By Jeff Kazmierski, Copy Editor
Before there was The Matrix, there was Tron. If you grew up in the 1980’s, you probably remember Tron – a quirky little Disney flick about programmer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who tries to hack into his company’s mainframe, gets “digitized” and finds himself transferred into a world inside the computer. There, he is forced to battle for his life on the “game grid.” He survives, makes a dash to an input/output portal, defeats the evil “Master Control Program” with the help of three programs called Clu (Bridges), Yori (Cindy Morgan) and Tron (Bruce Boxleitner), and goes on to become CEO of the ENCOM corporation.
The movie wasn’t groundbreaking for its plot, which was a pretty predictable run-and-gun chase through a computer grid. What made it unique was the way it inspired popular culture. Its graphic imagery of an information-based landscape inspired a generation of science fiction fans to imagine a strange new aspect of reality which would eventually be called “cyberspace.” Without Tron, there would be no Matrix. Fans of the original have long awaited a re-imagining of the film, and in 2010, they got their wish.
Tron: Legacy picks up about 30 years after where the original left off. ENCOM CEO Kevin Flynn, played again by Jeff Bridges, has disappeared, leaving his 12-year old son Sam, played by Garrett Hedlund, orphaned and unprepared to run the company. The boy grows up mostly on his own and the company gets taken over by older, more experienced executives. Sam becomes both the principal shareholder and occasional saboteur of his father’s company. After a little background, the movie transitions from 2-D to 3-D in a fast-paced chase scene with Sam on a motorcycle weaving through traffic while being chased by police cars and culminating in his infiltrating the company security system and hacking its mainframe.
Sam is later visited by ENCOM executive Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) returning in the same role he played in the original. Bradley informs him that his father sent a message to his pager from his old, defunct video game arcade. At first, Sam doesn’t believe it, but he visits the arcade anyway. There, in his father’s lab, he hacks into a computer system in the basement and, like his father, gets zapped into the digital world of the Grid.
From there, the movie unfolds much like the original. Sam gets sent to the games, where he has to battle for his survival in brutal gladiatorial combat with discs and “light-bikes,” digital motorcycle constructs that leave streamers of deadly energy in their wake. He is saved by the program Quorra (Olivia Wilde) who takes him to meet his father, who has been trapped in the computer world for the past twelve years.
The Grid, he learns, has been taken over by his father’s program Clu (also Jeff Bridges but digitally rendered to look 28 years younger), who was originally designed to create the “perfect system.” The plan went horribly wrong and Clu became a genocidal tyrant instead of a benevolent philosopher-king. Father-son arguments ensue, and Sam Flynn, with the help of Quorra, begins a journey across the grid to find the “portal” where he hopes to get back to the real world, hack the system from the outside, shut down Clu and restore peace to the Grid.
Unlike so many 3-D movies, the effects work extremely well in Tron: Legacy. The movie was filmed in 3-D from the start, and there are several places where you can see reflections floating in glassine surfaces several feet in front of the scene. The grid itself is visually stunning, but extremely dark. Where the original was rendered using simple polygons and a black background, Tron: Legacy creates entire terrains and scenery out of its stark black and white environment. The film itself is very light-oriented. Programs aligned with Clu are given black armor with red lines; others have pale blue lines. Unlike the original, the costumes in Legacy are lit from within instead of post-production, so they cast an eerie light on objects nearby.
Fans of the original movie won’t be disappointed. Tron: Legacy is a fitting follow-up, and though it hardly breaks new ground in terms of either plot, character development or technology, it is a thoroughly entertaining, beautifully produced film.
And with an energetic soundtrack by Daft Punk (who make a brief cameo as MP3 players spinning tracks in a Grid nightclub) backing up the action, the movie is sure to please.