Tron: Legacy

Computer genius Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges; Crazy Heart) has been missing for 20 years. Nobody has a clue where he went off to — at least until his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund; Georgia Rule) is mysteriously paged to his dad’s hidden lab and zapped into the grid, a digital realm where programs are living figures made in the image of their creators. Ends up his pop has been stranded here all those years, trapped when his own program Clu revolted and waged genocide against digital “imperfections.” Now it seems Clu has plotted an escape from the digital world. Only Sam, Kevin and wild program Quorra (Olivia Wilde; The Next Three Days) can stop it.

Tron was never high drama. When the original came out in 1982, it wowed with groundbreaking visual effects and the novel concept of an anthropomorphized digital world coursing through the circuits under our fingertips. Story was a little half-baked, but rad treats like lightcycles and deadly ultimate laser Frisbee ensured awesomeness and instant cult status.

Tron: Legacy, then is right on par. Sure, the filmmakers try to pump up the story by threatening the real world, recasting Flynn as a sort of Tron Jedi and religious figure, and throwing in Quorra’s curious spark alongside Sam’s father issues. But all this is equally half-baked, perhaps more so. The story is full of sketched out ideas and characters that are never fully developed (or flat out annoying, as in the party guru). Sometimes the quest looks simply naïve as the movie tests the limits of suspended disbelief.

Instead of worrying over something as piddling as story, the filmmakers instead indulge in lavish effects and action sequences for some pretty keen flash. The lightcycles are radder than ever, the light disks are snazzier and the suits actually glow with luminescent tape. The effects team excels in refining the Tron atmosphere and livening it with sharp action. The 3D effects are sharp, if not fully exploited. It’s a fine fireworks show.

As movies go, this one is pretty shallow fare. But if you’re just looking for a fun escape full of pretty lights, this is your bag.

Fair • PG • 127 mins.