28 years ago I saw a film with special effects that were simply breath-taking for their time. It was the dawn of the era of computer gaming and the original Tron blew audiences away with its depiction of a world within a computer; a linear, two-dimensional world of fluorescing neon colours where individuals had to out-race each other in order to survive.
It’s been a long time coming but now we get Tron: Legacy, a rather overdue sequel that is simply worlds ahead of its predecessor in terms of CGI.
However, although gob-smacking to look at, it proves to be an exercise in form over function — visually it is spectacular yet it lacks any substance.
In the original, a brilliant computer programmer, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) got caught within one of his own programs. Two decades or so later, the corporation he founded is as big as Microsoft but lacking leadership because Flynn himself is still missing. His son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) decides to find out what happened to dear old dad and before you know it he too is sucked into this other world where he discovers his father is at war with the fantasy city and characters he himself created. Teaming up with an artificial life form called Quorra (Olivia Wilde) Sam must excel in bike and Frisbee battles in order to survive and get to make it out of this world alive.
And that is the entire story. This is basically a computer game with no hidden levels, secret passages, enhanced special powers or mystical meaning. Because of this the characters never truly come to life (although Quorra has a really cool haircut) and even a token Aladdin Sane-era Bowiesque appearance by Michael Sheen fails to liven up proceedings. But the special effects are simply awesome (especially if you get to see the movie in Imax 3D). At times you become simply overwhelmed by this fantasy world and the vast spectacle of it all. However, once you take those 3D specs off, everything reverts straight back to normal and the world of Tron: Legacy is soon — and easily — forgotten.