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Almost 30 years ago, the original âTronâ forged imaginatively into the then-new cyber frontier. What would happen, it wondered, if you could actually get inside a computer game? What marvelsâand possibilitiesâwould such a place hold?
And what dangers?
Jeff Bridges, who played genius programmer Kevin Flynn in the 1982 cult classic, returns in the new âTron: Legacy,â which further explores the idea that an amazing parallel cosmos of artificial intelligence exists somewhere âin there.â
As the new movie starts, we learn that Flynn has been missing forâŠwell, since the last movie. His now-adult son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund, from TVâs âFriday Night Lightsâ) accidentally gets sucked into the same mysterious digital netherworld created by his dad---where he discovers the senior Flynn has become a prisoner.
The world of âTronâ is a fierce future-rama populated by âprograms,â spawned cyber-beings that look like people but are made of digitized data bits instead of flesh and blood.
When Sam uncovers the plans of their evil leader, Clu, he realizes that the ârealâ world has more to fear than anyone, even his father, ever imagined.
Bruce Boxleitner reprises his role as Kevinâs business partner from the earlier âTron,â and Olivia Wilde from TVâs âHouseâ is a smart, sexy program longing to experience human life. Michael Sheen, who played David Frost in âFrost/Nixon,â practically steals the show in his one scene as the androgynous double-identity proprietor of a hip nightspot where all the programs go to get down.
The movie provides a seamless, sleek integration of live action and computer effects, especially in using Bridgesâ features on a younger flashback version of his character, as well as on his computer alter-ego, Clu.
But âTronâ is heavy with its own smug sense of sci-fi uber-cool. Its yawning cyberscape of bottomless black holes, dimensionless gray horizons and glowing neon blues makes you feel like youâve been sucked inside a big bug zapper. And its âlegacyâ---unlike that of most other franchise movies, which are released in a time span of years apart, not decades---is a muddle of incidents pegged to an era before computers, and computer gadgets, were commonplace in every home.
Movies can be portals to places of wild imaginative wonder. But Tronâs through-the-looking-glass world is particularly difficult to embrace.
Itâs hard to get any emotional traction on a story about a bunch of blips and bytes, no matter how good or evil they happen to be, played out on what looks like the inside of an â80s computer game.
Disney obviously spent a lot of money reviving âTron,â rolling the dice that the new movie would serve a wide audience eager to revisit the code-crunching characters, geeky âdata gridâ setting and futuristic, hacker-adventure premise of the original.
But itâs hard to imagine many folks of any age, especially kids, will find a holiday-season return to Tron-town very enjoyable.