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Tron: Legacy movie review

There's no denying its visual appeal, but does Tron: Legacy have substance beneath its style? Renee Tibbs reviews the special effects extravaganza.

As a hard-core sci-fi geek and a fan of the original Tron, I was chomping at the bit to see Tron: Legacy. There has been so much hype around this movie – the long-awaited sequel of a sci-fi classic! mind-boggling special effects! CGI de-ageing of lead actor Jeff Bridges’ face! – that I wondered if the movie could live up to it all.  And – surprise – it really doesn’t.

The plot is lighter than a laser beam. Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn (reprising his role from the 1982 film) has been trapped inside The Grid, a digital world of his own creation, for the last 20 years, and his now-adult son, Sam (a solid effort from tween eye-candy Garrett Hedlund), mistakenly falls in and is reunited with his dad.

But CLU (also played by Bridges), the program Flynn created to administer The Grid, has turned into a maniacal megalomaniac who will stop at nothing in his attainment of ‘perfection’ (and the acquiring of Flynn’s data-disc which would grant him supreme power).

Hijinks ensue. When CLU realises who Sam is, he challenges him to a Light Cycle match in the game arena, which goes on for about ten minutes and is the true highlight of the film. Suspenseful, visually arresting, fast-paced and dazzling, this sequence brilliantly illustrates how special effects should be done in sci-fi.

And then it sort of breaks down. The father-son combo is prettied up with the addition of redemption program Olivia Wilde, but even she can’t bring any soul to the storyline. The human characters are two-dimensional and the acting is flat.

We don’t get a chance to empathise or understand, as things move too fast and the special effects are ubiquitous and overpowering.  Jeff Bridges’ turn as CLU is particularly annoying: despite the fact he is one of my favourite actors, the CGI rendering on his face looks really bad. Yes, he looks young, but he also looks like a CGI character. I felt like I was playing GTA whenever he was on screen.

There’s a bit of respite from comedic slimeball Castor (a star turn from English actor Michael Sheen) but his part is all too brief.

Overall the film takes itself a little too seriously to allow much comedy, and that’s where Tron: Legacy really falls off its Light Cycle. Without a solid plot and strong characters, the movie was begging for some great comedic moments. Without them, it becomes dry and a little self-important.

But it’s not all bad. The special effects are fantastic. The score, by Daft Punk, is amazing and so perfectly suited to the movie. It’s nice to see the story of Flynn, begun all those years ago, come full circle. It’s light, it’s arresting, it’s a great popcorn movie. If you go to a 3D viewing (as I did), the 3D switches on in The Grid and you see some pretty snazzy sequences.

Tron: Legacy won’t leave you disappointed if you’re going for a fun, throwaway flick. But if you’re wanting to see something a bit more heartfelt and a bit less sterile, you might like to pass this one by.

Renee Tibbs has completed the Graduate Diploma in Journalism at La Trobe University and is the current editor of upstart.

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