By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

It’s 28 years later, and the belated sci-fi sequel, Tron: Legacy, has a similar appeal and the same shortcomings as its long-ago, digital-world predecessor, Tron: technical razzle dazzle galore, but dramatic oomph that lies on the floor.

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As if we needed another reminder that storytelling skills have failed to improve and keep pace with technological advances, or that video gaming is substantially different from movie enjoying.

Tron: Legacy picks up decades after Tron, which took us inside the video game world and trapped a young Jeff Bridges as computer programmer and video-game developer Kevin Flynn inside the Grid.

In the sequel, Kevin finds a way, after 20 years, to make contact from inside the computer with his twentysomething son Sam, played by Garrett Hedlund (right, bringing very little to the keyboard).

Sam is the corporate honcho and trust-fund brat who runs the Microsoft-like Encom International from a rebellious distance, primarily because he is still bitter that his father abandoned him.  But he proceeds to his dad’s dusty video arcade anyway and locates the portal to the Grid.

Once successfully inside, tech-savvy Sam meets the villainous digital avatar “CLU,” Flynn’s power-hungry alter ego — also played agelessly by a CGI-assisted Bridges (top photo) — who now controls the Grid.

So Sam teams up with his father on a treacherous journey across the cyber universe that Kevin created with the help of the fearless and fetching warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde), who appears to be, hands down, the best-looking computer program in the universe, cyber or otherwise.

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Debuting director Joseph Kosinski, coming from a background in architecture and commercials, works from a shallow, pedestrian script by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (who were staff writers on television’s “Lost”) that squanders the only element with the potential to bring this glorified video game to life.  That’s the unexpected father-and-son reunion, with all its potential surprise and relief and recriminations and apologies and emotionality.

Alas, the theme barely registers and we’re back to the empty action.  Yawn.

As we watch Flynn the younger get sucked into the computer to join Flynn the older, as it were, we remain outside, as spectators, emotionally disconnected rather than in like Flynn. This is soulless filmmaking, however snazzy the hardware.

The visual effects, as slick and attention-grabbing as they are, overpower the narrative, which is confusing if not unexplainable to begin with — especially for anyone unfamiliar with the first film.  Attempts at humor are so lame as to seem purposeful duds.

And most of the film is in 3-D, which means expect extreme dimness, but some of it is in 2-D, although we wear the glasses throughout.  Does the film need to be in muted 3-D for any artistic reason? Of course not.

It seems a real plus to have several versions of an actor as skilled as Jeff Bridges sometimes sharing the screen with one another, compliments of motion-capture technology and a body double.  But somehow even that nifty technological wrinkle is trotted out to minimal dramatic effect.

So we’ll program 2 stars out of 4 for Tron: Legacy, a high-tech, bad-check adventure with visual splendor that’s tossed in a blender.

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Gamers, rejoice.   Movie lovers, bad choice.