So the world of film-making has come as close to catching up with the imagination of Steven Lisberger as it ever will, but 28 years after it’s debut, many were wondering if Tron could finally deliver a film package worthy of such a sprawling premise. While the original certainly wasn’t the greatest movie of the 1980s, it was arguably one of the most important. Without that flawed but utterly entropic idea of mankind fusing itself with technology and hammering around on glowing motorbikes, there would have been no Neo, and Arnie’s career would have peaked with Conan.
Yet while the Matrix and Terminator franchises broke down like a pair of light-cycles in a Scottish snow drift, the Tron legacy is looking much brighter. We knew that this film would surpass the original in terms of visual effects, but we also needed a sense of purpose to make these various epilepsy-triggering sequences worthy of our attention. This could have been a contrived and wafer-thin tale which served simply as a futuristic vehicle for a CGI orgy, but thankfully there is a meaty plot arc at work here. Bringing together two long-seperated films is a difficult task, but under the watchful eye of Lisberger, director Joseph Kosinski has managed it briiliantly on his big-screen debut.
We pick up the story in 1989, with a waxy-faced version of Kevin Flynn telling his young son Sam about his adventures and creations on the grid. By all accounts he’s been pulling a lot of ‘all-nighters’ at the office of late, but they seem to be paying off because he boasts of a discovery that will change “everything mankind thinks it knows about religion, science and the rest of the universe..” However, before his bosses at ENCOM (who have become perturbed by Flynn’s eccentric behaviour) can offer him a pay-rise, he has vanished, leaving Sam the disillusioned majority shareholder of the company. Cut to the present day and Flynn Jr is now a computer whizz with a penchant for riding his motorbike too fast. Basically he has already managed to master the two most important skills that any Tron newby needs to survive life on the grid. Indeed we’re somewhat surprised to hear that he’s not a regional frisbee champion… Needless to say, Sam soon finds himself back at a very rundown Flynn’s Arcade and wouldn’t you just know it? He ends up being sucked through the same portal that his old man fell through a couple of decades before, thus realising that his dad has been neither “dead” nor “chilling in Costa Rica”.
During the high-octane ‘games’, which form a entertaining introduction to the world of the grid, Sam bumps into a couple of his dad’s old friends; Tron – who identifies Sam as a user during a disc duel – and CLU, the being created by Kevin all those years ago to help him create the perfect system. Through frequent well-positioned flash-backs, we find out that the once good Tron has fallen under the command of CLU (or CLU 2 to give him his official title), who has exiled Kevin to the outskirts of the grid, where he lives with a very sexy programme named Quorra (Olivia Wilde). Once Sam locates his old man, these short backstory monologues add much needed texture to the story and by explaining some of the grid’s political history, they make Tron: Legacy accessible even for those who have not seen the original.
With all that out of the way, we can finally cut to the (light-cycle) chase. Let’s face it – that’s what we’ve all been looking forward to. The corresponding scene was undoubtedly the most iconic in the 80s version and Tron: Legacy delivers a worthy re-imagining three decades later. 3D has been maligned in many quarters this year, but in some cases it really comes into it’s own. Forget Toy Story*, this is what those clunky specs were made for.
*Toy Story 3 was amazing..