The first half hour of Tron: Legacy contains some of the most stunning visuals I?ve seen in a film since Avatar. Debutant director Joseph Kosinski gives us a quick recap of the events of the original 1982 film and then plunges us inside the digital world of The Grid, into which the genius programmer Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges, had disappeared twenty years ago.
His son Sam, played by Garrett Hedlund, follows and we along with him discover the Grid together. It?s a jaw-dropping collage of sleek, shiny surfaces, neon lights and women in super-sexy bodysuits. Sam is immediately thrust into a futuristic gladiator battle with glowing Frisbees and soaring digital motorbikes. There?s pulsating light and sound and even the way people, called programs shatter is beautifully rendered. The 3D is judiciously used so the effects are immersive without being obvious. So far, so good.
But then, simultaneously, the shock and awe of the visuals starts to wear off and the film moves into a sluggish, expositional mode. So Kevin Flynn, a cross between a Zen master and yoga guru, explains how his digital duplicate Clu went bad and now runs the Grid like a fascist dictator. Clu is also played by Bridges but with a digitally rendered young face, which is incredibly creepy. Now Sam and his father must escape Clu, his millions of evil, robotic minions and the Grid.
There is lots of incomprehensible dialogue about a digital landscape to change the human condition, the sea of simulation and ISOs, which are isolated algorithmic programs, spontaneously generated by The Grid. And then, incredibly enough Sam and and the ISO Quorra, land up in a bar run by a program called Castor, played by Michael Sheen in campy, David Bowie mode. What is the point of this interlude? I don?t have a clue.
There are no performances here to speak of and the narrative in Tron Legacy is dense, clunky and littered with football-sized loopholes. But you can?t even begin to ask questions about humans eating a roast pig inside a computer program or why a virtual world also features a shifty looking poor man on a street. That will get you nowhere. The only way to do this is to find an Imax theater, dig into your popcorn, switch off and enjoy the ride.