Tron: Legacy is a dizzying, dazzling visual experience, as you might expect from the sequel to a 1982 sci-fi film that pioneered the use of live action and CGI. It must have taken a lot of computers to pull this thing off; too bad the movie talks like one of them.
Tron: Legacy focuses on a hacker named Sam (Garrett Hedlund) who finds himself zapped into an intricate computer system. It’s the same system designed by his father (Jeff Bridges) before he disappeared years ago. Sure enough, once Sam gets transported, he finds his dad – or at least variations of him – inside.
As in the original, this computer system is built upon Olympic-style bouts involving hurled discs and speeding cycles. Sam gets outfitted in one of those trademark, neon-lined outfits – they’re like racing suits with glow sticks shoved in their sleeves – and off he goes into battle.
It’s not the action in Tron: Legacy that wows as much as the setting. Director Joseph Kosinski and his animators turn our sense of space inside out. Floors sink and rise unexpectedly, walls shift and ceilings disappear. Often, you don’t know if you’re looking up, down or sideways.
Adding to the trippyness – aside from those glow-in-the-dark getups – is original music by Daft Punk (look for the house music duo as DJs in a throwdown that’s part fight club, part rave). In other moments, the score feels heavier, fully of tremulous echoes and leaden beats. This is doom-laden dance music, and it gives Tron: Legacy a gravitas that’s missing from the techy, incomprehensible narrative.
Story wise, Tron: Legacy lost me around the time Bridges starting talking about “genetic algorithms” and “quantum teleportation.” This isn’t just filler mumbo jumbo, either. Tron: Legacy is about this sort of stuff, as the central story has to do with Bridges trying to perfect his computer system using something he calls “biodigital jazz, man.”
The thing about jazz, though, is that sometimes its improvisation can lead to cacophonous collapse. By its end, with Flynn facing down his digital doppelganger and Sam pursuing a portal back to the real world, Tron: Legacy devolves into utter nonsense. But at least it looks good doing it.