Failure of imagination might be a term that assumes too much as applied to Tron: Legacy (2010; dir. Joseph Kosinski). This sequel to the 1982 film, itself the product of failed imagination, is enjoyable if bright colors, swift movements, and loud noise entrance you. Probably, in an altered state, one might find this film profound and a religious experience. In the rational but also hopeful state in which I viewed this film, it was an ordeal. Midway through, I muttered to my son (yes, this was a father-son bonding experience) that Tron: Legacy was far worse than I could have imagined. Straining for the right expression to say just what I meant, I myself suffered a failure of imagination.
Tron works on the premise that a computer programmer, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) can enter the virtual world of a video game he has created and interact with the subprograms that reside there. The subprograms appear to him as people. He somehow undertakes to work towards the creation of a perfect world, and in the process a “race” of superior beings—they are like the elves of Tolkien, or Milton’s angels. But some of the other programs revolt, kill all the angels, and force Flynn into hiding. He engages in a long-running stand-off with his alter-ego Clu, a computer program replication of himself, which is not himself. Anyway, Flynn is trapped for twenty-one years in the virtual world. Then, his son from the real world appears, intent on his rescue.
Most fantasies establish and adhere to their own laws, their own operating procedures. They operate according to an underlying logic. Above and beneath Tron, I think, is no logic at all. With some of the worst dialogue in recent years (example: “In there is a new world! In there is our future! In there is our destiny!”), with impressive digital animation (Bridges appears as two versions of himself, one old and the other young), with a narrative worthy of an old Lost in Space episode, or maybe of the “Space Hippies” episode of the original Star Trek television series, with borrowings from The Matrix and Buddhism and The Wrath of Khan Star Trek film, Tron blunders and flounders and whirls out of control (as if it were ever under control to begin with).
The low point comes in a scene where characters from the virtual world meet in a disco bar, drinking and dancing.
Only a role as impressive as Rooster Cogburn could compensate for Jeff Bridges’ appearance and performance in this one.