Tron Legacy: 60 Terabytes of Amazing on a 2 Gig Flash Drive

It's hard to think of a movie that's built up more expectations than Tron Legacy. It was teased three Comic-Cons ago, which is like a century in nerd years, and the teaser made people stand up and cheer even then. Plus, the original movie came out 30 years ago which has given at least two generations of geeks time to elevate it to mythological status in their minds, collect the limited-edition action figures and gloss over any flaws. On top of that, the most popular electronic act in the world, who already dress and act like computer programs, are scoring the movie. It's pretty much guaranteed to disappoint, right? I know some were, but I couldn't pry my eyes off the screen for the entire running time of the movie, and of all the emotions I experienced in the theater, disappointment definitely wasn't one of them.

Before you suggest that nostalgia was a factor in my experience, let me just nip that in the bud right there. I saw the movie long after it was in theaters, and I could probably only give you the barest outline of the plot; I enjoyed the aesthetic and design more than anything. I was not Sam Flynn, whose childhood bedroom is covered with posters and action figures of Tron characters. We start there, with his father Kevin -- a CGI version of young Jeff Bridges, looking only slightly more realistic than the characters in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within -- bidding him farewell for the night. Of course, Sam and the world never see his father again, and Sam (now played by Garrett Hedlund) grows up to be the CEO of ENCOM in absentia, only showing up occasionally to steal their valuable software and give it away for free on the Internet. When Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) sends Sam to his father's arcade, Sam naturally gets zapped into the Grid, which is where his father has been for 20 years.

The Grid is, in a word, magnificent. The gladiatorial games into which Sam is conscripted are held in rotating glass chambers, high above the arena floor. Lightcycle battles are now multi-level, with ramps that can be added and removed at the whim of the controller. The nightclubs are brightly lit penthouse affairs, where, yes, Daft Punk spins beats as a pair of MP3 programs. And Kevin Flynn lives an exile's existence off the grid, in a rocky area where lightcycles can't go, with a pixellated fireplace, a bowl of stainless steel apples and a personality that's been meditated and mellowed into Dude territory. (Sample dialogue when frustrated: "You're ruining my Zen thing, man!") His only companion is Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a shyly inquisitive program who has been educated by classic literature, who rescues Sam from the games and sends him to a Bowie-esque club-owning friend (Michael Sheen) when Kevin refuses to do anything to save himself or Sam.

The plot is a little complicated: Clu needs Kevin's Identity Disc to escape to the real world, the portal to which can only be opened from the other side, which is why Kevin won't face Clu -- he doesn't want to condemn the world to Clu's controlling, imperfection-hating ways. (The portal Sam opened will close within hours, putting the movie on a timetable.) There are plenty of nods to the original movie, including a long trip on the Grid version of a freight train, an old-school Tron bike Kevin keeps in his house (like Sam) and a cameo by Cillian Murphy as Tron villain Ed Dillinger's son. While the CGI on the young Bridges is occasionally distractingly unrealistic, the real Bridges is great as a defeated husk of a man, and even better as a rejuvenated god who walks among his followers like the Buddha. Garrett Hedlund occasionally bears an uncanny resemblance to Bridges, which helps a lot, and Wilde is surprisingly adorable as a warrior with a pixie haircut. Clu's enforcer Rinzler is menacing with his dual discs and faceless, sparsely lit outfit, while Sheen is wickedly creepy as Castor the club owner.

Like I said, the plot can get a little complicated, and there are a couple of holes you can drive a light cycle through, but the amazing visuals, a few touching moments and great performances by humans and programs alike make this a movie worth seeing, even if you aren't a fan of the now even more amateurish-looking original.

Did you see Tron: Legacy? Let us know what you thought below, and check out our list of the best and worst virtual realities. Then read more movie reviews here!

Are mainstream moviegoers doomed to be underwhelmed by Tron: Legacy? See what our vloggers Omar G and Pablo G think:

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