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TRON: Legacy: Great visuals but a weak storyline

Andy Moon offers a brief synopsis of TRON: Legacy and discusses the good and the bad points of the sequel to TRON.

Ever since I watched TRON on LaserDisc in 1983, I have been looking forward to the sequel to that seminal sci-fi movie. So, of course, I went to see TRON: Legacy opening weekend.

Jeff Bridges in TRON: Legacy (Credit: Walt Disney Pictures, screenshots by CNET)

I took my wife to see TRON: Legacy specifically so that I would have the opinion of someone who had never seen the first film (she thought that TRON was just an '80s arcade video game). Here's a brief synopsis of the story, as well as our thoughts about the overall quality of the film.

TRON: Legacy's plot (*spoiler alert*)

The character Sam Flynn, who is the son of Jeff Bridges' character Kevin Flynn, is portrayed in the beginning of the film as a malcontent son who is the biggest shareholder of ENCOM, the company his father helped found. His sole involvement in the company is a yearly prank, complete with a high-tech break in, a server hack that gives the company a black eye on the eve of their new OS release, and a daring escape that would have made Ethan Hunt proud.

Sam is informed that a friend of his father's -- the man who helped mentor Sam when Kevin disappeared into the machine -- received a page from Kevin's old arcade office. Sam goes to investigate, finds his father's hidden lab under the arcade, and is transported into The Grid by the same laser that took his father there many years before.

The first place Sam ends up is in the "games" section of The Grid, where he engages in "Disk Wars," a sequence that will seem very familiar to fans of the original movie. This sequence is where the visual effects are at their best, with Matrix-like dodging and "de-rezzing" of programs that really took advantage of the 3D medium. Sam moves on to the light cycle portion of the games area (where the visuals are stunning), and after which, Sam is rescued from Clu by a female program.

In a memory montage during which Kevin Flynn is recounting to his son how The Grid became what it did, we learn that The Grid spawned new life forms, dubbed ISOs and that Kevin's program from the original movie, Clu, decided that they didn't fit in with his vision of a "perfect" Grid. Clu commits genocide on the ISOs, and Kevin was planning on revealing that information to the real world as a "miracle," a new life form born of the computer.

Once Sam decides that he is going to make his way to the portal to leave the world in which his father felt trapped, Sam, Kevin, and the last of the ISOs embark on a journey in which they learn that Clu is planning on taking the re-purposed programs into the real world to take over and create the perfect world Clu was programmed to pursue.

TRON: Legacy: The good and the bad

The beginning of the film, which takes place outside The Grid, was very engaging. I instantly liked Sam Flynn, and my wife felt the same way. Unfortunately, the story was a little weak and not particularly well developed, despite a 2 hour and nine minute run time. My wife kept expecting the characters to be moving between the real world and The Grid, and she was disappointed that they didn't.

I was extremely impressed by the visuals and the graphics, though I wish I hadn't shelled out the extra $10 for 3D. The fighting sequences were well choreographed, but those scenes didn't seem to fit in the story. I understand that the filmmakers wanted to be true to the feel of the original movie, and the "game" sequences were a big part of it, but they could have done a much better job using those sequences to tell the story rather than just being gratuitous eye candy. Those scenes felt like a throw in to allow this movie to fit within the TRON universe.

TRON: Legacy is a fun escape for anyone into sci-fi or great visual effects even though the storyline is rather weak. If you have seen TRON: Legacy, what did you like or not like about the film?

More about TRON: Legacy

18 comments
Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

I think both TRON and Legacy are more vehicles to express the utopian vision that technology expands human horizons. I did notice that in Legacy, Users were downplayed and Flynn kept saying things to Sam that implied the Innoverse had started generating it's own 'code' e.g. the ISOs. Beautiful scene where Clu was feeling overawed in Flynn's retreat and frustrated that he should feel such a lack of comprehension about his creator. What do you guys think the about the reflective apple? How about reintegration at the end? Why? Because he's my son! I think if you start to dig, there are a lot of layers to Legacy, just as there were with TRON. Saying the "Plot is weak" may just mean you haven't peeled enough layers to start crying :) Greetings program!

esalkin
esalkin

"Great visuals but a weak storyline" Wasn't that exactly what we said about the original?

Mabrick
Mabrick

The problem was not that the story was incomplete but rather the time used to tell it was too short. As others have pointed out, all the elements connecting it to Tron are there. They are not complete though. Just like the programs in the games fell to bits with "killed" so there must be bits of Tron:Legacy all over the cutting room floor if you pardon the old fashioned metaphore. I do hope there is a director's cut. One thing I have not seen mentioned is the rooting (pun intended) of Legacy in the very modern and very real struggle over Internet neutrality and closed versus open systems. Did anyone else see Sam as the rebel euro-hackler using a Nokia device to perpetrate his hacks? How about the obvious comparison between OS 12 and OS X? Or even the fact that Mr. smug and "in control" CEO ousted one of the original geeks to take over and rule the world... er, sorry, only rule Apple... oops, I mean ENCOM. In fact, there are two story lines in Legacy, both of which would take a normal run movie to fully tell. So yes, you all got shorted, but not in the way you think.

jsaubert
jsaubert

I'm always a little confused when I see reviews of Tron: Legacy where they say it has a weak story. While it definitely had a few moments where the delivery or method of the story was a bit weak the story itself was pretty solid to me. There are two things "wrong" with this movie that I think are rubbing the reviewers, maybe not the wrong way but in a way they don't know how to react to. Firstly a good half of the over all story arc is never seen in a traditional way. For the most part the audience is only seeing things Sam Flynn had been exposed to or know things he's being told. That works because his arc is a complete story on it' s own, however it is only the (for now perhaps) ending chapter of a much longer and more complex story. The other issue keys into the first but on a deeper level. This movie gives a vibe to a lot of reviewers of being "incomplete" or "missing something" and therefor giving it less than stellar reviews. Guess what? It's supposed to not just hand you all the answers, it's designed for different people to see different levels of things and talk about it. Most pro critics view a movie as a singular frame of mind even if they are in a full theater. Ironically this is one of the few things the movie comes right out says. Don't let yourself get disconnected and miss the things right in front of you. It's a big lesson that needs to be shown to our modern super-(dis)connected world and I've yet to see more than one review even touch on the topic. Some movies are opened ended. This one was opened beginning, middled and ended. For the analytical and curious among us that's like the greatest thing ever but for the people that need closure in their fiction its just about the worst thing ever.

pyropakjim
pyropakjim

I *HAD* to see it in 3D for the visuals, having been a fan of the original movie, as well as the video game. I found the escapism into the world of the Grid just what I needed, with the action and graphics just where I really enjoyed them. I agree that the storyline could have been better, but it was predictable, as the events unfolded. After seeing the movie, I ordered the soundtrack from Amazon, and can visualize the scenes along with it. Yes, it could have been better, but as a sequel, it could have also been much worse.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Must be a slow week to review a movie that has been out for 3 weeks already and probably most sci-fi fans/geeks have already seen. Unsure where you shell an extra $10 to see it in 3D. Most places only charge $3-$5 extra. you got ripped off.

Duggeek
Duggeek

If there's one thing that makes T:L stand out, it's the sheer number of former fans that keep describing how the sequel *should* be done. I haven't heard this much continuity-fervor over one film since that dismal Indiana Jones finale. (and it was dismal, unlike T:L, which is more controversial) The devil's in the details, friends. T:L presents a rich tapestry that only reveals itself to those that truly pay attention. For instance: - Yes, there was a "CLU" in the first film. It was a hacking program, designed and operated by Kevin Flynn to get inside Encom's databases and find the proof of how Encom stole his video game IP. CLU was recognized and absorbed by MCP in the first 0:10 of the 1982 flim. CLU didn't come back. The "C.L.U." in T:L is an homage to that program, but the acronym describes his purpose; Codified Likeness Utility. There's a huge contingent of reviewers that wrongly assume the two are one and the same. - Kevin Flynn didn't "feel" trapped. He was trapped. In the time of the MCP, the system was enabled by Dilinger (Sr.) to 'zap' Kevin Flynn to the grid. It was Flynn's direct interaction with MCP that allowed him to re-materialize that first time. Flynn determined the parameters of the 'portal' after that, making it inaccessible to ordinary programs so that only a user could find his way in and out. One of those parameters was a one-way deadlock; that the re-integration process could not be started from the grid itself once the laser cooled down. Of course, in 'grid time', the laser takes an equivalent of about 8 hours to cool. When he missed his chance the first time, he was indeed trapped... by his own design. The hints are all there; cobweb-draped keys in the door, a thick layer of dust on the console, and the active session under username "flynn" that Sam Flynn finds has been running for about 20 years straight. (talk about uptime!) - Kevin Flynn had his 1982 adventure and re-appeared in the material world a split-second after being zapped in. All of his time inside the grid took place in a 'cycle'. Kevin Flynn took over Encom after re-emerging, but his disappearance was in 1989, not 1982; leaving seven years with which to develop, refine and, indeed, shrink the 'integrator' to the size of a small building. Coincidentally, a perfect fit for the catacombs underneath Flynn's arcade. Call it a 'hack' or contrivance of writing if you wish, but it has a definite continuity. - Game sequences had a definite purpose. C.L.U. indoctrinated all "stray" programs into the game grid. Sam Flynn was first recognized as a "stray", rather than his true nature; a user. After Sam violated a few rules and ended-up in a deathmatch with Rinzler, he was outed as the user he really is. (the idea of "blood" on the grid is a bit appalling, though... I was disappointed with that) - (*SLIGHT SPOILER*) When C.L.U. brought Sam to the light-cycle grid, it was to publicize that he was going to defeat a user. Remember when C.L.U. answered his chrome-dome ISO lackey about the speech, saying, "It wasn't for them." He was counting on Kevin Flynn finding out about Sam. - (*HUGE SPOILER*) Mix-in the fact that Rinzler is really the first Tron program, re-purposed by C.L.U. after being defeated in the coup. It makes perfect sense that he recognizes users apart from normal programs or ISO's. So many people don't have problems with T:L itself, but rather have issue with how they think the movie should have been. Take the story for what it is, not what you think it should be, and I think you'll find that it's not such a bad job after all. After all, (*MEGA SPOILER*) there's an ocean of possibilities regarding the materialization of an ISO into the real world... nice for Sam that it should be Quorra.

Tink!
Tink!

that they concentrated so much on the effects that they neglected the story like that. I'm still going to see it of course, but I'm definitely not going to pay to see it in theaters.

SKDTech
SKDTech

They should have spent more time and money on the story. The eye-candy was outstanding but does not make up for the weakness of how the story was told.

Robert Przybylowicz
Robert Przybylowicz

Thank God that I saw this Tron in MO, USA. It cost only $20.00 for my son and I. If I was back in MI, I would have been on the hook for $50.00 or more to see it at an IMAX. No my 9 year old even said it sucked.

MaryWeilage
MaryWeilage

Dear Gis Bun, Thanks for your comment. This review was posted on Dec. 31st, but it's just now getting promoted in newsletters, which is why it may seem the article posted this week. If you've seen the film, what did you think of it? Thank you, Mary Weilage

esalkin
esalkin

I can hardly believe that the original has fans. That it has fans rabid enough to argue over continuity....

Ventaur
Ventaur

Very well described. I enjoyed the movie very much. I'm a huge fan of the original and did as you are basically suggesting. I sat back, cleared my mind (no Matrix pun intended), and let the story unfold in front of me; without preconceptions.

antolin
antolin

I don't know that's the issue with the main story. I did not see one and I really liked it . I think the main problem is people wanted to be what they wanted instead and that feeling ruined the whole experience to sit back and let the movie flow as was intended by the director. I have heard so much negative critic for T:L but honestly, it is what it is ;). I will call it a a sushi movie: you will love it or you will hate it ;)

Tink!
Tink!

After all that it makes more sense and I haven't even seen the film yet! All the web talk pretty much lays thing out, but you did a splendid job of really clearing up all the buzz.

pflapham-23737826629493199154303227527571
pflapham-23737826629493199154303227527571

Humm... How did they stuff a laser center the size of half a football field into the basement? Honey I Shrunk the Integrator! The movie seemed like a pilot for a short-running TV series. Lots of holes. Lots of opportunities for back story.

s-f
s-f

Funny you say that... Disney XD is suppose to have a series next year based on this... :-/

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