Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tron: Legacy Review

Okay I decided to see if this movie was the sum of all the fears I had about it. Namely would it be as lame as its original incarnation that came out in 1982. Yes all you nerd-boys who worship the original Tron, I was completely unimpressed by it. Outstanding visual flash has never impressed me as a suitable substitute for a good story. I am also not a fan of the Akira movie for a similar reason, too much flash and an incoherent plot.

HERE BE SPOILERS. Turn back if you fear spoilers.

Basic plot is thus: Sam is an aimless spoiled youth in need of a father. His father had vanished twenty years ago. Then he finds the secret closet that leads to the Grid in the form of a hidden digitizing laser. There is various spots of redemption between father, son, and adopted daughter; with matching chase scenes and explosions. And from there it becomes a race to reach the closet before Kevin Flynn’s master daemon and doppelganger Clu(Clue) reaches it and launches his take over of the real world. And in the end, Kevin Flynn even reaches rapprochement with Clu.

Or to be even more simple in summing up the plot. Kevin Flynn and his disc is the AE-35 unit. Clu is HAL 9000 who has the utmost enthusiasm for his mission. The ISOs are the pesky astronauts that are preventing HAL from completing his mission. Sam Flynn is the great unknown, the alien. And then there is Quorra(Cora) in the role of Dave Bowman ruining Clu’s plans.

The light-cycle arena has evolved. It is now a multi-layer arena where a player can use ramps to take down opponents, nothing like zooming up a ramp ahead of the other cycle and then bank a hard right to smash your opponent. The disc battles have also evolved in the new movie, you can be fighting your opponent when suddenly the floor turns into the ceiling. Discs can still shatter the floor and make holes. The de-res sequences as defeated programs fall apart reminds me of Stargate SG-1 when the Replicators are deactivated. We only see the tanks one time while the Enforcers are seen throughout the new movie. Even Sark’s command carrier comes back, with similar bad luck. What is new in the movie are the flyers. When we first see the flyers, Flynn has hijacked one. As Quorra lifts it off the command carrier, its wings unfold and one has a strong impression of an Imperial Tydirium shuttle, then the wings are extended and it looks like a manta ray gliding out of the hanger. Clu’s command cruiser is another new beastie. From the side, it’s glowing orange lines reminds me of a Spinner from Blade Runner. Though from head on, its command area is akin to the open mouth of a whale shark and the body has flukes descending.

There are other nods to Star Wars in the movie. When Sam is looking for Zuse(Zeus) on the streets of the Grid. He trades Flynn’s light-cycle for a beggar program’s cloak. After this, Sam bears a striking resemblance Anakin Skywalker in his Jedi cloak with the cowl up. Flynn in his flowing robes and beard could be considered a Jedi also. Flynn’s hacking skills can be compared to Jedi Force tricks like at the end when by merely pressing his hands on the walkway to the portal, he catches Clu in a Force hold that allows Sam and Quorra to escape back to the real world.

Lets next look at Flynn’s refuge off the Grid next. After fleeing into a wilderness that reminds one of Superman’s home planet of Krypton, the sparseness of Flynn’s house is something that a lover of Japanese culture might find appealing. Broad open area with just a few seats that look looted from the space station from 2001 while Flynn sits in the lotus position as he contemplates the Grid and the open portal. All color-coordinated in white or pale gray. A game of Go is in progress and Quorra comments to Sam that Flynn seems to always win. Then we see Quorra, Flynn, and Sam eating dinner. Flynn is older than his Clu doppelganger. In fact this whole refuge reminds me of Dave Bowman’s hotel room in 2001.

The End of the Line Club, think Cabaret in a digital form. Some think of the Milk Bar. The David Bowie vibe of Zuse(Zeus) is strongly felt. Sam is lead to this Club by one of the game gynoids who equipped him for the games. Yes there were four maidens in white and dove gray who put Sam’s armor on making Sam ready for his digital tourney. She so happens to find him on the streets of the Grid as he searches for Zuse. She is a platinum blond with black eye-shadow and false eyelashes not seen since the Tom Petty Alice in Wonderland video Don’t Come Around Here No More. End of the Line Club has to be a funny nod to the original game when End of Line means a command has executed. Right?

Our first clue Quorra is a program of the Grid is when she shows Sam the books Flynn has been teaching her. Her favorite is the stories of Jules Verne and she asks Sam if he knows who Jules Verne is. Sam absently says yes and Quorra’s eyes light up and she innocently asks what is Jules Verne like.

First problem I have with the new movie revolves around a character from the first movie. Where is Lora/Yori? She is completely missing from the sequel. Did the writers think there could only be one female character of interest so poor Lora got the axe? It leaves a hole for those who have watched the original movie, because she is missing from the flashbacks that Flynn tells his son Sam. It seems Yori was not ported over from the original system. As for poor Tron, if you have not figured out what happened to him after Flynn fled; then all the gee-whiz effects are all you need to enjoy the lightshow.

Second is Daft Punk’s contribution to this movie or lack of contribution. This is a house band with a distinctive voice. They are best known in Japanese animation circles for Interstellar 5555 that married their electronic music to the classic character designs of Leji Matsumoto to tell a story. In Tron: Legacy their music does not have their voice, instead its simply background music that I had forgotten within minutes of hearing it. Even at the End of the Line Club where Daft Punk is the house DJ robots, the fight music is not memorable. The most distinctive music for the whole movie belongs to Annie Lennox of Eurythmics belting out her signature song Sweet Dreams Are Made of This as Sam finds his father’s hidden lab.

Third problem to me is more technical in nature and a bit convoluted so I will break it down in sub-areas.

The centerpiece of the movie is this creation Kevin tells Sam about, the Grid. What is this Grid? Throughout the movie; Flynn, Sam, and Clu all talk about gaining access to the portal that brought Sam into the Grid. No other portals are mentioned. So internal evidence suggests there are no other connections. The Grid is thus a stand-alone system that has run for twenty years without crashing.

But somehow there came unto the Grid programs called ISOs. As if emerging from a digital wilderness, a tribe of self created programs. Flynn thinks they are wonderful but Clu has his programming. Clu is Flynn’s master daemon who’s mission is to perfect the Grid. He sees the ISOs as an impediment to perfection so he stages a revolt that places him upon the throne of Heaven and then he commits a digital Shoah against the ISOs wiping them all out. Meanwhile Flynn flees into the wilderness, in this case it’s called off the Grid.

Here we hit another pothole in the story. We have this one isolated system and on it is the Grid. So where does ‘off the Grid’ come from? If this had been the Metaverse Stephenson wrote about in Snow Crash, Flynn would have fled out to the undeveloped areas of the global network, where all there is straight lines. But this is a closed system so what is left? Unallocated drive space and/or memory is the possible answer. If this was the case, then all of Clu’s programs would be able to follow Flynn to his refuge, but according to Quorra things like the light-cycles will not run correctly off the Grid. Which allows Quorra and Sam to escape the light-cycle arena in their digital 4x4 assault vehicle. Just a minor problem right?

Where does Clu’s digital army come from if the Grid is an isolated stand-alone system? In a scene right out of Star Wars we see Clu on the command carrier with arrayed ranks of soldier programs just like the serried ranks of Clone Troopers awaiting embarkation. And Flynn says all Clu can do is de-res programs or re-assign them, Clu can’t make new programs. And with Flynn in the wilderness and the hidden lab in the arcade forgotten, so where did these programs come from. Like the ISOs we are left scratching our heads about origins.

The climax of the movie is a race to the portal. Whomever has Flynn’s disc will gain access to the portal and be released to the real world. Will Clu and his army or Flynn, Sam, and Quorra appear in the hidden lab? And if Clu makes it, how will all those thousands of physical bodies squeeze into that tiny lab? That could be messy since Clu is sailing the whole command carrier directly at the portal.

Luckily its our hero Sam and Quorra that make it out of the Grid and back to the real. As Sam and Quorra ascend there is a massive digital explosion in the Grid, leaving nothing but the waters of life as if we await Maat and Ptah to command the world to rise again. Next scene is of Sam putting a large SIM card around his neck after seeing ‘Download is complete,’ so we assume the Grid is now on that card. And miraculously, Sam and Quorra are clothed in human clothes with no sign of what happened to their Grid attire.

Final scene is of Sam and Quorra on Sam’s Ducati motorcycle zipping through the varied landscape of the real world. This is an obvious nod to Deckard and Rachel fleeing north from the movie Blade Runner. So even with its ending, Tron: Legacy rips another movie off.

Note to Disney if they want to make a sequel to this movie: END OF LINE.


MKSTEEL said...

Wow you must've hated the Original too for all the love you show in this review LOL!

Anna said...

I was unimpressed by the original Tron. If I hated the movie I would be jumping up&down frothing at the mouth hurling invecatives. Instead I state reasons why I was not impressed.

In hindisght, the original Tron movie makes more sense than the sequel. Flynn has lost his birhtright to a userper and he goes on a quest to restore it. Along the way he has helpers - Tron and Yori. After battles and revelations they reach their goal. They battle against a giant and a wizard. And our hero emerges victorious and like Nevksy, Flynn does not get the love. It's his assistant Alan who gets Lora.

All that makes Tron different from a stock hero quest cookie-cutter movie is the location and graphics. A twist in technology is not the same as an imaginitive twist in the plot for the audience to get hooked by. And neither Tron movie can claim to have that. Both stories are pure vanilla.

If you have some counter-points to what I have written, please post them here MKSteel. I am interested in what you think.

Nik said...

In that case "Zuse" does not come from Zeus. It is a play on Konrad Zuse, a German computer engineer and pioneer.


Anonymous said...

Hon, you are thinking way too much. Take a quote from the original, if you feel that one is better..."Stop Thinking!"

Maybe "history", "nods", plays on words, and messages repeat themselves throughout the movie world simply because most people don't pay heed to them and they must be drilled into heads once again.
That's what movies, tv and media are all about. Repetitive messages, subtle mind control through dropping hints/messages over and over, in recycled versions of other movies and such. It's nothing new, sweetheart, so cool your jets.

You seemed to miss the very important subliminal messages our "New World Order" is trying to send us via big time Disney Freemasons. Pay attention to that instead of trying to take the throne from Roger Ebert.

Kobe said...

Anna, your answered your own question regarding Lora/Yori not appearing in the movie or in Flynn's flashbacks.
"Flynn does not get the love. It's his assistant Alan who gets Lora."

With that being said, why assume Lora would be anywhere in Flynn's flashbacks? Maybe she did, in fact marry Alan. Maybe it was a short affair. Looks like there were plenty of men to choose from on the digital frontier. She seemed like a gal who was ok with smootching others while she was with someone already. Maybe she was derezzed along the way and that's what the storywriter would like to have us imagine. Maybe she will appear in the next Tron. There has been talk about another sequel.