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Originally published December 16, 2010 at 12:04 AM | Page modified December 16, 2010 at 2:46 PM

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Movie review

'Tron: Legacy': Jeff Bridges gets stuck in the '80s-flavored sequel

A movie review of "Tron: Legacy," the busy but uninspired sequel to the 1982 science-fiction novelty film "Tron." Jeff Bridges returns as a hacker trapped in a digital universe.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 1.5 stars

'Tron: Legacy,' with Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Michael Sheen, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, from a screenplay by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, based on a story by Kitsis, Horowitz, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, from characters originated by Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird. 127 minutes. Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language. Several theaters.

MOVIE REVIEW 1.5 stars

Watching "Tron: Legacy," an exhausting, two-hour sequel to the 1982 science-fiction novelty feature "Tron," is a lot like being trapped in a room while someone plays a video game you barely understand.

That's true of a lot of movies these days, but there's such a hollowness and lack of conviction within this new film's veneer of a story that it's impossible not to find your distracted thoughts bouncing around chaotically.

Thoughts, for example, about the Wachowski brothers, whose 1999 virtual-world drama "The Matrix" and 2008 "Speed Racer," both spectacularly graphics-heavy films, make the weaker "Tron: Legacy," set in a geometrically complex cyberscape with a 1980s flavor, look not so much intentionally retro as just plain behind the times.

Thoughts, too, about "Batman Begins," whose hero initially eschews responsibility for running his absent father's business and has a penchant for hang-gliding off skyscrapers at night. Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the wayward, young protagonist of "Tron: Legacy," does all the same stuff but is a poor man's Bruce Wayne, inspiring far less audience interest.

Sam doesn't get much more compelling even after he joins his missing dad, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), in an expanded version of the electronic world Kevin entered in the original "Tron." At that time, the human Kevin was a hacker who had a program counterpart, CLU (pronounced "clue"), with whom he fought against a villain.

In the sequel's beginning scenes (presented in two dimensions, before a perfunctory shift to 3-D), Kevin speaks of those events to an admiring Sam before mysteriously disappearing.

Years later, Sam finds Kevin living as a kind of Dude-Yoda in the same digitized dystopia of "Tron," blissed-out but in hiding from a malevolent, tyrannical CLU. Battles ensue, fought with lethal flying discs and on motorcycles that suddenly appear against a black void. It isn't nearly as interesting as it might sound.

The story, such as it is, is a quirky repository of half-baked ideas, often stranding actors through no fault of their own.

Michael Sheen adds a provocative but rather lost element as a decadent potentate. Olivia Wilde is semi-memorable as Sam's ally, leaving one wanting more. An uncredited Cillian Murphy brings his weird, dubious charm to an early scene and makes one wish he were playing Sam.

Bridges comes off well. Here we have at least one very unusual reason to see "Tron: Legacy." While the 61-year-old actor looks his age as Kevin, he is also playing the much younger CLU. Computer imagery gives us CLU with Bridges' face as it looked about 25 years ago, particularly recalling his intentionally impassive expressions in "Starman" and "Fearless," two of his greatest performances.

It is odd to see Bridges as he looked then and as he looks now in the same movie, even having dialogues with himself. It amounts to a perverse little homage to the Oscar winner ("Crazy Heart"), certainly not something you'd expect in a potboiler like this.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

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