Tron: The gorgeous girl with no personality

All the zazz, none of the style

Tron. I’ve been seeing a lot about it recently, and it’s been talked about with geeky, giddy excitement for months now. Being a complete and utter nerd, I knew I had to go see this flick … especially because I actually kinda enjoyed the first one.

I rolled into the first showing, kinda surprised that more people weren’t there. In fact, most of the back row was taken, leaving me the entire middle of the theater. That was kind of odd, but hey, whatever. I was about to see Tron! Lots of colors! A digitized Jeff Bridges face! Bad haircuts! Disc fights! Let the fun begin!

And fun is what it is … initially. First we get the introductions out of the way. We meet young, digitized Jeff Bridges and his son Sam, and the Disney filming crew does everything possible to ensure we know that it’s 1982. There’s an Apple IIc in the background. There’s a movie poster for “The Black Hole.” OK, we got it. We’re in the past and there’s still shameless self-promotion. Let’s get to the good stuff!

Then we flash to modern times: Sam is a rebellious young man. Bruce Boxleitner (the original “Tron” program character) is on the board of some evil Microsoft-esque company that Sam is actually the owner of, but wants no part of. Sam just wants to know what happened to his dad, because his dad disappeared 20 years ago (kind of like Racer X in the Speed Racer cartoons, except there was no racing or spywork involved).

Eventually, Sam finds his dad’s workshop in the middle of an old, unused arcade. And honestly, if that place existed, I’d go. Lots of games, gizmos and gadgets from when I was a kid. I was literally sitting there with a big grin on my face, remember those electronic football games and early computers. Sam starts fiddling around with his dad’s computer, and ends up zapping himself into the electronic world.

Now, this is the stuff we want to see. Big, lumbering flying ships. Bright neon colors in a dark, dreary world. Sam is picked up as a rogue program by the authorities and thrown into the games.

The games are like a gladiator affair, with rogue programs being made to fight for everyone’s amusement. Sam stands out in the disc fights, and they discover that he is actually a “user.” That discovery results in Sam meeting what he thinks is his dad … but no! Digitized Jeff Bridges face is actually a program made in Bridges’ likeness named CLU. And CLU is driven to make a perfect system/world, regardless of the tactics involved in doing so. He decides he wants to kill Sam personally in the games, so they move from the disc fights to the motorcycle races.

Let me tell you, the effects are obnoxiously good here. After some drag brought in from the conversation between Sam and CLU, I immediately perked up and was totally pulled back in. I found myself thinking, “If the rest of the movie is this good … holy balls!”

As you would image, Sam manages to escape with the help of another program named Quorra. She’s brings him to meet Sam’s father … non-digitized Jeff Bridges … and there’s a lot of hugging and talking and boredom. We find out that there’s about an 8 hour window for them to escape before they are trapped in the machine like OG Flynn. Sam wants to escape with his father, but Dad is reluctant to act. The scenes seem to drag on forever, and I really wanted something cool and fun to happen. But instead, they laboriously plod through the story, totally ignoring that whole “show-don’t-tell” axiom that writers normally have banged into their skulls.

And that’s how the rest of the movie goes. It plods along, and then there’s an ultracool fight scene. Then there’s more blah blah blah, followed by an epically cool fight scene. Rinse and repeat, and welcome to Tron.

That’s why I’m saying Tron is that gorgeous girl with no personality — you have no problem looking at her, but talking to her? Boring. But then she takes her top off and you’re suddenly interested again. And trust me on the “no personality” part … if you don’t get flashes to any number of “Star Wars” movies while watching this, then you obviously haven’t seen any Star Wars movies. We’re talking hooded hermit, Death Star bridges, and lightsaber-ish type weapons. Lucas could probably take them to court over this stuff.

Or, let me put this another way: If you take out the special effects, this newer Tron would be a warm and fuzzy after-school special about a boy looking for his dad, being mad at him and then growing to understand his dad. That’s all well and good, but wow, total yawnsville. The cumbersome writing and plodding pacing just left me looking for the remote control so I could get to the good stuff.

Will this be a hit? Sure it will. “Avatar” was a total snoozer in my book, but that didn’t stop it from raking in a kagillion dollars. Again, the effects are staggeringly good at times, and I found myself totally enthralled with them … and truth be told, I almost wish I would have seen it in the IMAX theater. It’s definitely a big screen flick.

So is it worth the cash? If you’re an effects geek, you will LOVE this movie. Go see it, and see it now on the biggest, IMAXiest screen you can find. You won’t be disappointed.

But if you demand a little more meat to your movie and aren’t won over by pretty colors or a Jar Jar-esque young Jeff Bridges face, I don’t think I can recommend it. However, if you find you MUST watch this movie, I think you have to splurge and see it on the big screen. I just don’t think a home theater system would do it justice.

2.5 out of 5


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