but one where open access and an idealised view of nature are posited as something we should strive towards.
But there lies the problem: while these are given to us as vague goals, it’s never really established what the point is. The original film suffered from bad dialogue and being ostensibly a product of its own time, but benefited from a solid storyline about a program gone rogue, and the idea of technological singularity (something that would later be picked up by the Terminator franchise); here, it’s just a mess.
Granted, there’s a baddie throughout, but it’s complicated by the emergence and quick disappearance of a few others. The original benefited by having David Warner as both the slimy Ed Dillinger in the real world, and the Master Control Program in the digital; here, without giving too much away, it’s a bit more problematic; there is no real-world counterpart, and the supposed villainy that computer company Encom gets up to doesn’t translate well to the bulk of the film.
Even worse are the programs that are fought for towards the end of the film – dubbed “ISOs”, they’re never perfectly defined, yet we’re supposed to feel sympathy when they’re purged from the digital city. While the two ideals mentioned above do feature in the film, they’re certainly not the surface-level goal, but that one’s never really given much time.
Of course, plot is only one essential part of a film, and thankfully all the other parts scrub up perfectly. The universe dreamt up by Kosinski in the digital world (and, to an extent, in the real world too) is simply stunning, and the action sequences are electrifying. It’s these that make it worthwhile; without them, it’d be lost.