The long-awaited sequel to Tron has finally been released to theaters.

I was shown the original Tron at a very young age by my Dad.  I was old enough to understand its importance in cinema history, while young enough to be caught in its grip of adventurous originality and excitement.  Rumors about a sequel had been swirling for years, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the public finally got a glimpse of what awaited them.  Rarely does a movie rely so heavily on its visuals as Tron did, and the sequel could potentially have been made or broken by how it looked and felt.  I’m happy to say that Disney has truly outdone themselves here, and created a world that feels like a logical evolution of Tron’s environments.

We’ll come back to the visuals in a moment, but for now let’s look at the story.  A few years after the original movie, Flynn mysteriously disappears forever, after having climbed to the top of the software world.  Fast forward to 20 years after the first Tron.  Flynn’s young son finds himself going to his Dad’s old arcade, and discovering his workstation.  He finds himself getting stuck on the grid after unknowingly activating the beam that deconstructs his physical self.  The bulk of the film is spent with him trying to make it back home while simultaneously trying to stop Clu, a clone that Flynn made of himself (played by a CGI version of a young Jeff Bridges that comes closer to the uncanny valley than anything before it.)  Overall, the plot is nothing special, but there’s some great character interaction and development here.

That head is 100% CGI. Hair, skin, everything.

From what I’ve seen and heard, it appears this interaction and development may be a little too much for many people.  I think movie goers wanted more action and less talking, as many people I’ve spoken to have agreed the film was too slow.  Well, if the filmmakers were trying to be like the original Tron, they were spot on: think back to it.  That’s right, the original Tron was slow as hell.  At least with Legacy, we are already familiar with Flynn, so the interactions between him and the rest of the people on the grid became quite interesting.  Even though I would have loved to have seen more action in this film, I think the emotional development of the characters and the exploration of their inner workings was time well spent.  The script is full of one-liners that sway between cheesy and well-done; despite any shortcomings in the words that are spoken, however, the actors all do a great job.  There are a couple of lines that are a bit stiff, but all things considered I think the casting choices were perfect.

The visuals.  Holy carp, the visuals.  Before we get into anything else, allow me to say this: I find it hilarious and yet completely awesome that what required the use of a computer back in the early 80′s (the lights outlining the outfits of the characters) is now entirely possible using a leather suit and $100 worth of EL strips.  Now, moving on.  The overall visual style in Tron Legacy is simultaneously retro, modern, and futuristic.  There has been some debate over whether the glassy, neon glow is an appropriate followup to the original’s visuals.  Well, for that, all you gotta do is look at what was popular back when the first Tron was released.  Things like wire-frames and solid colors were all the rage as far as computing is concerned, and nowadays, “glassy” and “glowing” interfaces are all the rage (as evidenced by Windows 7, Android, and iOS.)  From this perspective, I think the visuals have evolved exactly as they should have, given that the grid is supposed to be a digital representation of the “real” world.  There is an unbelievable amount of detail worked into every scene, despite the minimalistic aesthetics.  I can’t begin to imagine how many man-hours went into making something look so simple yet so detailed; the visual effects people that worked on this film should be EXTREMELY proud of themselves.  Not only does it all look great, but it somehow maintains an air of originality and creativity while simultaneously bringing up memories of the first film.

I would be remiss to not mention the music.  Daft Punk was a PERFECT choice for Tron Legacy’s soundtrack, and have presented something that comes across as a rave at the Kennedy Center.  Their synth work here is dirty, heavy, and very grounded in reality, while their orchestral work is beautifully haunting, suitably epic, and masterfully arranged.  Like most of Daft Punk’s music, it sounds simple enough at first glance, but the more you listen to it, the more complicated it reveals itself to be.  I know that heaping praise on Tron Legacy’s soundtrack is almost cliche at this point, but it’s a strong contender for best (and best fitting) film soundtrack of all time.

Not everything is wine and roses with Tron Legacy.  There’s more than a few unnecessary scenes that I think would have fit better in an “uncut” version on DVD/Blu-Ray, the fight scene in the club that plays out is pitifully executed (especially considering how polished and tight the rest of the action is), and there are some unnecessary details that seemed a bit out of place (such as wind, or fire coming out of the thrusters on the transports.  I thought this was supposed to be the digital realm?)  Still, overall, I think Disney did things right here.  They didn’t try to mess with the formula too much, and instead of reinventing the wheel, they just made it shinier and gave it better traction.

Top, Tron. Bottom, Tron Legacy. Gotta admit, even though the original came out in 1982, its visuals are still amazing even today.

Tron Legacy is definitely worth seeing in theaters, and is also worth the 3D price premium.  Those who have seen the original will love all the little references (“That’s a big door…”), and those who haven’t seen the original will really get into the idea of what’s happening (and, hopefully, get the bug to see the original!)  Make sure you go and see it ASAP…this one deserves every ounce of praise it has received.