TRON: Legacy

You know, 1982 was a good year for science fiction films. We got Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” John Carpenter’s “The Thing” and Disney’s “TRON.”

Of course, the latter two were relative flops, although ”The Thing” went on to sci-fi superstardom, while a cult of unapologetic geeks took “TRON” to its bosom. None have spawned sequels until now, 28 years later, with “TRON: Legacy.”

In “TRON,” computer programmer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges, “True Grit”) found a way to transport himself into one of his own programs, and there he’s been stuck for two decades.

In order to perfect the world he created, he made a copy of himself named Clu, whose relentless quest for perfection has turned him into a fascist, allowing Bridges to deliver some nice good twin/bad twin shtick.

On the outside world, Flynn’s 28-year old son Sam (Garrett Hedlund, “Death Sentence”) is summoned into the program where, with the aid of the gorgeous Quorra (Olivia Wilde, “The Next Three Days”), he wants to rescue his dad and deprive Clu of what he needs in order to enter our world and take over. This is what is technically known as a “plot,” but don’t let it concern you too much. It isn’t at all important.

First-time feature director Joseph Kosinski’s film is pure eye candy. The production design is nifty, which it should be, since it’s borrowed almost entirely from “2001,” “Star Wars” and the Korova Milk Bar in “A Clockwork Orange.” To drive that last, uh, homage home, Michael Sheen (“New Moon”),

who is much too good to have to resort to this sort of thing, appears to be channeling Malcolm McDowell’s Alex much too closely for coincidence as one of Clu’s sinister minions.

The 3-D works better than in anything we’ve seen since “Avatar,” but that’s hardly a recommendation, as it adds nothing to the experience but empty calories. Wilde in tight black latex is more tasty, and is better for you, too. After her, the real scenic pleasure is the change in Bridges’ appearance. Inside the computer program for 20 years, Kevin has aged and shows it, but Clu looks the same as he did the day he was created.

This means that a digital way had to be found to make Bridges look the same as he did in 1982. The process isn’t perfect by any means, although the wax-museum appearance of his face may be due to the fact that Clu was formed in the days when computer animation was pretty basic. The original “TRON” was the first feature film to use computer-generated imagery as a major component. Watch it now and you’ll see how crude it looks.

For all its technical whiz-bang, this sequel really isn’t worth the price of a 3-D screening, yet without the 3-D, it isn’t worth seeing at all. Wait for “Son of TRON” in 2038. Maybe by then, someone will have written a script worth producing.

Doug Bentin

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