There's no shortage of stunning eye candy in Tron: Legacy, a spiffy, sexy, and frequently thrilling sequel to Disney's 1982 game-changer Tron. There is, however, a certain lack of connectivity between the audience and the digitally enhanced characters onscreen.
That's not going to be much of a drawback for the film's two core demographics, namely proto-gamers who grew up with the original film and its arcade version, and the newest iteration of gameboys (and -girls), who, like their ancient forebears (that'd be me), enjoy nothing so much as being dazzled by ribbons of colored light and the onrushing notion of "singularity" with the machine.
Debuting director Joseph Kosinski, emerging from architecture and commercials (both skill sets are put to good use here), has created a virtual world that's far more seamless and immersive than the one we visited in 1982. Here, the grid - that sleek inner world of the game created by programmer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) - is all crystalline club life and roaring, tempestuous crowds craving gladiatorial blood sport.
Visually, Tron: Legacy owes a great debt to both 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix. It's a stunningly gorgeous yet innately chilly vision of the inner lives of man and machine. Set 20 years after Flynn and Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) - both reprising their earlier incarnations via digital Ponce de Leonization - first teamed up to save the world, Legacy finds Flynn's Ducatti-riding offspring Sam (Garrett Hedlund) sucked into the game this time around. The grid is no longer the utopian ideal Flynn imagined it could be. Instead, his digital doppelgänger, Clu (Bridges again), has taken control and is plotting escape into the real world.
What's surprising about this Tron is how much sly humor the half-dozen or so screenwriters have infused it with. Bridges' current take on Kevin Flynn turns out to bear more than a passing resemblance, in both couture and manner, to The Big Lebowski's Dude. Michael Sheen's impressive channeling of a mixture between Thin White Duke-era David Bowie and the contemporary Alan Cumming, along with a snarky cameo by French electronic duo Daft Punk, allow Tron: Legacy to achieve a kind of gonzo gamer high art. It's still a soulless machine for making Disney mountains of cash, of course, but you can feel it striving to be more.