When Tron: Legacy, the very belated sequel to the groundbreaking 1982 sci-fi thriller, explodes from 2D into 3D after 20 or so minutes have elapsed, the eyeball-scorching FX show just how far computer-generated imagery has progressed in the intervening decades.
Sadly, though, the new film convincingly proves that the past 28 years haven’t seen a corresponding advance in storytelling skills – at least not as practised by first-time director Joseph Kosinski and screenwriters Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz.
The 1982 original saw a young Jeff Bridges playing a video-game designer who gets sucked into his computer and left to battle for his life in a series of gladiatorial bouts within the machine’s circuits. A box-office flop but a cult favourite, Tron owes its renown to its status as the first feature film to employ CGI effects.
The new film’s CGI are as cutting-edge as you could wish for, not least in the way they enable Jeff Bridges to play three different versions of his original character, Keith Flynn – young, old and his ageless cyber nemesis.
Tron: Legacy opens with a prologue set in 1989 in which computer games tycoon Flynn says goodbye to his young son, Sam, gets on his motorbike and whizzes off, not to be seen again. Twenty years later, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is a cocky 27-year old trust-fund rebel whose only occupation seems to be playing daredevil pranks on his father’s corporate successors.
Then he picks up a signal from an old video game arcade that could only have come from his father. Investigating, he too gets sucked into the digital world in which the now grizzled Flynn has been trapped for the past decades, a cyber tyranny ruled over by the digital alter ego of Flynn’s 1989 self, the evil Clu, who presides, Caesar-like, over the new film’s gladiatorial games to the death.
Can father and son, together with Flynn’s lissome cyber sidekick, Quorra (Olivia Wilde), defeat Clu and return to the real world?
As the trio set about their quest, Kosinski and backers Disney throw money at the screen as if there were no tomorrow (the budget’s rumoured at $200million). The effects, set to a throbbing score by French electronic duo Daft Punk, are certainly state-of-the-art, but the story is so repetitive and dull that watching them becomes more and more wearying. Even the startling appearance mid-way through of a camp, cane-wielding, white-haired-and-suited Michael Sheen, looking like a mid-1970s Aladdin Sane-era David Bowie, fails to make it worth your while to hang out for long in this digital world.
On general release.