TRON: Legacy / Joseph Kosinski / 2010 / twostar

Active Ingredients: Daft Punk; Action setpieces
Side Effects: No sense of wonder; Michael Sheen; Sagging energy; 3D

1982’s TRON is fondly remembered today for its quaint computer animation and its even quainter awe of technology. Though its been parodied and mocked over the years (Family Guy’s light cycle send-up was particularly inspired), TRON holds up thanks to the creativity that animates every frame. Unlike other ‘80s films, it doesn’t wink at its audience, but rather charms with its awkward sincerity. In an effort to update the film, 2010’s TRON: Legacy has unfortunately traded in the campy fun of its predecessor for insipid, intermittently-successful modern effects.

The sequel returns to the microscopic world of a computer system 20 years after Jeff Bridges’ idealistic software mogul mysteriously disappeared. His son Sam finds a portal into the virtual domain The Grid and is immediately forced to participate in dangerous gladiatorial games for no  reason other than to show off some cool, colorful effects. The frisbee fights and light cycle death matches are fun, but TRON: Legacy slows to a screeching halt as soon as Sam leaves the arena. The problem with the sequel is that it lacks the imagination to entertain when it strays from its action setpieces. There should be a sense of wonder in The Grid, and though characters often remark about its beauty, it’s never captured on the screen. Since the audience isn’t invested in the logic or appeal of TRON’s universe, all the digital effects amount to no more than 1s and 0s.