The first thing to know about Tron Legacy is that it will inevitably be compared to The Matrix. That is what kind of success this film is.
There's three kinds of FX to look for in any good action / sci-fi flick. There's the kind that's fast and furious that makes you say, holy cripe did you see that? The best thing to do with these is show 'em and then slow them down and show them again. This works with explosions and radical extreme martial arts tricks and car wrecks. Tron has got 'em. Then there's the kind that are awe inspiring beautiful jaw drop scenes that make you say whoa that's awesome. The best thing to do with these are give them some violins in crescendo and then bring on the full orchestra. This works with things like the outside of a space ship or a mind-bending cityscape, or the inside of a chamber of horrors. The third kind are the details of something in a short scene where you just want to freeze frame and check out the still to appreciate the art direction.
Tron Legacy has got all of that, in spades.
I want to say that Tron Legacy is, visually, the coolest movie since The Matrix. OK well maybe Avatar, but Avatar was not nearly as cool, Avatar was beautiful. Tron is beautiful like a matte black Brabus Mercedes. It is really that cool. It pays homage to the original Tron. It pays homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey and it goes places the like of which I've never seen, except perhaps in Mass Effect 2. So basically what I think is that this film is going to win a bunch of awards, best art direction and best costumes.
If you are a Tron guy, you're going to dig this flick and you won't be disappointed. If you've never seen the original Tron it will matter only a little bit. The movie stands on its own and doesn't get too monology and bogged down with all sorts of explanations. From a computer science perspective it tips its hat appropriately to the geeky, less credibly geeky than Die Hard 4, but more credibly geeky than The Matrix series.
What the movie is, is cool fun. It's very righteously PG13 and doesn't stretch things at all trying to fit into those size shoes. It has got just the right amount of Father & Son stuff. Not to the creepy extremes of that Lost in Space remake, but enough to be both emotional and not too heavy. In fact, the whole movie has some lightness to it that's a bit surprising. It just does not take itself too very seriously and strikes a fine balance between being it never goes into that edgy sexy gritty stuff. You even understand the bad guy is not trying to be a bad guy. They have kept Tron simple without being simplistic and maintained the essential fun value - wouldn't it be cool to be trapped in a computer world? Yes and no, and they have that just right.
You see there are some visuals in this film that are truly stunning, and not just on the 'hey look isn't that cool' level although there's plenty of that. There are actually moments when you look and see pieces of an art film right in the middle of this father and son tale, and it evokes Kubrick and well, OK let's be frank it rips straight outta Kubrick's 2001 in Frank's White Room, but this one lets us live in it for a while. Very cool. It's full of glamor shots and is not afraid to let the camera linger, but is still tightly edited at certain moments just when a scene is about to zoom back and let your eyes feast for a moment. I get the feeling that when this comes out in DVD, there will be lots of bonus material. I'm hungry to see it all again and again.
The music is bomb. Just explosive, slamming action movie boom boom boom that you haven't heard since Blade.
The costumes are perfect, and wouldn't you know somebody already has motorcycle leathers hooked up in Tron style. The babes in this movie look like babes, double babelicious, like a cross between a younger, hotter Trinity and the Robert Palmer girls. The baddies are menacing in both appearance, movement and sound, and it's cowboy simple. The good guys wear black and white, the bad guys wear black and orange. I've read that they spent much dinero on the costumes and it has worked out to perfection. Flynn, the father, has a look that's a makes him look like a futuristic Zen Moses.
What's wrong with it? Well the denouement is pretty lame. The movie climaxes ten minutes before the end and everything settles to a happily ever after. Loose ends remain but not in a teasing fashion. If I know anything about movies of this sort, this will be a smash hit and there will be a sequel, but they didn't do anything but clunk-up the ending, short and sweet, so that you're not guessing if there's going to be one. Also, this is not a dark and sinister movie. For anyone who is expecting Tron's Grid World to manifest itself with the noir foreboding of 'Dark City' or the haunting psychological subtext of 'Inception', there are two words you should keep in mind before you go to the theater: "Disney Movie". (Recalling that at the beginning of this review I said 'Holy Cripe').
This is a movie for boys and dads. It's not so much of a movie for girls and families in the way that Spiderman was. It won't be a hit on that level. But cool girls will love this movie because there's a very cool girl in it. Yes, a girl who can fight and drive a fast car and fly a jet and wear the bomb leather suit and boots. Yes a girl with warmth and a heart who doesn't pretend to be a heartless harpy or just fight other girls. A real heroine along the lines of Lelu in The Fifth Element, but cool.
The best thing about Tron Legacy is that there is an absolute minimum of corn and no cheese at all. It's a difficult thing to do given the sophisticated tastes of action and sci-fi movie audiences. It's way better than GI Joe, which wasn't too bad after you accepted the cheese level. It's way better than Fantastic Four which got really annoying. Now I happen to like The Island even though it has a lot of guy-running-away-from-bad-guys-with-girl-in-tow stuff going on. Tron is a bit more visually stunning but more consistent. So you can indeed enjoy this action-packed adventure without a letdown, now that you know what I've told you.
The star of the show is Tron's Grid World itself which works very well in 3D. So while I'm generally a 3D skeptic, I say go for it. There is never a moment when you don't know that you are in the Grid World. It is deliciously glassy and synthetic. Even the obsidian rocks have a sort of shine. It is predominantly dark, but not noir, high contrast but not disturbingly so, which is why the club music themes work so very well.
This is a definite must-see film that should live up to its massive hype. I recommend it highly. I saw an early release and I'm going to go see it again, at least once.