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'Tron' serviceable in its spectacle

by Tyler Wilson
| December 24, 2010 8:00 PM

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In this film publicity image released by Disney Enterprises, Inc. a computerized avatar of actor Jeff Bridges,left, and Garrett Hedlund are shown in a scene from "Tron: Legacy."

Following in the footsteps of last year's holiday feast, "Avatar," Disney's reboot of "Tron" tries for the same overstuffed helping of bright, shiny eye-candy. One thing is certain: The neon-infused action sequences must be seen on the big screen.

Also like "Avatar," the storytelling is decidedly less successful.

"Tron Legacy" provides enough recap of the original film to bring newbies into the world. Years ago, computer programmer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) created a virtual world that a person could physically enter and compete against the master program in gladiator style games.

In a flashback, we meet Kevin, aka a poorly rendered CGI-version of 80s-era Jeff Bridges, explaining the interactive video game to his young son, Sam. Later that night, Kevin disappears forever, and his son is left to be the major shareholder of a budding empire.

In present day, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is an extreme-sport hacker who enjoys pranking his own company. A mysterious message draws him to his dad's old arcade, and before long, WOOSH! Sam has entered TRON, a video game world with more glow-in-the-dark decor than a European nightclub.

It isn't long before Sam meets Clu, the game's master program made to resemble Daddy. Young CGI Bridges still looks creepy, but at least we're meant to feel icky about him this time.

In the film's most spectacular action sequences, Sam engages in a couple of high-charged gladiator events, including a Light Cycle battle that, pound-for-pound, tops any visual spectacle in "Avatar."

Sam survives to meet a pretty, anti-establishment program (an alluring Olivia Wilde) and eventually his imprisoned father (Bridges, thankfully sans CGI). Much is spoken about computer code that can change the world. Don't think about it too hard. Another cool chase sequence is just around the corner.

Powered by a pulsing electronic score by Daft Punk, "Tron Legacy" works whenever the Light Cycles and attack discs are flying high. The plot? Forgettable. Character development? Hardly any.

Even Bridges, tasked with the challenge of playing three different versions of a character, isn't given much opportunity to give any of them a distinct personality. That said, Bridges is the kind of actor who elevates even the sloppiest of shallow, expository plotting.

For a movie called "Tron Legacy," a pivotal character (just so named Tron) proves to be the film's biggest missed opportunity. His story never comes together, nor does Clu's reasoning for all his nefarious scheming.

For those looking for big-screen fireworks, "Tron Legacy" delivers the goods. The difference between it and something like "Inception," however, lies in a lack of storytelling focus from director Joseph Kosinski and his team of writers. Where the singular vision of Christopher Nolan gave "Inception" a thrilling emotional depth, "Tron" struggles to find a pulse outside its virtual backdrop.

At least "Tron" bests its most obvious cultural influence- an overcrowded disco on Ultimate Frisbee night.

Grade: B

Ticket Stubs is sponsored by the Hayden Cinema 6 Theater. Tyler Wilson can be reached at twilson@cdapress.com. Read more film reviews and pop culture commentary at www.NormdogEntertainment.com.

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