There probably wasn't a need for a sequel to Disney's TRON, but (money-grabbing issues aside) given the advances in VFX technology, it's hard to deny that the film's ideas deserved the visuals that today's technology can grant. Because if there's one thing that I think few would disagree about when it comes to this sequel, it's that it all looks friggin' gorgeous. It's shiny, crisp, clean, and beautifully filled with light, many of which are part of people's clothes or vehicles. And when director Joseph Kosinski gets to the points in the screenplay that allow for some fun - laser disc duels, light cycle battles, etc... - TRON: Legacy comes closest to achieving what it wants. The problem, though, is the rest of the film.
After some nicely streamlined flashbacks for those of us not acquainted with the original (ie: most people), we jump to the present. ENCOM, the company founded by the vanished Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is on the verge of releasing its latest computer operating system, when it is broken into and hacked, and the OS is put online to be downloaded for free. The cause of this is Sam Flynn (Garret Hedlund), Kevin's son, who feels that the company has strayed from his father's vision. After getting off on minor charges, Sam is informed by a family friend (Bruce Boxleitner) that his father has paged him from his old arcade. Sam reluctantly goes, and of course is sucked into the world of TRON.
Strangely enough, Sam adapts to the world really quickly (really, really quickly) and barely spends any time being flabbergasted over the fact that he's been sucked into a digital world. Instead, the script throws him into a disc battle, which he proves decently adept at after a few missteps. Next comes a very fun light-cycle 5 vs. 5 match, and then it's off to a bunker/safe house, where the movie nearly grinds to a halt.
The problem here is that the film gives us everything people ever wanted from the TRON universe too early, and from that point on its a slightly stodgy trek back out of the digital world, complicated by a clichéd dictator who holds the world in an iron grip. It's all routine, and some of it is actually rather boring to the point where it threatens to drag down the livelier moments. And even though the cast is having enough fun (Olivia Wilde has a surprising moment or two and Michael Sheen is a blast as a flamboyant club owner), they can't compensate for the film's mechanical story-telling. The world is thriving and alive, and Daft Punk's score is absolutely perfect, because unlike the script, it actually has a pulse and some real life to it. The film wants to be a mix of action-adventure and father-son bonding, but it doesn't entirely succeed at being either, because it only seems capable of awkwardly flipping between attempts at heavy drama and all-out action. And while the end result isn't terrible, it does feel like a missed opportunity, which is a damn shame considering how much potential for a fun movie there was buried in the beautifully realized world.