If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Tron: Legacy seems to be one of the more polarizing movies of the holiday season; reactions seem to vary between absolute love and "Meh".
(That's sarcasm, bee-tee-dubs)
Our own Korey, Co-Host, Cyrus and Leon all gave it a grudging rental. I'll be the first to tell you it's not the movie I was expecting, but I believe that was the problem with the movie with most audiences.
Part of the problem is that this was a case of marketing lying to the audience once again. Tron: Legacy was sold on the strength of it's action scenes and (admittedly incredible) CG; we're told it's going to be balls to the wall Recognizers, light-cycle battles, ultimate frisbee wars and Olivia Munn's fine, fine ass in tight lycra. What we get is more subtle and much more of an adventure story rather than an action flick.
Now, I'll be the first to tell you the dialogue isn't going to win any awards; it's bog-standard. At it's height it's inoffensive and mostly moves the plot along. At the worst it's leaden. Admittedly, there wasn't any sterling bon-mots from Tron, but then again, we're not watching this for it's scintilating repartee.
The plot, however, is what gets the greatest beating from critics and audiences alike; I've found it far more satisfying than a lot of people did, it seems.
The basic story, stripped down to it's essence, is pursuit. Sam gets dropped into the grid and his every motivation afterwards to just survive. He moves from point a to b to c in order to escape in one piece. The details: the ISOs, CLU's dictatorship, Flynn's relationship to his creation are secondary to the prime plot of "Sam Wants To Get The Hell Out of the Grid". Defeating CLU is almost an afterthought; fortunately for everybody involved, getting Sam out alive happened to thwart CLU's plan and inadvertantly ends his oppression.
However, the secondary details are overlaid with the plot, bringing the dichotomy of the relationship between Flynn's children to their missing father.
Now, while I really wish writers would quit using movies to resolve their issues with absentee dads, the movie's heart is in the creator's realization of his own flaws, as well as his relationship and responsibilities to his creation, both literal (CLU, the Grid) and metaphorical (Sam, Quorra, the ISOs). Flynn's journey is the progress from a Judeo-Christian god-like figure to discovering the Tao. The world of Tron postulates that the flaws in the world are due to the flaws in the creator, a rather radical thought to find in a mainstream action movie. Because Flynn didn't have the experience or the wisdom to recongize the flaws both in himself and in the concept of Uptopia, his creation is similarly flawed. CLU is in many ways a tragic figure; his tyrannical rule over the Grid is not his fault. He's literally just trying to do what he was created to, and the sense of betrayal he feels when his father rejects him is palpable. All he wants, ultimately, is his father's approval, but he will never receive it because he's restricted by his very nature. His demanding to know "Why him?", demanding to know why Flynn is trying so hard to help Sam is a final howl for acceptance. Flynn's response "Because he's my son," clearly breaks CLU's heart.
Flynn isn't absolved of his part in this; his initial response to the horror that he's inadvertently created is to run away from it. During his exile and incarceration you can see the evidence of the journey Flynn has taken from his materialistic, self-involved life to finding the concept of Wu Wei, action without action. Even then, Flynn hasn't completely accepted the responsibility for this; the only way to truly fix things is to reintegrate Clu within himself, and he isn't ready for the price that this would demand. It's only when the child of his body (Sam) and the child of his soul (Quorra) are together that he can truly take the action needed in the end.
The plot isn't seamless, and there are a number of niggling details that would have been nice to have been worked out.Flynn's nature as a User has been established since the original Tron to give him powers over the Grid, for example; it would have been nice to have a more concrete definition as to their extent and limitations instead of leaving people wondering why he couldn't just erase CLU's troops. Fair enough.
But many of the other complaints about the story presented to us seem to be based on the fact that the story we got wasn't necessarily the story we wanted. Cillian Murphy's cameo is often brought up by Cyrus and the Co-Host as a potential plotline that went nowhere. It seems to me that his character's inclusion is more of a call back to the first Tron, rather than a dropped plot point. It's an echo of how Dillinger Sr. stole Encom out from under Flynn, much as he seems to be doing now - recall that the Flynn OS is now being referred to as the Encom OS. The fact that Murphy's cameo is uncredited adds credence to this; he was a multi-leveled Easter Egg, one that the producers can go back to for the sequel (assuming Tron: Legacy outperforms it's DOA predecessor), but not something that is ultimately part of the plot.
The real star of the movie, for my money, is Jeff Bridges. He manages to play to completely disparate characters without any real effort in shifting gears. Once you've seen the two of them, there's no way to accidentally mistake CLU for Kevin Flynn; their body language alone is profoundly different, CLU's insecurities causing him to be as tightly wound up as a spring while Flynn almost floats along, carried by the river that is the Tao.
(and to address one niggling point about Bridges turning Flynn into the Dude: that's just staying true to the original character. Kevin Flynn was ALWAYS part techno-shaman-hippy, even from the beginning of the original Tron. Locking him away from true human companionship for more than 20 years as he tried to understand the Tao lead to the more Obi-Wan Kenobi-like parts of his personality; after all, the Force was based very strongly on Taoism. It's when Flynn is reunited with his son, the first human he's had contact with in all that time that the original, playful and boyish Flynn comes back.)
Now in fairness, this wasn't a perfect movie and I'm certainly not saying it was film of the year. While I didn't find the pacing to be as glacial as Leon and the others thought, it could definitely have stood to be trimmed down into a leaner version of itself. There were also moments that I wish had been expanded on. I for one would have liked to have seen more about the ISOs; the sudden genesis of a new intelligence would be a huge deal, especially considering they rose up in the sealed environment of Flynn's Grid, rather than the network that Tron liberated from the MCP. It would also have been nice to know what made them special (besides their tri-helix DNA/source code), but this seems to be a matter handled by Tron:Revolution, the video-game tie-in. Similarly, Tron's rectification into Rinzler was handled outside of the movie itself. It's a trend I'm not terribly fond of, but in this case, it doesn't adversely affect people's enjoyment or understanding of the movie proper.
Clearly what I'm saying here is that Korey, Co-Host, Leon and Cyrus all are WRONG WRONG WRONG about Tron: Legacy and we must never trust them again.
Ok, fine, I'm kidding.
However, I do feel that the film is far better than they've given it credit for, and less flawed than most people seem to think.