Like the 1982 original, Tron: Legacy is visually stunning for its time; filmmaker Joseph Kosinski and Digital Domain take the best advantage of 3-D since Avatar. In this case, the filmmakers were smart about using the screen as a frame, directing the viewer to enter an exotic world and explore it. That is how 3-D should be used, especially in a primarily digital environment. The new Tron grid is gleaming, and on a spectacular scale; the light cycles streak splendidly across the screen.
All the gadgets, vehicles, ships (solar sails etc) and settings have been impressively redesigned and enlarged. It's an architectural marvel. And so is the Holy Grail of VFX, a digital 35-year-old Jeff Bridges, voiced and acted by the older man (who turns 61 Saturday), whose CG head is placed on a double's body. It was one thing to make Brad Pitt old as Benjamin Button (DD did that show too) or to replace Armie Hammer's head in The Social Network. This marks a much bigger leap, so advanced that the film should wind up getting a VFX Oscar nom. But even if Bridges' doppleganger Clu is a CG character inside a computer, he looks strange around the mouth. The human eye knows what the 35-year-old Bridges looks like, and that's where you flirt with the uncanny valley.
But that's not the real issue. Even with late-inning tweaks from Pixar writers, the story is silly. And while Bridges, Garret Hedlund as his son, Olivia Wilde as his surrogate daughter, and Grid key players James Frain and Michael Sheen do their best to keep things lively, this movie is almost as inert as the first one (it looks so primitive now). But like the first Tron, which had a huge impact on Hollywood, this sequel (which is rumored to have cost more than $200 million) also pushes the frontiers of what's possible. The movie delivers enough of a wow factor to pull in viewers. But I doubt that Disney has a super franchise on its hands.
THR's Todd McCarthy:
"Could Tron: Legacy be the first official sequel made nearly three decades after the original film? There are perhaps good reasons why Disney waited so long, beginning with the obvious matter that the 1982 Tron was an awfully lame movie…The mildly surprising news, then, is that there are aspects of Tron: Legacy that are actually rather cool. Granted, these mostly fall within the realms of architecture, interior design and advanced motor racing techniques, but they are blessed compensations nevertheless…although it all ends up being a half-hour too much of a just okay thing…Tron: Legacy most resembles — in its lustful embrace of high technology, the combat-game format, corporate control angle, enduring father-son allegiance and fundamental silliness — is the Wachowskis' Speed Racer…Bearded and looking just a tad less scruffy as Kevin than he did in Crazy Heart, Bridges achieves many an actor's dream by convincingly appearing much younger than his real self,…It would be ironic if the ultimate legacy of Legacy were not as a notable sci-fi achievement but as the film that convinced middle-aged actors that they should again be considered for young romantic leads."
IGN's Matt Fowler:
"Whereas 3D has quickly become a dirty, corporate word, Tron: Legacy's use of the new technology to bring the audience directly into this very specific and unique world makes this movie a completely immersive experience...Jeff Bridges…anchors the entire experience by playing both the hero and the villain of the piece, [and] is predictably capable stepping back into the shoes of ENCOM CEO Kevin Flynn,…If you're going to spend your time hyper-analyzing the meaning and purpose behind this world, you're going to wind up chasing your own tail a bit. The ground rules here, as with the original film, are fuzzy…even though we're being presented with a surprisingly effective 'passing the torch' family saga, there's simply no escaping the breadth of this new Tron world…The neon colors burst out of the black as elements of Kubrick and Fritz Lang echo throughout the cold, harsh beautiful realm of Kevin Flynn's design…As Sam, Hedlund was a strong charismatic lead who, along with Olivia Wilde as doe-eyed Quorra, provided a wonderful air of innocence and restlessness to a breathtaking world where human hours pass by as computer years."
Moviefone's Todd Gilchrist:
"...it's filled with a visual splendor, if not a sort of glorious self-indulgence that is likely to delight most viewers, and indeed it shows them things that they have never seen before…[it] is at once legitimately complex and spectacularly flimsy…it contains more substance than is easily explored – if also to some extent, articulated - in just one viewing...As the lost little boy in a man's body, Hedlund has a lot of heavy lifting to do, but he's enabled considerably by Bridges' effortless command of his character, and by extension, the screen itself…the [character] most crucial to the story – and unexpectedly, the overall success of the film – is Quorra. Olivia Wilde has possibly the second most-irresistible smile I've ever seen, but there's not a false moment in her performance, and she gives Quorra a dimensionality and substance that the film doesn't require, but certainly benefits from. The simultaneous combination of her strength and naivete places her somewhere between Ellen Ripley and Trinity in the continuum of kick-ass female characters, and the purity of her enthusiasm is infectious."
JoBlo's Jenna Busch:
"Like Avatar, there will be people experiencing withdrawal depression. And like AVATAR, the 3D actually works. It makes sense. It looks good. The first few times you see a young Jeff Bridges with the lines all digitally removed from his face, your mind will be blown...at least until half way through the film..Jeff Bridges was fantastic. No matter what issues I had with the story, it's freaking Jeff Bridges…I could watch that man comb his beard and be riveted. Olivia Wilde was just adorable. Michael Sheen out shined the End of the Line club with his cane-wielding performance. Hedlund was really the only weak spot, performance-wise. He's lovely to look at. He's not a bad actor...phenomenal score by Daft Punk…If you're a fan like me, [the film is] worth seeing for both the nostalgia and the debate you're going to have after…If you're not, it's worth seeing for the visuals."
HitFix's Drew McWeeny:
"TRON really doesn't work. It's poorly staged, poorly paced, and never quite brings all its ideas together. It is a visual marvel, but inert…It is a truly terrible, sloppy, half-assed script by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, and no amount of spectacle can distract me from just how much the film disappoints as drama…The largest failing of TRON: Legacy is that, unlike the original film, this movie does not look forward in any way, and it does not seem interested in any larger ideas. Instead, it is yet another tiresome "chase the doodad" action movie with a curiously small amount of action in it…The character work is facile, surface-only, and almost entirely expository…In the interview I did with Wilde, she compares her character to Joan of Arc. Uhhhh... I don't think so. It's a shame, too, because Wilde gives the best performance in the movie. She is an artificial being struggling to understand what it is to be alive and human, and Wilde invests Quorra with more life than anyone else onscreen…TRON: Legacy exists as sad proof that this franchise's real legacy is pretty pictures and little else. And that is no fun to report. "