In 1989, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), an innovative software engineer and the CEO of ENCOM International, disappears. Twenty years later, his son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), who became the controlling shareholder after his father's disappearance, takes little interest in the company besides an annual practical joke on the board of directors. Sam is visited by his father's friend and ENCOM executive Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), who urges Sam to investigate a mysterious page originating from Flynn's old arcade. While exploring the arcade, Sam discovers a concealed computer laboratory and unintentionally transports himself to The Grid.
Sam is captured and taken to the game arena. He is eventually pitted against Rinzler, the champion of the games, who notices that Sam is not a program, but a User. Rinzler takes him before Clu, a digital copy of Sam's father who rules The Grid. Clu nearly kills Sam in a Light Cycle match before Quorra (Olivia Wilde) rescues him. Taken to a distant hideout "off-grid," Sam is reunited with his father, who reveals that Clu betrayed him and defeated Tron, seizing control of The Grid and forcing Kevin to remain in hiding. Clu also committed genocide against sentient "isomorphic algorithms" (ISOs), self-produced programs that carried the potential to unlock mysteries in science, religion, and medicine that Clu considered to be an imperfection. When the portal closed, Flynn became a captive inside his own creation until Sam re-opened it from the outside.
Resolving to make it back to the real world where he would be able to delete Clu, Sam makes his way back to The Grid, destined for the End of Line Club to find program called Zuse, whom he believes can provide safe passage to the portal. The club owner, Castor (Michael Sheen) is revealed to be Zuse and betrays Sam to Clu's guards. Though Kevin and Quorra arrive just in time to help Sam escape, Quorra is wounded in the process and Zuse steals Kevin's identity disc. Knowing the disc works as a master key to The Grid, Zuse attempts to negotiate with Clu but Clu simply takes it and destroys the club.
Stowing away on a transport ship, Kevin heals Quorra, who is revealed to be the last surviving ISO. The three unexpectedly arrive at a station aboard a massive warship. When Quorra allows Rinzler to capture her to serve as a distraction, Kevin recognizes Rinzler as a reprogrammed Tron. Clu addresses an army of troops, expressing his desire to enter the real world and reform it to his ideal of perfection.
Sam saves Quorra and retakes Kevin's disc. The trio then commandeer an aerial shuttle, pursued by Clu, his guards, and Rinzler using Light Jets. The three manage to shoot down the guards, and during the conflict, Rinzler regains the memories of his true identity as Tron. He declares that he "fights for the users", and deliberately collides with Clu's Light Jet, causing both of their vehicles to derezz. Rinzler falls into the Sea of Simulation, where the orange illumination on his armor reverts back to his original white. Clu uses Rinzler's spare baton to create another light jet, allowing him to arrive at the portal first. When Sam, Kevin and Quorra reach the portal, a scuffle ensues. Kevin sacrifices himself, re-integrating with Clu to ensure Sam and Quorra escape. The two merge and explode just as Sam and Quorra use Kevin's disc to transport through the portal returning to the real world.
Back in the basement of Flynn's Arcade, Sam saves a backup of The Grid onto his flash drive. He then meets Alan and tells him that he will start working at ENCOM, and, as the controlling interest shareholder, he will name Alan chairman of the board. Sam leaves with Quorra on his motorcycle, showing her the real world she has longed to see.
- Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn, the former CEO of ENCOM International and creator of the popular arcade game Tron, which was based on his own experiences in ENCOM's virtual environment. He disappeared in 1989 while developing "a digital frontier that will reshape the human condition." Bridges also portrays the film's villain, Clu (Codified Likeness Utility), a more advanced incarnation of Kevin's original hacking program of the same name. Kevin designed this version of Clu to act as an "exact duplicate of himself" within The Grid.
- Garrett Hedlund as Sam Flynn, the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn and majority owner of ENCOM. While investigating his father's disappearance, Sam is transported onto The Grid himself.
- Olivia Wilde as Quorra, a program, adept warrior and confidante of Kevin Flynn in The Grid. Flynn refers to her as his "apprentice," and has imparted volumes of information to her regarding the world outside of The Grid, which she longs to experience for herself. Wilde describes Quorra as being like Joan of Arc, a child warrior, with innocence and optimism, led by some greater power. Her hairstyle was also influenced by singer Karen O. Wilde also explained that although "[Quorra] could have just been another slinky, vampy temptress" it was important to her to appeal to both men and women.
- Bruce Boxleitner as Alan Bradley, an executive consultant for ENCOM International and close friend of Kevin Flynn. After receiving a cryptic page from the office at the shuttered Flynn's Arcade, he encourages Sam to investigate its origin. Boxleitner also portrays Tron, a security program developed by Bradley after which one of Flynn's arcade games is named; and also voices Rinzler, a mysterious warrior whose face is concealed inside a polarized helmet.
- Michael Sheen as Castor, a vivacious and renowned program in The Grid who runs the End of Line Club at the top of a tower in the system. Sheen describes his performance as containing elements of performers such as: Ziggy Stardust; Joel Grey from Cabaret; and a bit of Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Show.
- James Frain as Jarvis, Clu's right-hand program and chief intelligence officer.
- Daft Punk as two DJ programs at Castor's End of Line Club, referred to in the end credits as "masked DJs".
- Beau Garrett as Gem, one of four programs known as Sirens. The Sirens operate The Grid game armory, equipping combatants with the armor needed to compete in the games.
- Yaya DaCosta, Serinda Swan, and Elizabeth Mathis as the other three Sirens.
- Cillian Murphy appears in an uncredited role as Edward Dillinger Jr., head of the software design team for ENCOM. He is the son of former ENCOM Senior Executive Ed Dillinger (portrayed by David Warner in the original film).
- Steven Lisberger as a bartender in the End of Line club.
- Anis Cheurfa, a stunt actor, portrays the masked warrior Rinzler.
In the late 1990s, there was speculation that Disney would make a sequel film, due to the original film's cult following. On July 29, 1999, ZDnet News reported that a Tron sequel or remake was being considered by Pixar. Throughout the next several years, many unfounded rumors that a Tron sequel was in production or being developed were reported by various news websites.
On January 13, 2005, Variety reported that Disney had hired Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal to write a sequel to Tron.
Original sequel logo, from the test footage premiered at Comic-Con 2008.
At the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con, a preliminary teaser trailer (labeled as TR2N and directed by Joseph Kosinski) was shown as a surprise to convention guests. It depicted a yellow Program engaged in a light cycle battle with a blue Program, and it prominently featured Jeff Bridges reprising his role as an aged Kevin Flynn (from the first film). At the end of the trailer, the yellow Program showed his face, which appeared identical to Flynn's earlier program Clu (resembling the younger Flynn in Tron).
While the trailer did not confirm that a Tron sequel was in production, it showed that Disney was serious about a sequel. In an interview with Sci-Fi Wire, Bridges revealed that the test footage was not likely to appear in the finished movie.
On July 23, 2009, Disney revealed the current title at their Comic-Con 3D panel. Jeff Bridges explains that the title is in reference to the story's theme: "It's basically a story about a son's search for his father." They also showed a trailer similar to the one shown at Comic-Con 2008, with updated visuals. At the time, the film just wrapped production and they had a year of post production ahead of them. Because none of the footage from inside the computer world was finished, they premiered concept images from the production. Art included the recognizer, which has been updated from the original film. Concept photos were also shown of Disc Wars, which has also been revised from the original film into a 16-game tournament. The arena is set-up so that the game court organically changes, and all 16 games are going on at the same time. The boards also combine in real time until the last two Disc warriors are connected.
Light cycles make a return, with new designs by Daniel Simon. According to the press conference at Comic-Con 2009, a new vehicle appears called a "Light Runner," a two-seat version of the light cycle. It is said to be very fast, and has the unique ability to go off The Grid on its own power. We also get a glimpse at Kevin Flynn's own cycle, a "Second Generation Light Cycle" designed in 1989 by Flynn and "it's still the fastest thing on The Grid." It incorporates some of the look of both films. The movie also features theatrical 7.1 surround sound.
Light cycle model on display at Fan Expo 2009 Disney booth
A life-size model of the light cycle was put on display at a booth at Fan Expo 2009 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada from August 28–30, 2009, along with a special presentation of material from the production. The conceptual art shown at Comic-Con was shown in the session, along with some test film of the martial artists who play a more athletic style of Disc Wars. A segment from the movie showed Flynn's son entering the now-decrepit arcade, playing a Tron stand-up arcade video game, noticing a passage in the wall behind the Tron game and entering it, the passage closing behind him. Flynn's son makes the visit to the arcade after Alan Bradley receives a page from the disconnected phone number of the arcade. The footage was used later as part of the trailer released on March 5, 2010.
The original character of Yori does not appear in the sequel; nor does her user, Dr. Lora Baines, even though the film refers to Alan Bradley being married to Lora. According to online media Sci Fi Wire: "Fans have been lobbying for actress Cindy Morgan to be in the movie." There are active campaigns online, such as "Yori Lives" on Facebook, which is independent of Morgan herself. "All I know is what I'm seeing online," Morgan said. "I am so thrilled and touched and excited about the fan reaction and about people talking about the first one and how it relates to the second one. I can't tell you how warm a feeling I get from that. It just means so much." No one from Tron: Legacy had contacted Morgan, and she did not directly speak with anyone from the Joseph Kosinski-directed sequel. As Dr. Lora Baines, Cindy Morgan had appeared with Bruce Boxleitner (as Alan Bradley) at the Encom Press Conference in San Francisco, April 2, 2010.
Bridges brought on board Bernie Glassman, a Zen Buddhist, to consult on the story and add spiritual subtext.
Filming began in Vancouver, British Columbia in April 2009. Stage shooting for the film took place at the Canadian Motion Picture Park studio in south Burnaby. Most of the film was filmed in 3D, as was the teaser. The film's beginning portions were shot in 2D. 40 minutes of the film were shot in IMAX. Digital Domain was contracted to work on the visual effects.
In April 2009, pictures were leaked onto the Internet showing actors in blue skintight suits. The design of the suits is reminiscent of the outfits worn by the actors in the original film. Director Kosinski also revealed that the faces of the younger Flynn, as well as Clu 2, were created entirely in CG.
In some sequences the image shows a fine mesh pattern and some blurring. That is not interference or a production fault, but indicates that that sequence is a flashback and to simulate an older form of video representation technology.
Stunt work on the film was designed and coordinated by 87eleven. Olivia Wilde describe it as an honour to train with them. 87eleven also designed and trained fight sequences for 300 and Watchmen.
Tron: Legacy has received mixed reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 49% based on 205 reviews, with an average score of 5.8/10, The film has received a 31% rating based on 36 reviews when narrowed down to top critics, with an average of 5.6/10. The site's consensus stated, "Tron: Legacy boasts dazzling visuals, but its human characters and story get lost amidst its state-of-the-art production design." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score in the 0-100 range based on reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 49% for the film, based on reviews from 40 critics.
Roger Ebert gave a positive review of Tron: Legacy giving it 3 out of 4 stars. He describes the film as a light show that "plays to the eyes and ears more than the mind" and he further praises the 3D and computer generated younger version of Jeff Bridges noting that "both [Tron] films, made so many years apart, can fairly lay claim to being state of the art." Ebert calls the plot a catastrophe, although he describes Jeff Bridges performance as effective given the preposterous material, and credits the other actors for bringing humanity to their roles. Kyle Smith of the New York Post calls the film an "eyeball party" in praise of the visuals. The score by Daft Punk he says "surpasses magnificence" containing the qualities of the thundering work by Hans Zimmer on The Dark Knight and also of retro-’80s synthesizer music. Smith complains about the writing, calling it "buggy storytelling" and describing the one liners as "idiot speak", but ultimately he gave the film a score of 3 out of 4.
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly describes Joseph Kosinski's direction is "just intriguing enough to leave you hoping that when Sam finally locates his father ... the story will really take off" but is disappointed that it turns out a little too much like a bad old "trapped on Planet X" type of science fiction story. Gleiberman describes the landscapes as looking "like Blade Runner after gentrification" and praises the fluidity and elegance of the special effects, as well as the music admitting he "grooved on the look and the atmosphere" for much of the film. Bridges' beatnik Zen performance is likened to "a weary cyber version of the Dude" while he describes the role of Olivia Wilde as "pretty standard punk-arm-candy posing". He notes the film "injects you into a luminous action matrix and asks you to be happy with the ride" but is disappointed as it is another Hollywood film being overly consumed by its own effects. Josh Tyler of Cinemablend praised the film's 3D technical merits. Scott Tobias of The AV Club gave the film a D+ rating. Although he praises the cutting edge special effects but in an attempt to reach greatness the film takes itself too seriously and becomes dry and lacking in any joy.
Michelle Alexandria of Eclipse Magazine gave a positive review, stating that she "loved the [film's] story"; Kurt Loder of Reason magazine praises the slick work of director Kosinski and credits his undergraduate architectural studies which bring a monumental quality to the (IMAX) film. Impressed by the original vision he sees echoes of Fritz Langs Metropolis and elements of Kubrick, noting that Casters night club is "pure Milk bar". He praises the film for being realized at a high level and "about as brainy as this kind of genre fun gets". Rossiter Drake of 7x7 writes that Tron: Legacy is "Buoyed by its story, sometimes convoluted but hard to resist". Pete Hammond of Box Office Magazine also praised the story, noting that "Tron Legacy doesn't let Sam wander through this CGI enhanced universe without some sort of emotional payoff" and "Legacy's great story and acting are matched by great effects"