I was surprised at the rumors about Disney allowing the original Tron DVD to go out of print before Tron: Legacy debuted because they were afraid that people would see the original and not be enticed to watch the sequel. I saw Tron in the theater and it made a major impression on me, the film was groundbreaking for digital special effects and I thought the story was satisfying, if in a completely predictable Disney way. Sure, the haphazard and meaningless use of computer terms throughout the script is silly and the end is pretty underwhelming, but the movie is nothing to be ashamed of. Like anything, Tron needs to be appreciated in historical context. It’s not providing an Avatar-level experience but it’s a damn sight better than The Day the Earth Stood Still.
I was very excited for the release of Tron: Legacy for the same reason as most people: nostalgia. I hoped Tron: Legacy would be like Tron but with kick-ass Speed Racer-style special effects. I expected the story to be simple, and corny, with clearly-defined heroes and villains and a generic happy ending. And if they’d delivered that, I probably would have enjoyed every minute of my two-hour experience. As it is, I want to take the $17.50 I spent on ONE ticket and cram it up the Tron team’s collective asshole. Sideways.
I am not alone in this opinion. You can find plenty of Cheetos chompers deriding this movie from the safety of their blogs. Most of the kudos go to the soundtrack, composed by Daft Punk. I’m not a great fan of Daft Punk, but they did a pretty good job with the soundtrack. It compliments action on the screen, which is pretty much all you want out of a movie soundtrack. Except for the one gratuitous scene at the End of Line dance club–I am not making that up–the music doesn’t overpower the movie which is essential. However, if the best thing you can say about a movie is that its soundtrack is good, chances are that implies that the movie sucks.
My negative opinion of Tron: Legacy can be boiled down to three problems. One: the story is overly complicated and generally blows. I understand that the suits at Disney are probably salivating into their ejaculating penises over the idea of successfully franchising this dormant property, but let’s write one movie at a time, okay? Maybe tie up the loose ends from the first movie before creating this vast new world of commercial possibilities. To describe the plot would be to insult both of our intelligences, but let’s say that it involves a maligned group of indigenous digital creatures who are nearly destroyed on the computer plane except for…yeah, let’s not even bother. To its credit, the good guys are obviously good and the bad guys are ludicrously sniveling, a hallmark of Disney plotting.
My second problem with Tron: Legacy is that the special effects are good, but shit: they could have been better. The original Tron did its best to simulate a computer world using cutting-edge technology at the time, which provided a kind of pseudo-depth but no real texture or round edges. Tron: Legacy takes the incredible graphic capabilities of today’s special effects wizards and does pretty much the same thing. Yeah, there are lots of crazy angles and the spaces seem much more massive, but it’s really not a lot better than today’s best HD video games or even Superbowl commercial graphics. Here was an opportunity to rethink the whole franchise, and the movie still ends with a cgi bridge disappearing beneath the characters’ day-glo feet.
But my biggest problem with Tron: Legacy, the one that dwarfs my other two gripes so as to render them completely insignificant, is cgi Jeff Bridges. Who the fuck cleared cgi Jeff Bridges? The movie’s plot revolves around Tron’s original protagonist, played by Jeff Bridges, having created a computer program called CLU that would do his bidding in the computer world while Jeff toked righteous bud in the third dimension. And because the movie’s screenplay writers are sadists who want to drive the special effects department unnecessarily insane, CLU looks like Jeff Bridges also. Not the current, well-worn Jeff Bridges but young Jeff Bridges from around the time of the original movie. So whenever we see CLU in this movie, and it’s a goddamned lot let me tell you, we have to fucking look at a ridiculous cgi mask of young Jeff Bridges, which looks more like Freddy Kreuger had reasonably successful plastic surgery. This aspect of the movie is so stupid and absolutely not necessary that it ruined the whole thing for me. Why does CLU have to look like young Jeff Bridges? Why make things hard on yourself? CLU could have looked like Leonardo DiCaprio, or Tobey Maguire, or even a cuddly plush robot dragon for crying out loud, but instead you had to make it look like a plasticine Jeff Bridges that makes you wince just peeking at it. Ridiculous. Save that shit for Christmas TV specials and sci-fi alien pornography.