Reel Science Reviews Tron: Legacy

This review is by guest contributor Jovana J. Grbić, Ph.D., the creative director of, which covers science in entertainment and media, and who tweets as @ScriptPhD. poster It has been 28 years since the release of the groundbreaking science-fiction adventure "Tron," the story of Kevin Flynn (Bridges), a video-game programmer who gets sucked into the virtual grid of the very game he created, only to disappear forever. Flash-forward to a 27-year-old Sam Flynn (Hedlund): reckless, bored, apathetic, but a regular chip off the old techie block—a geeky rebel without a cause. Encom, the developer of the Tron video game, has now become a software hegemony—think Atari meets Apple—and has strayed far from Kevin's principle that software should be open to all. After sabotaging the company's grand operating software launch, Sam is visited by his father's old partner, Alan Bradley (Boxleitner), who has never given up on Kevin. Alan tells Sam that he's received a mysterious page from Kevin and begs him to go to the old arcade that he frequented as a kid. There, Sam discovers his dad's secret underground office and the portal that transports him to the digital grid of Tron, far different now from the utopia his father envisioned. Sam is first grouped with other deficient "programs" for inspection, outfitted with a sleek gamer's costume and disc (half memory-storage device, half weapon), and thrust into a world of brutal gladiator games where the only goal is survival and the rules change with each treacherous level. His father's avatar, known as Clu, is no longer the brave warrior and digital replica of Kevin. He is a brutal overlord who committed virtual genocide, hacked the program, and has ultimate plans to teleport to Earth to be with humankind. Sam is rescued from the grid by Quorra (Wilde), an advanced program not initially designed to go off the grid, as well as a self-evolved isometric being or "iso," which is an entirely new life form—the last surviving one. When reunited with Sam, Kevin recounts getting trapped in the grid after a violent overthrow by Clu and his partner, Tron. In addition to bringing about genocide against the isos, closing the portal to the outside world, they stole Kevin's original disc for their nefarious purposes. With the help of Quorra and Sam, Kevin has only eight hours to overthrow Clu's digital army before the portal closes again ... forever. "Tron: Legacy" largely has the feel of a two-hour interactive video game, aided both by the color-coded costumes and a catchy, techno-pop soundtrack by Daft Punk. Sci-fi fans, geeks, and gamers will be able to feast on astounding visual mastery, life-size video games played out before their eyes, and science-fiction/fantasy existentialism staple questions such as Who are we? What is humanity? What are the limits of technology and what we create?. With self-aware robots being developed, digital teleportation a looming advancement, and Internet growth set to double every five years, the concepts explored in the movie are a thoughtful commentary on our own age of digital reliance and scientific future. Without upstaging the original, "Tron: Legacy" manages a sleek, stylish, fun sequel utterly germane to the times we live in.

Author: Rachel Pepling

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  1. As a fan of the original Tron, I anticipated a great deal of improvement as far as the visual effects goes. I was not disappointed there. The updated Grid, gamer uniform, and vehicles were both true to the original film and marvelously modern. The programs that Sam Flynn encounters, both the pristine and the damaged, are sleek, appealing and engaging.

    The young looking Beau Bridges is believable enough visually, though computerized hair still lacks a certain mobility found with real hair. It was lovely seeing Bruce Boxleitner as Allen again, but it would have been nice to see his younger version in the Grid as well (Tron remains helmeted the entire movie).

    Overall the film was entertaining but predictable. Several mini-outcomes as well as the film’s climax can be seen coming miles away. There were a couple of unanticipated plot points but that might be my naiveté that comes with hoping for unpredictability. With any luck there are deleted scenes on the DVD that explore Tron’s character further as he is quite neglected but vital to the plot.

    There is at least one “rule” in the film that is seems like nonsense. It may or may not be a spoiler. Regarding CLU and Kevin Flynn’s separate existences: why does Quorra insist that Flynn would not survive the reintegration of himself and his avatar? It was not adequately explained. (Other than the obvious it would simply the movie so much there would no longer be a complicated dramatic plot.)

    I would have enjoyed seeing a lighter or even darker ending to the film; something other than the typical journey-of-a-hero finale filmgoers have come to expect. Granted it is Disney family fare and Disney films generally maintain the status-quo. The philosophical stance of the film being predominantly humanistic reminded myself and my fellow filmgoers of Star Trek and Kirk’s famous quote from the first film “We are the creator!”, though there are several moral lessons to be gleaned.

    I would recommend the film to both old fans and to those unfamiliar with the original Tron. Having seen it in 3D, I can say it was really not that impressive. The entire 3D craze appears over-hyped. A 2D showing would be easier on your pocketbook and just as satisfying.