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TRON: Legacy

A Marvelous Spectacle

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

The journey to TRON: Legacy would have to wait just another minute — early audiences were asked to check their phones at the door, lest they attempt a little techno handiwork of their own — but after 28 years, what’s another 60 seconds? Besides, the last thing this digitally dazzling sequel needed was extra circuitry in the theater.

The 1982 original, so prophetic in its fascination with the virtual world of computers, would seem an obvious choice for a follow-up, and perhaps there is no better time than now, when technology has almost caught up with the vivid imaginations of creators Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird.

The 3-D Legacy was written by committee, and it shows. The dialogue is occasionally stiff, redeemed here and there by some Dude-like aside courtesy of star Jeff Bridges. But this is a movie concerned less with verbal acrobatics than with the physical kind, performed by cyber warriors in a dimension melding Emerald City with shades of the dystopian Los Angeles of Blade Runner. There’s enough neon to make Vegas blush.

While I suspect many of those flocking to Legacy this weekend may know little or nothing about the original TRON, or even the arcade game, director Joe Kosinski’s reboot offers cleverly embedded Cliff’s Notes. Here, Kevin Flynn (Bridges) is trapped in cyberspace by his digital alter ego, Clu, with his estranged son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) in pursuit.

Kevin and his comely disciple Quorra (Olivia Wilde) are exiled to the outskirts of the utopian metropolis he once instructed Clu to create in the so-called Grid, where his dreams of designing a better world have led to a fascist nightmare. Sam is galled to find his father resigned to inaction. Knowing little about the Grid or his rival, he wants to take the fight to Clu.

Big mistake for him, but rewarding for us. Exploring the Grid’s glitzy city, we find Castor, a bar owner with enough lively energy to power a light show all on his own. Michael Sheen plays Castor, and if Bridges is the movie’s likably laidback anchor, Sheen sends it soaring. So, too, does the movie’s brilliantly atmospheric original score, by the French electronic duo Daft Punk.

At more than two hours, Legacy seems to drag near the end, but never is it less than a marvelous spectacle. Conceptually, it illustrates the hazards of resisting imperfection, an appropriate lesson for a movie that asks us to accept a few warts of its own.

Buoyed by its story, sometimes convoluted but hard to resist, Legacy is a worthy sequel, both in its fantastic look and its admirable sense of wonder. Flynn lives, and we’re grateful for it.