I'm not going to tell you Tron: Legacy is a good film, because it's not.
I'm not even going to tell you that if the original hit some personal chord in any sense, you'll enjoy it well enough for what it is...
...because in order to enjoy the sequel to Tron, you had to REALLY Love the original. It HAS to be personal. And I mean a LOT. For me, seeing Tron by myself, in the theatre at ten years old in Davenport while my brother and his then girlfriend now wife saw Officer And A Gentlemen, hit something in me.
It has to touch you in a way that allows the colors, hues, feelings and emotions involved with being allowed to see a movie by yourself for the first time, and simultaneously have that movie touch a place that evokes that first time when you understand the concept of subtext. And have all that intertwine in a way that will never be broken.
Ten years old. By myself for the first time ever from a house populated by three older brothers, a younger sister and, at times, four dogs (fourteen with puppies in the summer) in a crackerbox house, economy in the shitter, dad on strike, government cheese in play for dinner, wearing hand-me-down clothes too short for me, in small town Iowa in 1982. My time. My. Time. For the first time ever. Not to mention various other unmentionables going on at the time.
And I was offered a film with space and vision and visuals that, I'm sorry Star Wars fans, allowed you to be entirely engrossed in a world utterly unseen (by '82, I saw the Star Wars world and it was glorious. Tron was new...maybe because unlike Star Wars, it was mine - nobody else knew nor cared about it).
After reading about the production later in life, I realized the subtext I saw probably wasn't intentional. For me, at the time though, and that time was a time when the local restaurant printed on the back of their menus the Soviet targets like the power plant across the river and the radius of a nuclear bomb impact on that plant, imparting the knowledge in my 10 year-old, Lynard Skynyrd-infused brain that I would be instantly incinerated, Communism vs. the Free World was the order of the day.
I know that's bullshit now. I knew it was bullshit three years after that. But in that time, at that moment, by myself being able to completely form my own conclusions irrespective of ANY other input, influence or other judgment, Tron was mine. Rare thing, that. No older brother to interfere and tell you you're being ridiculous. No conversation about it at all. It was mine to gestate, incubate and fell as I pleased. So much so. It was Possibility.
I'm never going to see the original Tron with a critical eye. Never. Too much involved and nothing will ever take away that initial, very personal experience. I remember the popcorn, I remember the seat I sat in, I remember every minute of waiting for my brother and his girlfriend to finish up their movie, sitting on a ledge, hoping that the time alone would be longer, that it would give me more minutes, more seconds to myself to digest and enjoy this new-found time alone.
It was the first taste of adulthood. So Tron is personal. And I will never apologize for something like that. Heck, I'll even start a blog debating all takers on the merits of the original entirely separate from my personal experience.
The sequel only extends that first experience. As a film by itself, it's a bit cold, a bit playing on the original in merely superficial ways, a bit like seeing a shadow. But. In many ways, not so much. This is the original creator, Steven Lisberger's, baby and he goes all in (boning up on the original helped. Watched my VHS version and bought the soundtrack to the sequel. Can't believe by VCR still worked.).
It's a loud, in your face film amplified by the Daft Punk soundtrack. They're complete Tron nerds but rhythms take over the film in effusive and interfering ways, not allowing the breath and space needed but that's always been the duo's rub. No space to process. Unfortunately, the holes in the screenplay attempt to fill the gaps with music. And like any geek fest, playing above the average movie-goers' intelligence is rewarded by the critics but doesn't pay the mortgage. It feels like the latter may have been a wee bit more focused on than the former for the most part. Feels perfunctory at times while only occasionally engrossing.
The original set the bar for live-action animation. This one sets a different bar. It delivers a visual wonderland while playing in the darker, black-based regions of the eye. It's not Avatar, a movie that uses bright contrasting colors as a crutch. Tron: Legacy went the hard way.
In 3D, it also doesn't overdo the effect, choosing its moments carefully, which is welcome (unlike the GD trailers. Cripes! I get it. It's coming at me. WOW!).
And contrary to many critics bemoaning the de-aging of Jeff Bridges and its supposed "creepiness," it doesn't come off like that at all. It's fine. The mouth to nose ratio is a tad weird and the eyes are too tapered but it's fine and good. Even intriguing.
No recommendation here. I can't see anyone who didn't REALLY love the original getting into the sequel much. It's eye candy and that's it. But if you're 36-44 years old and you saw the original in the theatre, plop down $14 and see it in 3D. I'm sure you've blown $14 on worse things this week.