'Tron: Legacy' Struggles to Justify Its Own Existence

Critics and bloggers spectacularly unimpressed

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This Friday sees the release of Tron: Legacy, a sequel to the 1982 sci-fi cult classic Tron. With Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their roles from the original movie, and Lost scribes Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis handling the screenplay, it seems as though the movie would have a decent chance of being, well, decent. (Director Joseph Kosinski is a relative unknown; this is his first feature film, but he did handle the acclaimed Gears of War commercial from a few years back.) However, critics seem to agree, by and large, that Tron: Legacy didn't particularly need to be made. Here's a roundup of some of the opprobrium:

  • Video Games Are Serious Business  Scott Tobias at The A.V. Club rolls his eyes, calling the film "as dry and talky as a PBS panel show." Rather than capturing the campy, nerdy fun of the original Tron, says Tobias, Kosinski's movie "pretends to greatness in ways that snuff out any flickers of joy."
  • Make It Stop, agrees Dana Stevens at Slate. Stevens dismisses the original Tron as "a 28-year-old matinee flick that was forgotten for a reason" and calls the sequel "an arrogant overestimation of the original's value." While Stevens is one of the only critics to praise the digital effects that make Bridges look like his younger self--even when Bridges "was interacting with flesh-and-blood characters," she writes, "his face looked surprisingly realistic and expressive"--she admits that "Tron: Legacy is the kind of sensory-onslaught blockbuster that tends to put me to sleep, the way babies will nap to block out overwhelming stimuli."
  • The Bad Kind of Boredom  At Salon, Andrew O'Hehir's review dovetails with Stevens's on this point. The movie, says O'Hehir, provides an example of "the boredom of endless distraction and wall-to-wall entertainment, the boredom of a culture where boredom is forbidden. That's the culture we live in, where the once-proscribed Pleasure Principle has become iron law and where the recycled, bloated, fish-belly emptiness of something like 'TRON: Legacy' carries boredom to extravagant new heights."
  • Almost the Exact Opposite of Social Commentary  "Maybe if somebody had actually thought about how to make a movie that's a metaphor for our relationship with technology, or with games today, you'd have gotten an interesting film," sighs Charlie Jane Anders at io9. "What would a movie about someone going inside a computer, physically, look like today? In a world with Twitter and Facebook and e-banking and OKCupid? We've already put a lot of ourselves into the computer." Instead of exploring these ideas, though, "Tron Legacy just bombards you with crap."
  • This Is What's Wrong With America  At The Awl, Josh Kurp launches into an extended indictment of millennial "false nostalgia"--the kind of superficial, reference-for-reference's-sake pop-culture literacy that VH1 has engendered with programs like "I Love the 80s." Under this kind of attitude, says Kurp, pop culture slowly turned into a landscape where "everything became a giant in-joke that everyone was supposed to get." And that's why we have a sequel to Tron, "a mediocre film with outdated technology" that has only retained a toehold in the public consciousness because of VH1's ironic embrace of all things campy.
  • At Least It Looks Nice  "As long as it's engaged in light-hurling bouts of force, or motorcycle chases through a landscape so ominously enveloping it looks like Blade Runner after gentrification, TRON: Legacy is a catchy popcorn pleasure," writes Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly. "The FX in TRON: Legacy have an almost Einsteinian elegance: They infuse light with gravity." But, Gleiberman adds, the movie lacks any forward narrative momentum: "There's a lot of dramatic stasis undergirding the visual wow."
  • Don't Even Try to Follow the Plot, advises Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times. "This is a movie well beyond the possibility of logical explanation," writes Ebert. He praises the acting (Garrett Hedlund is "well-suited to his role"; Bridges is "steadily, consistently good"), the effects, and the soundtrack, by French pop-house duo Daft Punk, but adds that the plot is "a catastrophe, short-changing the characters and befuddling the audience." Ebert signs off with one final observation: "When '2001' was in theaters, there were fans who got stoned and sneaked in during the intermission for the sound-and-light trip. I hesitate to suggest that for 'Tron: Legacy,' but the plot won't suffer."
  • The Internet is Divided  At CrunchGear, Nicholas Deleon gathers up reviews from Twitter and young-turk sites like Slashfilm and Screen Junkies. The verdict? "Mixed reviews," notes Deleon. "Some people are geeking out over it, which is their right, particularly if they saw and enjoyed the first film, while others wince at the idea of being told by the film's producers not to 'analyze' it. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence. But, if you like shiny colors!"

Note: the original version of this post had included a link to an incorrect version of Kosinski's Gears of War commercial. Thanks to reader Luc Doucet for pointing out the error.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.