By now you’ve read the reviews by people who are Experts In These Things. They’re all pretty much the same: TRON:Legacy is visually impressive but light on story. And I suppose they’re right. But why is that a bad thing? If all we wanted was to watch a story being performed on a screen, we could stay home and watch television. Or even YouTube. But we go to the movies to have an experience we can’t get at home, and TRON delivers that. In spades.
So why isn’t that going to be enough to make this movie the giant commercial success that would have had Disney considering a TRON makeover of Tomorrowland? After all, Transformers 2 had a putrid story and impressive visuals, and it made $400 million bucks. True, Transfomers commands greater nostalgic affection, overall, than the original TRON ever did. But the Transformers films had something else that the mass market loves: stupid comic relief. Oh, TRON:Legacy has a tiny bit of it, in the End of Line nightclub scene. But the makers of the film cared too much about staying true to the story they were trying to tell to cram in obnoxious characters that serve no purpose other than to entertain the people who find Larry the Cable Guy intellectually stimulating, and for that the box office returns will suffer.
Oh, one more thing. Very early in the film, before we go down the computerized rabbit hole, ENCOM’s board of directors are congratulating themselves on the release of their flagship operating system which costs more than the previous version, but whose only new features revolve around making it impossible to distribute for free. A suggestion by Bruce Boxleitner’s character that perhaps the company should treat their customers better and become a better corporate citizen, the way it was when Kevin Flynn was running things, is quickly dismissed by the greedy executives. I know that this wasn’t the filmmakers’ intention, but it really felt to me like a very on-the-nose commentary on the way Disney runs its theme park business these days.
More than anything, TRON:Legacy’s impressive visuals made me wish Disney would rip out Tomorrowland’s busy Flash Gordon jangles and replace them with the sleek electroluminescent look we saw in the film. It’ll never happen, of course, but wouldn’t it be something?