To it’s credit, Tron Legacy is a film with very high aspirations. It attempts to be both a visually stunning cinematic experience and a thoughtful reflection on the relationship between creator and the created and humanity’s responsibility to the greater world. It succeeds royally at the first (looking as if light came to life) and fails at the second.
The film is a sequel to the 1982 cult classic, Tron. In the original film, a computer programmer played by Jeff Bridges is sucked into a computer system where he finds a vibrant world of light-rimmed programs personified as people. These programs engage in gladiator style games governed by the whims of the users on the outside world. Bridges’ character is aided in his attempts to escape this world by a kind program named Tron.
In the sequel, Bridges’ character has in the intervening years disappeared into the computerized world leaving behind both the company he helped make successful and his son. His son, now full grown, is subsequently transported into the computer as well where he seeks to rescue his long absent father.
Both of those synopses sound pretty straight forward. In actuality, the narratives of both films become largely incomprehensible. The films’ visuals are stunning and unlike anything else audiences have ever seen, but somehow nothing in the movies makes sense. If you can turn off your mind and enjoy the show, you’ll have a great time.
The first film in the series isn’t a meditation on any grand ideas concerning creators and creation. It’s just cool. This installment tries to be profound. Perhaps following The Matrix it is expected that technology-based sci-fi films will be philosophically astute. Tron Legacy is no The Matrix.
Tron Legacy is a good example of a common problem in storytelling – when one tries to be profound one ends up being incomprehensible; when one tries to construct a good story, one often ends up being profound. Tron Legacy would have been wiser to mind its narrative.
In the film’s defense, the questions it is asking are big questions, and big questions are hard to conceptualize and even harder to answer. One needs metaphors to engage with questions of purpose and destiny. Tron Legacy verbalizes the questions instead of working them into the narrative. In doing so, the questions and answers become didactic and inapproachable instead of metaphorical and engaging.
So, if you see Tron Legacy, disregard the posturing and enjoy the show. I did.