In 1989, Sam Flynn was just a kid. A kid who adored and looked up to his dad—video game developer and all around science whiz Kevin Flynn. But then his father mysteriously vanished.
Skip ahead to the present and Sam is feeling just as disillusioned and empty as he felt deserted back then. Only now he's a rebellious twentysomething who's more interested in sabotaging his father's former corporation than working for it. In fact, it's after playing his latest prank on the company that an old friend shows up with a message. But it's not the typical complaints from company board members that Sam was expecting. And, oddly, it's a pager message … from Sam's dad.
With a little digging, Sam finds the source of the missive—a hidden room filled with computer equipment in the back of his dad's locked up old arcade. Memories of his father's kooky tales of an in-computer world called The Grid come flooding back. It was a fantastic place populated by programs that took on human form, his father had said. All nonsense, of course.
But after fiddling around with the stashed equipment, Sam quickly learns that the stories weren't just fabrications for his young ears. And by quickly I mean that he's suddenly dematerialized by a laser and transported into the bitstream world.
It is an awesome place of vibrant electronic wonders. A place where almost anything is possible. A place that's been his father's prison for over 20 years.
Kevin (who's called Flynn) demonstrates that his initial intentions with creating an in-computer world are good. He intends to shape something beneficial for the outside world. And when the system begins creating isomorphic algorithms (independent programs known as isos), Flynn is excited that these new "beings" can do great things for mankind.
On the interpersonal side of things, it's quite obvious that Sam and his dad love each other deeply. Both would do anything to save the other, and they both put their lives on the line. Flynn's apprentice program, Quorra, also puts herself in harm's way to protect Sam and Flynn. She encourages Sam to consider his father's wisdom.
Flynn's work with his in-computer grid world, a place he can actually step into and commune with his programmed subjects, is initially designed to be a Garden of Eden-like experiment in which he can shape something that's perfectly balanced and uncorrupted. He creates a program in his own image, named Clu, and puts it/him in charge to help create this "perfect system." And since he has been building The Grid from the circuit board up for a very long time, Flynn is recognized by all of its inhabitants as the Creator. They bestow upon him godlike reverence.
Flynn says he believes that his iso programs will change everything from "science to philosophy and religion." We see him meditating twice, and one time he says that a stressful situation is ruining his "Zen thing."
Sam takes off his T-shirt while changing. And when he enters The Grid he is stripped down to his underwear and redressed by a quartet of sirens. They and other female figures wear latex-like curve-hugging one-piece suits.
Inside The Grid, "games" consist of video game-like disk-throwing and vehicle-racing competitions … that always end with one competitor's death. The vanquished are programs, of course, so in each case their bodies simply "de-rez" into thousands of tiny bits. But Sam is also forced to participate, and during one game, he gets cut: A single drop of blood drips to the floor, proving that he is a human "user" and not a program.
We see several damaged programs that have been partially de-rezed. In one case, a program appears to have a large section of his face missing—leaving rough-edged pixelation running down from his eye. The same thing happens to Quorra when a part of her arm is de-rezed.
After parachuting from a building in the real world, Sam ends up landing on a speeding taxi that brakes and sends him tumbling to the ground. He later pulls off his shirt, revealing bruises on his back.
[Spoiler Warning] As Clu, who has gone over to the dark side, and his forces chase Sam, Quorra and Flynn, there are a number of flying or driving chase scenes filled with laser flashes, vehicle crashes, explosions and character de-rezes. In an effort to protect Sam, Flynn touches the ground and an emanating power wave draws Clu back to him. He embraces his creation and the two explode.
Crude or Profane Language
Three or four uses of "h‑‑‑" and one "d‑‑mit."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Sam, Flynn and a number of other characters drink a light blue liquid at dinner and at a club. A derelict program also carries a bottle of the stuff. The implication is that this is an alcoholic substance, but the fluid is very reminiscent of the flowing liquid electricity that characters drink and are energized by in 1982's TRON. Beer makes a brief appearance in the real world.
The TRON that hit theaters nearly three decades ago was an Alice in Wonderland-like fantasy that threw a guy into a video game world called The Grid. Looking back, the story was kind of goofy. But that was OK back then, because none of us had a clue about computers anyway. They were still mysterious monstrosities filling up huge science labs someplace. Oh, and they had lots of blinking lights and were fronted by reel-to-reel tapes.
So TRON, with all its new "computer graphics," seemed cool. It had zipping light cycles, electrified outfits, laser luminosity and computerized music. (Well, it sounded computerized, anyway!) It also spawned one of the gnarliest arcade games of the day.
Translating all that to 2010 is a task of Googleistic proportions.
This is the age when everyone is intimately familiar with all things computerized and digital. Today we have video games built into everything from our home theaters to our touch screen phones. Which means that if you even pause for a moment to consider this new TRON's massaged storyline and porous logic (or why it's even called TRON at all) your high-tech mind will probably start to balk and blink and spin.
TRON: Legacy, however, never demands that you work that hard. It simply whisks you into The Grid's fantasyland and wows you with dazzling visuals, a pulse-pounding soundtrack … and fast-moving light cycles. It also wields an involving good guy/bad guy confrontation that's as instinctively recognizable as the clickity-click of a terminal keyboard.
The result is a cheerful, colorful and solidly PG popcorn piece that won't leave you deep in thought. But it's fun enough that you won't really care why it's called TRON.