I was pleased.
Oh, before I go on, one quick word about the music, which as one or two of you know was and is one of my favorite features of the original.
I was hoping Daft Punk would find a way to work in a line or two of melody from that Wendy Carlos' score, but if they did, I missed it (and I was listening).
However, though nowhere near as lovely Carlos' for the original, the music in the new film does works just swell. It's just unlikely to be on whatever-the-equivalent-of-my-iTunes will be in 30 years, as Carlos' is.
Now, to the film itself: Yes, the visuals are exciting, but you expect that going in; it's really the least you expect from a Tron movie (and one of the few the first one completely delivered on).
Where it surpasses its predecessor is in the characters, human and non-human, and in the performances. In the first movie, I think, few of the performers had any idea what they were doing.
It's hard to blame them. The movie was pioneering in its use of computer graphics and imagery in a way that few if any saw coming. As a result perhaps, too much of the performances have an aimless quality which tends to impede drama.
Times have changed.
It's no longer news that Jeff Bridges can act his ass off (Last Picture Show, Tron 1, The Fisher King). Bridges returns, 28 years after creating the role (has to be some kind of record), as Kevin Flynn, the protagonist of the original. He owns it.
It's Flynn grown wiser and more accepting of his obligations, both in our world and in the one he created. This grown up Flynn may not please some who expect the man-boy from the first film, but it was the right choice for this one.
As Quorra, Flynn's "apprentice" in the digital world, Olivia Wilde gives a performance that...I think I want to think about and maybe see at least one more time (before I label it). Suffice it to say that she seems awfully human for a program, but there's a reason for that.
The last scene in the movie focuses on Quorra's face. Beyond that I won't reveal the context. But Wilde made me feel. I don't mean she made me feel something emotionally (though she and the film did) in this case, I mean she made me feel what the character was feeling, the sensation. That's gotta be some kind of acting; she's more than just eye candy, though she does look good (pretty darn good).
Bruce Boxleitner also returns to his role as Alan Bradley. It's smaller than in the original, but key, and Boxleitner wears it comfortably.
Those are the good points, now to the bad. I'm going to try to put this so as to avoid spoilers, at least of a specific plot turn, but I am now going to reveal something I haven't seen in the ads, so if you want to go, go now.
The problem comes when Alan's alter-ego shows up. Something happens that I saw coming (one of a couple). It's an inviting idea. But the way in which it is executed suggested to me that it was done quickly and cheaply (presumably when someone realized the movie's called Tron and he's barely in it), rather than being a part of the story from the very beginning.
Garrett Hedlund is well-cast as Flynn's son, but it's an unremarkable part. However, he does everything the film asks of him, and it works, so I won't pick too hard. He may indeed have some game, but I'd need to see him in a better role.
The only woman other than Wilde with star billing in the film, Beau Garrett, merely is eye candy.
I have no idea if she's got any "game," simply because the film doesn't ask her to display any.
And then there's Michael Sheen. Oh dear. Camping it up to beat the band, he resembles nothing so more than Dana Carvey impersonating David Bowie on Saturday Night Live.
This choice of direction doesn't work for me, but at least the part is small and over with quickly.
As for the story, it's true that there are places where it slows to a glacial pace, and others where it is hard to fathom who is who and what's going on.
I don't care. First of all, it's like a Light Cycle only sputtering momentarily before continuing upon its merry way (Light Cycles sputter, right)
And second, compared to what the first one delivered in terms of character and story, this
one is frickin' Lord of the Rings.
I mean, watching a Light Cycle chase in 2010. Totally worth the wait.
And I can't say that about every genre sequel I've seen this year.
(Further to that aside, the headline on the Salon review of this film is "A $170 million insult." Trust me, I know what it feels like to be insulted by a film series of which you are a cult fan. It doesn't feel like this.)
End of line.