Daz­zled into dull­ness

Dis­ney’s an­other se­quel no­body knew they wanted, is a com­pe­tent but un­der­whelm­ing, CGI-sat­u­rated sci-fier, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

THERE ARE any num­ber of rea­sons not to make a se­quel to Tron.

For starters, the 1982 orig­i­nal wasn’t all that much of a hit. Fea­tur­ing some new tech­nique called com­puter-gen­er­ated im­agery (it’ll never catch on), the Dis­ney film fought its way to a re­spectable, but far from stel­lar, $33 mil­lion at the US box-of­fice. If the pub­lic re­ally were scream­ing out for a fol­low-up then it would, surely, have taken less a quar­ter of a cen­tury to ar­rive.

Tron also wasn’t ter­ri­bly good. Fol­low­ing Jeff Bridges’s soft­ware en­gi­neer as he en­tered a videogame uni­verse, Tron was, in one un­happy sense, a decade ahead of its time.


Not for the last time, pun­ters won­dered why so much en­ergy had been in­vested in the dig­i­tal ef­fects and so lit­tle in the script.

Most sig­nif­i­cantly, the pic­ture re­lied on a van­ished class of nov­elty for its ap­peal. Made (lest we for­get), two years be­fore the launch of the Ap­ple Macin­tosh, a decade be­fore the ad­vent of the PlayS­ta­tion and more than 20 years be­fore the Wii ar­rived, Tron did a very good job of ren­der­ing a dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ment. Even if the ef­fects had been a quar­ter as im­pres­sive, it would still have seemed like a vis­ual mar­vel. Nowa­days, you can see more im­pres­sive im­ages on your tele­phone.

So, re­turn­ing to that world is akin to man­u­fac­tur­ing a se­quel to the Lu­mière Broth­ers’ 1896 Ar­rival of a Train at La Cio­tat. The train’s com­ing into the sta­tion. The train’s com­ing into the sta­tion. The train comes into the sta­tion for two long hours. Who cares?

All would, how­ever, be for­given if Tron: Legacy had some­thing like a de­cent (or even com­pre­hen­si­ble) plot. Such is not the case.

Events be­gin with Sam Flynn (Gar­rett Hed­lund), son of Kevin Flynn (Bridges), play­ing a trick on the evil men who now run the com­pany his dad helped cre­ate. From the con­fines of his hum­ble apart­ment, he frus­trates the firm’s lat­est soft­ware re­lease by plac­ing the source code on the in­ter­net.

Kevin van­ished some years ago, and Sam has turned into a class of morally tor­mented recluse. Re-en­gage­ment oc­curs dur­ing a visit to the video arcade where it all started. Af­ter push­ing a few of the wrong but­tons, he is trans­ported into the par­al­lel uni­verse that is The Grid. As be­fore, com­puter pro­grammes take on phys­i­cal form and fleshy hu­mans are re­garded as walk­ing deities.

If you’ve ever yawned and clicked your way past the ex­pos­i­tory scenes in an oth­er­wise en­joy­able video game (“Brown­claw has se­cured the amulet of Marsh­gas!”) then you will have some idea what to ex­pect from the plot. While Sam’s dad lurks so­porif­i­cally in a gleam­ing, cod-Kubrick­ian shed, a de­monic younger ver­sion of Kevin/Jeff ex­acts ter­ror on The Grid’s shiny denizens. The rest is too mun­dane to bother re­lat­ing.

Tech­ni­cally, Legacy meets state-of-the-art stan­dards but fails to progress far be­yond that. You sense the film is very proud of its achieve­ment in plac­ing a 33-yearold Jeff Bridges among the ac­tion, but, sad to re­late, the char­ac­ter’s aw­ful shini­ness ren­ders pseu­doBridges more in­hu­man than his cre­ators’ can pos­si­bly have in­tended. The 3D pho­tog­ra­phy is so pas­sively un­der­whelm­ing you find your­self con­stantly check­ing that your glasses haven’t tum­bled into the pop­corn.

At least Daft Punk, whose sound­track al­bum has al­ready re­ceived de­cent re­views, man­age to do some­thing in­ter­est­ing with their brief. The duo’s canny mash of early-1980s synth pop and con­tem­po­rary Euro-funk slides from the speak­ers very win­ningly.

What we have here is a com­pe­tently made but largely point­less amal­gam of the worst bits from The Ma­trix with the sil­li­est bits from The Fifth El­e­ment. Elder Bridges ru­mi­nates like the dron­ing sages from the for­mer fran­chise; a jaw-drop­pingly aw­ful Michael Sheen prances around like a camp spasm from the lat­ter unlovely en­tity.

All the while, des­per­ate for dis­trac­tion, pun­ters won­der what un­likely 1980s film will be granted a se­quel next year. Will we fi­nally get to see Pop­eye 2? What about Yentl: The Re­turn? City Heat Reignited? Rule noth­ing out.

Big brother is watch­ing: Jeff Bridges the elder in Tron: Legacy

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