Let's make this review simple... First, a spoiler free summary:
If you enjoyed the original Tron film, you'll more than likely enjoy Legacy.
Now, with more spoiler goodness and a bit of backstory:
I missed out on the hype and excitement of the original film as a kid, just as I missed out on more than a few other sci-fi classics growing up (i.e. Star Wars, as shameful as that may be to admit). I was learning html & .asp when the Tron guy was making his meme debut on the intarwebs. I'd heard of the film, seen stills and knockoffs, but hadn't sat down and actually watched it until earlier this year.
I know, tech/sci-fi blasphemy.
Even though some of the special effects had not aged well (i.e. the "Dire Straits" style animation), the original Tron remains a very entertaining film. In fact, most of the special effects were still solid examples of pushing the boundaries and hold up, even by today's standards.
Legacy's basic premise is that Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has been missing since the events that passed in Tron. He got out of the grid, but, unsurprisingly, couldn't wait to get back in, even though the rest of the world presumes him dead. 20ish years have passed and Flynn's son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), a somewhat stereotypical rich kid rebelling against his status and role, manages to find his way into his dad's game after a beeper page (presumably from Flynn Senior) to Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) leads him there. Once on the grid, Sam competes in the games, meets a stunning program by the name of Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and eventually finds his long lost father along the way.
While more homage than direct remake, Legacy captured the overall feel of the original, including the key elements that made Tron so enjoyable. The look of Legacy, while essentially just an updated version of the original, is stunning. The grid, the costumes and the overall digital world feel more organic yet more futuristic; an accurate example of current digital environments used in games and simulations. It was visually remarkable, with new elements entwined with familiar ones, and watching in 3D was enjoyable too. Though perhaps not the best example of the 3D technology, as it didn't utilize the medium that much, the 3D portions (most of the film was shot in regular definition) were not distracting or disorienting, which I find to be the case with many other 3D films.
The light disc games are fast paced and brutal, with little to no margin for error for the programs or users involved. The light cycle races become more intricate in a now 3D environment, with tracks that change levels and spectacularly rendered de-resolutions of cycles and programs alike. The CGI used on Bridges (circa 1982) during flashbacks and other scenes, was technically excellent though completely unnatural at times. Visually, he looked exactly as he did in Tron but his mannerisms and facial expressions were still too video game-esque. Perfection, yet lacking the imperfection of natural human behaviors.
The characters and storyline were amusing enough. Fast paced with just enough interludes of context mixed in between the eye popping action, there was not a moment of boredom during Legacy for me. The dialogue, especially as Flynn has been in the grid for over 20 years, was hilarious too. No wait, it was radical man! Those small touches and attention to detail really made a difference in tying the two films together.
The soundtrack, created entirely by Daft Punk (aside from some 80's memory-inducing songs at the beginning of the film) faded perfectly into the background as ambient sound during most scenes, but then jostled you into a head-bopping rhythm in the next. Perfectly suited to Legacy, it was also a great representation of updated gaming music.
That's the overarching theme I noticed in the film and one that will work to their benefit in the future; Tron, the basic story and elements will work in any era, for sequels here on in. Granted, the quality of the screenplay, actors and director are variables you can't predict, but the plot is based around modern tech and virtual environments; another Tron can be done in 5, 10, even 20 years, and still be a successful adaptation with an updated grid world.
Another Tron there certainly shall be. Legacy was completely open ended, with lots of unanswered questions and hints left to be filled in by a sequel. Parts have already been explained via Tron: Betrayal (a comic) and Tron: Evolution (video game) and I'll be checking those out ASAP for more context.
How they manage to tie everything together in the sequel is the crucial part, though, so whoever takes on the franchise next, please be kind to the programs and users alike!