TRON: LEGACY. Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen. Directed by Joseph Kosinski. PG (Mild science fiction violence) 125 minutes.
While Tron: Legacy is a sequel to the now-classic 1982 film, Tron, it is also something of a re-make, a re-interpretation of the original story to allow for the passing of time, the developments in technology and to dramatise a relationship between father and son.
For science-fiction fans, the Grid of Tron (well before the Matrix) has beguiled the imaginations of computer game players as well as those whose lives are devoted to the developments of these technologies. For those less inclined towards the wonders and mysteries of the Grid, this sequel may not do it for them. It is certainly full of whiz-bang wizardry (make that whiz whiz whiz whiz... bang bang bang bang... wizardry) that, in 2010 boggles the senses and the mind (but how will it look in another 28 years?). It is full of strange characters, computer clones who seem human but are highly sensitised robotic creations that can smash in an instant. There are games, competitions, battles. But, is that enough? For many, yes it is. For others, there needs to be a more human component.
And that there is - which will tide the humanitarians in the audience through the wizardry.
The film opens with Sam, the son of Kevin Flynn, who went into his arcade those decades ago and created the Grid, hoping that this alternate world could help the real world to be a better place. The film has a flashback to 1989 with Kevin and his young son, Sam, and their bond after Sam’s mother has died and the boy’s hopes to share his father’s work and insights. But, Kevin never came home.
In the present, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is something of a daredevil and enjoys sabotaging the Board Meetings of his father’s company, now a corporation that puts its futuristic technology on sale instead of making it available, free of charge. Kevin’s friend and partner, Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) is still there – but tells Sam he has a message from his father’s office.
So, begins Sam’s venturing into the Grid and discovering its magnitude and power. But it is dominated by Kevin’s creation, an alter ego, Clu (who appeared in the first film). Jeff Bridges played Kevin all those years ago and here he is again, trapped by Clu in the Grid. Bridges brings his age and authority to his role as the benign but imprisoned wise man, happy to be re-united with his son but concerned that he escape from the Grid and from Clu. But, Bridges also plays (as he did before) the ageless Clu (with Bridges affected by computergraphics to look young).
In a way, this is the Frankenstein story again, with Kevin the creator who makes a monster instead of the creature that could change life. And the monster turns against its maker, jealous of the son and aggressive towards the only remaining artefact of a group that he massacred (Quorra, Olivia Wilde). How will they escape? Which is the issue occupying the last part of the film.
Michael Sheen turns up in the bizarre role of a creature who runs a kind of nightclub and seems to be on something that makes him like a burlesque entertainer gone sinisterly but flamboyantly giggly.
Tron was released in 1982, the year of Blade Runner and both films have us remembering runners, matrixes and even the 2001 voyage beyond Jupiter. The screenplay also offers to those who would like to explore deeper metaphysical themes of being, identity, transcendence and scientific themes of development and their consequences as well as ‘ordinary’ human themes of family and relationships, material to ponder.
The opening and closing of the film (the real world) have been filmed in 2D, while inside the Grid, all is 3D. (And, not to spoil the ending, there may not be a sequel as the producers now haven’t got a Clu!)
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out 16th December 2010.