“Tron: Legacy” is a beautiful mess. Packed with state of the art visuals, from the striking blue and orange neon oasis of a computer world to the disquieting de-aging of Jeff Bridges, it’s just a shame that a decent script hadn’t been hammered out beforehand. “Legacy” could have been a stunner. Instead, it’s merely supermodel entertainment—gorgeous but vapid.
You’d think a movie about a brainiac hacker would be a little smarter. Granted, there’s enough techy gobbledygook to choke a computer processor, but it has the opposite of the desired effect. Incomprehensible and long-winded expository scenes make clear that “Legacy” is the worst breed of hand-holding blockbuster—characters formulate and execute plans in ceaseless sequence until they reach end protocol. Structurally, the film is like a bad sonnet.
Probably the single most egregious problem with “Legacy’s” screenplay is its entirely uninteresting characters. Reluctant hero Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is the son of Bridges’ character from the 1982 original. Perhaps it’s fitting that the character is cast adrift in an artificial world, because he’s the least dynamic human being on Earth. A living soul should stick out like a sore thumb when compared to anthropomorphized computer programs, but though Sam gawks and cracks wise, the truth is that his character is as lifeless as a filing cabinet. I can’t think of three adjectives to describe him.
Bridges doesn’t have much to work with either as the elder Flynn; the man is a bottomless well of exposition peppered with antiquated colloquialisms (“dig,” “jazz,” “man,” e.g. “I don’t dig that jazz, man”) leftover from his overzealous performance in “Tron” prime. Olivia Wilde plays Quorra, the last of a super-advanced cyber species with whom personality certainly died. And then there’s Martin Sheen as Zuse, who has enough eccentricities for the four of them combined. He plays the role of an opportunistic bartender like a Greek bohemian, giving a bizarre and unrestrained performance that feels more than a little out of place. He’s in the movie maybe a combined six minutes.
Unfortunately, the story that binds these characters together is just as forgettable. Even as they bolt through its interminable second-half, it feels as though nothing is happening. Their motivator is literally “Get to the portal,” which means “Legacy” is essentially a chase film. The only method employed to break-up the razzle-dazzle action sequences are paunchy bouts of dialogue that beget subplots that beget more chase. There is never a moment to stop and admire the world around them, or even to understand it. The universe of “Tron” never feels alive—it is merely an eye-candy coating over the bland events that comprise this tasteless narrative.
I do not mean to undersell “Tron: Legacy” on a visual or technical level. The production design is superlative, and the digital wizardry (re: the ‘Curious Case of Jeff Bridges’) could be revolutionary. “Legacy” is a beautiful film, but none of that changes the fact that its screenplay is a disaster. It’s never a good sign when you have six writers attached to the same piece of material, and the sequel to “Tron” is an open and shut case of too many cooks.
Outside of the aesthetic artistry and a memorable soundtrack by Daft Punk, there is little to remember “Tron: Legacy” for. Its characters are cardboard and its plot is paper-thin. And without substance, all the cosmetics in the world can’t save you. Sorry, supermodels.