I believe Tron Legacy will receive the honor of being the final movie I review in 2010 - a year, I might add, that was packed with the most number of films I've ever seen and reviewed in a single span of time. Let's get to it.
To preface: Having played last minute catch-up with the original Tron relative to its sequel, I carry next to zero emotional or sentimental value that comes from nearly three decades of waiting. If anything, I think I've approached Legacy not as a fan, but as a casual viewer who merely wanted to get swept up in the phenomenon. Swept up I am, but have I become a fan?
Story-wise, there's little ground being broken here. Like the original Tron, there's an adequate sci-fi framework in place, but when compared to envelope pushers like, say, Moon or Inception, 'adequate' is something of a poor grade by today's standards. To be fair, there are quite a few more interesting things happening in Legacy than in the original film. There's now an emotional presence that was lacking before, with the father/son relationship lying at the center. Despite what others have said, I believe the relationship between Flynn and Flynn Sr. manages to resonate and stick its landing. From a disquieting, awkward dinner conversation to the genuine bond on the bridge of the Solar Sailer, the moments shared between Kevin and Sam have believable weight to them. Ironically, the tone of the ending is more akin to what I felt should've happened in the original movie. Thankfully, it's not as neat and tidy, with lingering questions such as: ..... Is Kevin really dead? Was it just the surrounding area that got obliterated, or is it the entirety of The Grid? Is Tron alive after that fall? What can be revived from that backup that Sam created for himself? What impact will Quorra have in the real world? At face value, the movie is self-contained in its resolutions, but leaves plenty to chew on for 'what-if' interpretations. Though I was expecting one, I'm glad they chose NOT to add an epilogue coda scene after the credits.
Thematically, there's some interesting stuff happening under the hood. Both Wilde and Bridges said as much in interviews, but there's an unmistakable religious overtone laid in the proceedings. It's hard not to draw comparisons with terminologies like "the Creator" and "the Miracle" being bantered about, and it's easy to attach certain theological figures onto characters, especially Kevin, Clu, and Quorra. Thankfully, it's all punctuated by the mythos of the Tron universe, so it serves to compel rather than detract.
There's something undeniably savvy about time sensitive pieces such as this. It immerses the audience into the film a little more, allowing us to 'live out' the natural flow of time with the characters onscreen. Toy Story 3 had its ten years, but that's nothing compared to the massive span of twenty-eight for Tron Legacy. The demise of the arcade scenes of yesteryear, the advent of big software corporations, and the technological advances on display (Wi-Fi!)..... that's all touched upon in Legacy, and to me, that's really cool.
Though the script is a tad clunky at times, the acting is competent. Hedlund is easy on the eyes, and he's generally good when he's not spouting out those clichéd one-liners. I cringed from the likes of, "That can't be good", "Now this I can do", and "Enjoy the swim!" Bridges plays up elder Flynn and the voice work for young Kevin/Clu with equal excellent measure. "You're really messing up my Zen, man!" gives off that hint of the Flynn back in '82, and is guaranteed to get a laugh from the audience each time. Sheen's David Bowie-esque Castor tears up the screen with his two-faced flamboyancy, and Wilde's beautiful and inquisitive Quorra is sure to win the hearts of many a male viewer with her multifaceted role as mediator, warrior, and savior. Boxleiter's role is brief but memorable, his Alan Bradley playing father figure to Hedlund's Sam. Also, I was pleasantly surprised by the cameo appearance of.... Cillian Murphy as Dillinger's kid -- yet another role this year where he plays the son of a major business corporation. :)
When it comes to action, Legacy revisits most of the fan favorites, and the modern special effects gives them the opportunity to go to town here. The disc wars are swifter and more dangerous looking; I love how there are fights outside of the Games now, and they're not just relegated to one-on-one match ups. (The "End of Line" bar sequence is particularly noteworthy.) The light cycles are especially thrilling, and the new sleeker effects allow the brutality of the physics to come alive. At the same time, maybe it's because we've become so numb to today's technology that the 'wow' factor on some of the overall aesthetics simply fails to impress. Expansive CG-rendered fantasy backdrops are a dime a dozen these days, and those big illuminating skyscraper-filled vistas don't hold a candle to the fantastic backlit animated infrastructures from the original movie. That aforementioned digitizing laser sequence from the original manages to stick in my mind more than the entirety of the light jet dogfight sequence. As for the facial rendering of young Bridges, it didn't really bother me. At least it wasn't as stand-out awful as when they integrated Patrick Stewart into Wolverine last year.
I think if there was one area where everyone knew the movie would deliver, it's the sound design. I took in an IMAX viewing, and it was worth the extra surcharge to experience the all-encompassing soundscape. The jet engine roar of the Recognizers, the aggressive hums of light cycles and Flynn's Ducati alike, the clapping of thunder in the far-off distance, the stadium-filled cheers during the Games, the shattering of derezzed programs - and, my personal favorite, the throaty, animal-like growls that emanate from Rinzler.
Musically, I've said most of what I wanted to say in the music thread, but I believe I may in the minority who feels that the Daft Punk score was somewhat underplayed in the film itself. Perhaps I've gotten so used to the full cues as presented on the albums that they feel more chopped up than they really are on film. Or maybe the sound effects are so impressively aggressive that they overshadowed the musical portions in my mind. Or maybe outside of a select few tracks, the score just wasn't as contextually effective as I was hoping it would be. The main theme really works as a thematic foundation for the father/son relationship, "The Outlands" made for a great escape number, and the world dominating Nazi-like speech given by Clu during the menacing "Rectifier" was particularly memorable. Everything else kind of got lost in the mix. I agree with Jay, though: the inclusion of those '80s classics were awesome. I've already got "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", and I just went ahead and bought up "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" to integrate into my Legacy playlist.
So, we come back to the question from the beginning: have I become a fan? Regrettably, I'm going to have to say no. I don't believe these to be revelatory films, and if given the choice, I can't imagine I'll ever revisit them again. I do respect the films for what they are, though: the first a technological breakthrough in the field of cinematic special effects, and the second a hyper-realized and moderately entertaining reimagining of its predecessor. In the end, I'm glad I watched them.