I then present the second review in the series.
History: The original TRON came out in 1982, starring Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn, a hacker who used to work for a software company called ENCOM which had stolen Flynn’s designs for several computer games and marketed them as their own, making millions and making Flynn a flunky who depended on the profits from an arcade, in which teenagers played his stolen games, for income. In the effort to hack ENCOM’s computers and find proof that he in fact did create the games, Flynn was transported into the world of the computer and into a desperate fight for life against the Master Control Program which was seeking domination over both the world of the computer and the real world.
The story idea was compelling, the acting was pretty good, and the graphics were cutting edge (for their time). However, the world of computer graphics soon exploded and TRON was left looking painfully bad.
The film achieved geek cult status, and I first really heard of it, and became interested in it, after the title character of the television show Chuck had a TRON poster in his bedroom. I eventually rented the dvd from the library and loved the film after the first viewing. TRON had quite a bit of what I call the “2001: A Space Odyssey” effect (or, alternatively, the “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” effect): endless sequences of a ship flying through space accompanied by music, but the story is what captivated me. It was the Matrix without all the mysticism, enslaved humans, rock and roll kung-fu, (and Keanu Reeves) before the Matrix. It was a world of imagination and wonder; a world of beings who lived and died under the command of lines of code, beings who nourished themselves on luminescent electric energy, beings who died in gladiatorial combat on light cycles. It was nerdy, thoughtful, and very cool.
Hype: I was incredibly excited to see TRON: Legacy. In fact, I think the only movie in recent memory that I have been as excited to see was Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I was keenly interested the story material, and I knew that computer graphics had finally come of age. All that the film’s writers, director, and producers could envision, they could finally create in full, vivid detail. The original TRON was all grey and light, and kind of incomplete, actually, but the new TRON could be black and light and cutting edge. The light cycles could really roar and the world of the computer could finally suck the audience in. I was expecting an immersive world and mind-blowing action sequences.
The Good: Everything that I wanted, TRON: Legacy delivered and so much more, which was actually less, ironically. The world of the Grid was beautiful, endless, and compelling. The graphics were top notch and stunning. The gladiatorial games (light cycles, disc wars) were violent, awesome, and soon over. There was less action than I anticipated, but that turned out, after contemplation, to be a very good thing. Legacy achieved true brilliance: it didn’t overdo anything that TRON had already done. It had exactly what it needed to tell the story, while advancing the world, the characters, and the philosophy. In was, in every meaning, TRON 2.0. It was TRON updated graphically and advanced in substance. It was satisfying, thought provoking, entertaining, and so very cool.
The Bad: History. TRON: Legacy advanced the story of TRON, but the history of what had happened in the intervening 28 years wasn’t really explained. There was some exposition, and some hints, but the backstory of what had really taken place wasn’t really fleshed out, either inside or outside of the computer. I was left wanting a bit more story, but not in the good way. None of this effected my understanding of the immediate plot, or my enjoyment of the film, but my curiosity wasn’t quite sated.
Along with history of the world of the computer, I would have liked to see a little more interplay between Kevin Flynn and the antagonist Clu 2.0, his digital creation. This was such a complex and multi-textured relationship that I would have loved to see it explored and teased out a bit. I would have liked to live in the mind of Kevin, and see a bit more of how he felt about Clu 2.0.
Also, what had Tron (Flynn’s digital sidekick from the first film) become? I want to know.
The Personal: I have never had a film so completely fulfill what I wanted to see. I connected to the emotional interplay between Sam Flynn and his estranged father Kevin Flynn; and I resonated with the dynamic of the relationship-gone-wrong between Kevin Flynn and his computerized creation Clu 2.0 which was part father/son, part lover, part brother, part God/creation. I saw reflections of my own relationships in each of these aspects, and was able to really emotionally invest in the characters, while exploring my own emotions through the characters. This could be part of a much longer exploration of my life in light of TRON, but sometimes I really feel like Sam who felt abandoned by his father, and sometimes like Clu 2.0, who felt less and less the need for his creator. I also felt like Kevin, who saw the magic of his wildest dreams come true, and then turn horribly wrong and spin out of control.
For me, this is the most important part of cinema: the ability to create a world in which the audience recognizes reality while being able to enjoy the alternative parts of it.
Final Score: 4.1 out of 5 End of Lines.
Bonus: Favorite line: “I am going to knock on the sky and listen to the sound.” – Kevin Flynn. (This is right up there with “Tastes like coconut!” – Tony Stark from Iron Man 2.)