I didn’t know this until after I met Jenny, but apparently boxing day movies are a tradition. In previous years you could pretty much rely on there being a blockbuster the day after Christmas, and for many years geeky fare has played a dominant role: The Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Narnia and Harry Potter. This year continues the tradition with the penultimate instalment of J.K. Rowling’s books and the third (fourth?) of C.S. Lewis’s.
Another sequel joins the ranks this year, although Tron: Legacy has been much longer in the making – it’s a sequel to a Disney cult classic from 1982. Don’t beat yourself up if your recollection’s somewhat vague – you’re not the only one, and it’s not old age. The neon may have burned itself into your subconscious but the plot wasn’t so bright. In a nutshell, former ENCOM employee, arcade owner and hacker Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is searching for evidence that his ex-employer stole games that he created, but gets digitised by the company’s Master Control Program and fights for both his life, and control of cyberspace.
The sequel hits the ground running. As the master of this digital domain, Flynn creates a digital clone of himself called Clu to assist with the task of perfecting this new world. In a move that should surprise nobody, the doppelganger turns evil and his pure motives are misinterpreted and twisted into a megalomaniacal scheme that threatens reality, trapping Flynn in cyberspace. The burden then falls upon the shoulders of Flynn’s son, Sam, to discover the truth about why his father went missing, and to thwart the digital dictator’s plans.
In other words, Disney chose not to stray far from the Hollywood blockbuster formula of applying an extremely large budget to a relatively average story in the hope that by creating an eye-popping experience people will forgive the story. And to be fair, they largely succeed.
The computer generated graphics and special effects are impressive, being strongly reminiscent of the old while giving it a thorough modern makeover. I don’t think anybody could fairly complain that the designers did not create a deferential homage to the original. The neon suits, grid, light cycles and disc wars are back with bells on, brought to you in brain melting 3D (although for the record, most of the early parts of the movie set outside cyberspace are actually in 2D).
What did surprise me was the ham-fisted attempt at Christian allegory. There’s a total facepalm moment where Clu has this whole monologue about how the Creator (Flynn) is trying to keep the Programs from the truth.
Let me put it like this: Tron: Legacy is not going to win Best Movie, Best Screenplay, Best Actor (male or female) or most other awards. However, it is definitely a contender for Best Visual Effects, so my recommendation: check your cynicism at the door, sit back, and watch the fireworks.