Screenwriter: Adam Horowitz, Eddy Kitsis
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen
Running time: 125 mins
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Okay, so writing a movie review in binary code is hardly an exciting proposition, unlike the hugely awaited sequel to the 1982 cult classic Tron. Yet it feels appropriate, given that the movie is sadly a soulless and frustrating affair that feels like it was written by and for robots. Inane dialogue, lazy plotting and poorly-conveyed set pieces scupper the dazzling CGI landscapes and the brilliantly evocative soundtrack by Daft Punk. In a world that has been wowed by the breathtaking storytelling and visuals of The Matrix, it is simply not good enough to throw up a lazily pimped-up retread of an old movie to the masses.
Tron: Legacy kicks off in impressive style, with a glorious swooping shot across the sea into the home of computer game designer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) as he bids good night to his young son Sam. Courtesy of the same age-defying effects deployed in Beowulf, the youthfulness of Bridges's looks are restored for this brief prologue set in the late 1980s. The story then zips forward two decades to reveal that Flynn Sr has long since disappeared and his now adult offspring (Garrett Hedlund) is on a quest to find him. A clue provided by the returning Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) propels Sam towards the digital world and a chance to find his father. It also signals a quick descent into tedium and an abandonment of the goodwill generated by wistful feelings for the original movie.
What follows is a staggering mess. For a movie set in a world populated by computer programmes, it's vital to have an engaging human element as an entry point for the viewer. Instead, Sam functions as a clichéd one-liner generator rather than a character with any semblance of humanity beyond a determined facial expression in moments of adversity - or perhaps it's the look of constipation. That would be somewhat ironic given how much crap emerges from his mouth throughout the movie.
Such terrible characterisation has grave repercussions for the fate of the movie, as it's hard to care whether he accomplishes his personal mission to reunite with his father and return him to the real world. The legendary Jeff Bridges is helpless to elevate proceedings or add an emotional core as the aged Flynn, being reduced to spouting lengthy monologues of expositionary technobabble that are as engrossing as an evening in the company of Lembit Opik. In addition, the overlong scenes between father and son are made highly unpalatable by the direction and editing, which are nauseatingly static and halt any hint of momentum created by the imagery and soundtrack.
Given those flaws, the plot is simply doomed. It might fascinate Tron fans who have been in a darkened room praying daily for a sequel for nearly three decades, but it's an arrogant presumption that many outside of that sphere should give a damn in the absence of any attempt to create - and recreate - credible characters. Therefore a huge sense of inconsequentiality is felt as the movie wallows in its own legacy rather than trying to carve out a fresh one. The fact that the narrative structure and action sequences strongly echo the original serves to reinforce the feeling that the movie is burdened by its own past. Sure, the distinctive neon visuals have been effectively upgraded, but not even Tim Westwood could have pimped up this ride enough to salvage it.
The absolute nadir arrives when Michael Sheen struts into frame, which is remarkable given the actor's undeniable class. Decked out in an albino Teddy boy quiff that evokes Mackenzie Crook's villain in the risible ITV series Demons, he portrays a flamboyant and skullduggerous baddie who dances around a nightclub while havoc breaks loose between the anonymous ciphers purporting to be characters. It's an embarrassment for all concerned.
Daft Punk deserve huge credit for their work on the soundtrack - and plenty of sympathy that it has been squandered on such a feeble production. For their pulsating electro music often bears the same impact as Vangelis's epiphanic score for Blade Runner. It works best when intertwined with shots of the fantastic digital city that are free of the woeful characters, with the exception of Olivia Wilde as Quorra. A sleek and mysterious figure who functions as a sidekick to Kevin and token love interest, she exudes a minimalist coolness that fits perfectly within the environment. The same cannot be said for the cooked pig that has somehow found its way onto Kevin's table for dinner within the digital world. Could a swine somehow manage to hack into his computer and zap itself into the realms of Tron? Totally baffling - as are plenty of other developments in the movie that really shouldn't be touched upon for spoilerish reasons.
A huge disappointment, Tron: Fallacy (as it deserves to be known) proves Shakespeare right with his prophetic "all that glisters is not gold". For all of the hundreds of animators who spent over a year painstakingly assembling each pixel in the computer-generated world, not one person was employed who could write a competent screenplay that harnessed their efforts. 'Back to basics' might have been the name of an early '90s Tory campaign that was scuppered by their MPs' predilection for sleazy after-hours shenanigans involving pants by the ankles and oranges in mouths. Yet it needs to be applied to moviemaking. Sort out an engaging script, then think about spending a reported $200 million on making it. Or else be prepared for more 01010011. 01001000. 01001001. 01010100.
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