Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Clint's Guide to Tron: Legacy

Let me be the first to say that that a movie that requires multiple viewings doesn't equate to it being great, or even necessarily good for that matter. Tron: Legacy isn't a great movie, but after a couple of showings and some time to digest, I could argue that it is a good movie with some great ideas that gets lost under the weight of weak pacing and a script that is sublimely subtle.

It's probably best start with the question most who see this movie for the first time must have been thinking as they left the theater: Why did I spend $13-$16 on that?

Well, what most people will take away from a first showing is that the action scenes were badass (when they happened), and the score by Daft Punk is one of the best movie soundtracks ever. Seriously, I defy anyone not to get pumped when Sam Flynn busts out his lightbike for the first time with the slow build of Daft Punk echoing in the background. There are scenes that are goose-pimply with their sense of complete techno-synergy between the score and the eye-popping action. Unfortunately,  those scenes only occupy about 20 minutes of the film's run-time, with 15 of those minutes running concurrently before half the movie is over (remember that thing about pacing?)

The elephant in the room with Legacy is the story, which has been widely panned and decried as imperceptible - and I agreed after the first showing. There are points of exposition where Jeff' Bridges' "Dude"-Flynn is abstractly relating the history of the grid and why the audience should care, that I looked around the room at all the kids who showed up for a Disney movie and I just shook my head; there was just no way a child under 15 would even begin to grasp the "why" to this movie - which is a travesty on the part of the director and screenplay. When you reintroduce a franchise that was already widely considered esoteric to begin with, the last thing you want to do is confuse the masses even more.

The ultimate failing of Legacy is that there is too much brevity to the showing, and nowhere near the clarity on the telling. A first showing of this movie is really like a crash-course on any foreign language, you have to learn and accept the lingo to start and appreciate the complexities that exist under the surface.

  So, to clear up some of the why, I compiled a few frequently asked questions (SPOILER ALERT):

  • How long was Kevin Flynn trapped in the grid?
    • Zeus mused at one point that Clu has searched for Flynn's disk for over 1000 cycles/years. Time within the grid moves slower relative to the real world, so the grid's advancement in 28 earth years then would make more sense. Sucks for K. Flynn - but he did make a sweet ass bike in those 1000 years.
  • What's up with Rinzler/Tron?
    • Tron was the program Flynn created to serve as the champion of the Grid - an ultimate gladiator and fighter who fought for the users (which is a fight for digital "freedom" of information).  Clu overpowers Tron's programming and turns him into his own undefeated Boba Fett named Rinzler. Once Rinzler comes into close proximity with his creator and friend after 1000 years, Kevin Flynn, he is reprogrammed back to Tron (an ability of K. Flynn that was previously established in the night-club when Flynn touches the floor and incites the neutral programs to defeat the guards).  Tron's backup light-jet is stolen by Clu and he plunges into the grid-sea, fully reverting back (as indicated by a color switch) and in limbo until a sequel that will probably never happen. 
  •  Um, why can Quorra the ISO exist in the real world? 
    • The crux of what the ISOs actually are, and why their miraculous appearance in the grid is important to religion and science can only be found if you are paying attention to the scene where K. Flynn is healing Quorra after her arm is derezzed. When Flynn brings up her programming matrix - surprise - it's actually a DNA strand. This small scene is probably the most important scene in the movie for explaining the importance of the grid for humanity, but it is frustratingly glossed over with Jeff Bridges mumbling his "Dude"-isms about it being "radical man." Really
    • The implications of the ISO's for science are vast. If you can digitize an ill person's DNA into the grid, you could simply fix their code and return them to the real world (as proven by Quorra being healed in the grid and then transferred into the real world). 
    • As for the implications for religion, that's where the movie, and perhaps Disney, is sublimely subtle in pushing through their Jonas Bros' theology; K. Flynn created the world, and the DNA structure for humanity naturally manifests itself in the ISOs to fill the digital void. Basically, God (K. Flynn) created the Earth (grid) and then humanity (ISO) appear in his image to fill the void. No digital monkeys or evolution here folks, humanity just appears. Riiiight.
Hopefully that cleared up some of the more mystifying aspects of the film. I didn't get a full grasp until a second viewing, which many of you might not feel  Legacy is worth. I would vote to give it a second chance for the story alone - but lightcycles, laserdisks, and Daft Punk will still make it worth it.


  1. sorry dude, if anyone isn't going to catch the underlying themes of the movie in the first clip i think the mediocrity of the movie will keep them from ever getting it. like you said: pace. this isn't a movie for kids (they'll get lost). dumb people only want the fx (gone quickly). and anyone hoping for a massive 3D extraviganza, sorry it felt like they made very little effort (as prefixed before the damn movie started saying "most of this film was intentionally filmed in 2D") WTF! yeah the sound track was pimpish, but ultimatly killed by the repeated crappy cutaways to the DJ's in the gaybots night club...not at all necessary. and why in the hell is bridges so aloof for the entire movie?!! his eh demeanor is agrivating to say the least. if you are the diety of this space and want shit to change, get all matrix and warp time and space! on the plus side, young flynn did not disappoint and oliva wilde in my opinion can be the leading lady in anything (looks and talent wise...but more so looks, i mean holy shit!) TRON 2 potential:9.5 for sure. potential achieved:4 is fairly kind. give me crack at that story and disneys limitless resources and people would shit themselves to see it again. how does hollywood keep missing so bad when you see the response to truly good writing and directing ala chris nolan and the like???? enough out of me for now

  2. Keenan, they kept doing crappy cutaways to the DJs in the gaybots night club because those DJs were Daft Fucking Punk. :P

    Um, but yes, everything you said, Clint, especially the stuff about the DNA and the ISOs with Quorra. I felt like the movie wasn't heavy enough (but then again, it was Disney, so maybe I was expecting too much bad?), and if it had delved deeper into that stuff, I could've had my mind blown. Not just by the sweetass Daft Punk music and the 3D lightstick motorcycles.