>10 PRINT "CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS"
>20 GOTO 10
Toy Story 3, My Bloody Valentine, Saw 7 - the case for 3D as a viable cinematic tool has yet to be made. Avatar has probably come the closest thus far but I'm starting to wonder if the naysayers might have a point, and even though I've been likening the use of 3D to 2.35 widescreen it's not looking as though the extra dimension is actually being used in a constructive, imaginative or even aesthetically pleasing fashion, unlike a widescreen ratio where you can have more flexibility with the picture composition. Maybe it'll take a genuinely visionary director to take the 3D toys and employ them in a more interesting way: the new Scorsese film is in 3D, and possibly the upcoming Dario Argento remake of Dracula (and if anyone can show what 3D is really capable of, it's filmmakers of that calibre).
Pretty clearly, however, that case-making film is not Tron: Legacy, and that genuinely visionary director is not Joseph Kosinski, whose IMDb entry thus far consists of two videos for a couple of Xbox games. How appropriate is that for helming a sequel to Tron? Some years after the original film, Flynn (Jeff Bridges) disappeared without trace, until one day his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) picks up a pager message from Flynn's hidden office at the back of his old video arcade, and suddenly gets zapped into the digital world lorded over by an evil program called Clu (Jeff Bridges again, de-aged by 20 years courtesy of motion capture, which frankly just looks weird) who wants to break out of the computer and impose his perfection onto the Real World. But also trapped in the digital world is Flynn himself, now a reclusive hippy with no interest in stopping his creation. Along with something called an Iso, Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Sam has to get back to the portal through which he was zapped in the first place in order to shut things down from outside....
In order to reach the portal before it shuts down forever, he has to contact a preening nightclub owner (in a digital world?) who's apparently only there so Michael Sheen can camp about the place in a funny wig. But this doesn't happen until about an hour after the frisbee battles and lightcycle chases, no longer taking place on a blank grey grid but in some kind of suspended perspex game zone, constructed on several levels. And this is where Tron: Legacy falls down. For all the advances in CGI technology in the last 28 years, there's none of the soul and none of the charm of the original's then-dazzling effects work and while Tron may have had little more visually sophisticated than blocky outlines, it had ideas. Tron: Legacy looks too slick and polished and it's still using the ideas from 1982.
Nor does it make any kind of sense, even if you are familiar with the first movie (I rewatched it on DVD the night before), and if you're not familiar with the first movie then it is just going to be incomprehensible gibberish. You can pretty well fathom the workings of the computer world in Tron but nothing makes any sense in Legacy. Why is there a nightclub there? What exactly is an Iso (there was some gabbled explanation from Bridges but it might as well have been in Cantonese) apart from an excuse for Olivia Wilde to run around in skintight black fetishwear? For all the fantastic design, none of it actually means anything, and the fact that it looks good doesn't help - it's very pretty but what the hell is it? In addition, Tron himself is barely in the film and when he does show up he's wearing a black helmet so we can't see it's actually Bruce Boxleitner (it could actually be anybody).
I honestly wanted to like it - rewatching the first film reminded me just how terrific it is. But this sequel is a disappointment: chunks of it are incomprehensible, and the 3D is an entirely unnecessary addition. And it has no heart: for all the emotional father-son bonding at the centre of the film I really found it hard to care one way or the other. Yes, the production design is excellent (Bridges' mountain retreat is the kind of place I would want to live in), and Daft Punk is an interesting choice for a soundtrack that combines electro-techno thumping with a symphony orchestra (odd, given that half of Dalf Punk is Thomas Bangalter who scores the films of Gaspar Noe). But it is ultimately only a partial success, and successful in the things that don't matter that much.
You can savour its moderate pleasures soon: