Andy Bockelman: ‘Tron’ is dynamite digital adventure |

Andy Bockelman: ‘Tron’ is dynamite digital adventure

Video games and computer systems today tend to make the electronics of yesteryear look more like an abacus or a hammer and chisel than cutting edge technology.

But, more than likely, 30 years from now, top-of-the-line materials like "Call of Duty" and Blu-ray disc players will end up left in the dust.

However, if we continue the way we're going, humanity will still look about the same on the surface. At least, if you care to view "Tron: Legacy" as a techno prophecy.

In 1989, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) was on the verge of breaking the barriers of what was possible in maintaining and sharing information. But, then he disappeared, abdicating his position as CEO of software company ENCOM and leaving his young son, Sam (Owen Best), without a father.

At 27, an older, hardened Sam (Garrett Hedlund) has done everything he can to sabotage ENCOM, which has turned into nothing more than a soulless corporation uninterested in bettering the world.

When Flynn's old friend Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) alerts Sam that he has recently received a message from his father, the young hacker doesn't buy it, but he heads to his dad's long abandoned arcade to check it out anyway.

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Before Sam knows what has happened, he finds himself transported into a computer world known as "The Grid," Flynn's long-term project before he went missing. Encountering the ruler of this digital world, Clu (Bridges), Sam learns that his father has been stuck inside his own creation for two decades.

And, Flynn's doppelganger has plans for getting into the flesh and blood world.

Bridges is perfectly user-friendly returning to the two roles he took on in the original 1982 movie, though one is more familiar than the other. With computer-generated effects giving the 60-year-old a digital facelift, he maintains the look of his younger self as the ageless Clu — codified likeness utility — a program who has taken control from his creator in order to create "the perfect world," even going so far as to corrupt and repurpose the world's protector, Tron (Boxleitner).

But, the real Flynn still remains, although living off the grid — hardee-har-har — having long since given up getting out of his self-made prison, observing the folly of his work from a tower, seated on a pillow in a Buddha-like meditative state.

But, he can still snap out of his lethargy long enough to save his creation. And to make the claim that he invented WiFi long before it came to fruition in our world.

Hedlund doesn't have the same kind of likability as Sam, though he does alright, particularly when he's squaring off against menacing programs in the games popularized by the original "Tron," whether competing in the disc wars or hopping atop a light cycle for a demolition derby.

Olivia Wilde does well as Quorra, Flynn's protégé within The Grid, who has soaked up everything he has told her like a sponge. But, not everyone is so enthusiastic about learning about the world of users, as evidenced by Michael Sheen as Castor, the owner of a night club in The Grid, whose appearance is a combination of David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust days and Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp.

What could have been a pathetic remake of a modern science fiction classic instead functions as more of an upgrade to an already worthwhile product. Rather than trying to top Steven Lisberger's original, debuting director Joseph Kosinski adds new dimensions to "Tron" while still keeping the basic blueprints the same.

And, with almost 30 years of computer progress in both the moviemaking community and the rest of the world, the story of technology run amok is all the more relevant. When there's no limit to the possibilities of what can be accomplished, things can turn ugly, best exemplified by Clu's assemblage of his own personal army, which he addresses with all the despotic, raw energy of Adolf Hitler and the pompous grandiosity of Steve Jobs discussing the properties of the iPad.

There's nothing all that new about a story like this, but that's why we slap a new label on it and make it look shinier, isn't it?

"Tron: Legacy" doesn't seem quite as groundbreaking as its predecessor, but that isn't to say it isn't impressive as both a parable about the dangers of trusting too much in technology and a dazzling visual display that's frankly pretty awesome no matter who you are.

And, yes, this is one that you must see in 3-D to believe.

Movie at a glance

“Tron: Legacy”

3 out of 4 stars

127 minutes

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde and Bruce Boxleitner.