TRON: Legacy (2010 movie) review…

TRON: Legacy (2010 movie) review after the break…

TRON: Legacy (2010 movie) review

As anyone who has read this blog for an extended period of time may discover, I am an advocate of both the Classic EPCOT Center as well as the TRON franchise. In my mind, the histories and fates of both of these properties are intertwined irreversibly. EPCOT Center and the original TRON movie both premiered in 1982 (October 1st and July 9th, respectively) yet both began life in the late 1970s.

Both creative ventures were for the purest intent: EPCOT Center was the ‘practical, realistic’ vision that Disney Company founder Walt Disney (yup, the company was named after him – Who’d have thunk, right?) had in envisioning the perfect city of tomorrow – The city that’s always forty years ahead of it’s time, that was never sit on it’s laurels and always challenge convention when the evidence suggested that a better way existed.  TRON, the movie, began it’s life when Disney executives, now years removed after founder Walt Disney had passed away, struggled to find it’s own voice. “What Would Walt Do?” became an unofficial mantra of the company and, as a result, creative timidness developed that began to plague the company in all of it’s endeavors. TRON was to be a bold new type of movie – The type of movie that no one had the corporate fortitude to make. The world of computer generated graphics was brand new – While one or two movies had used a single computer generated effect in their movies (The Black Hole was one of them), no one had ever attempted to make an entire movie based around computer graphics or, for that matter, a movie based around an entirely new type of device… The personal microcomputer (yes, kids, they really were called “microcomputers” back then – Talk to your parents about it).

The original TRON movie was revolutionary in both setting and technology – No one had ever seen a movie about computer programs personified. No one had ever seen a movie with animations made primarily using computers. Most adults had never used a computer when the original TRON premiered. For all most adults knew, opening up the inside of a computer was akin to a child peering inside the inner workings of an old television and half-expecting their favorite cartoon characters to pop out of it.

Equally as foreign and alien was the concept of a Disney theme park that didn’t feature Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy or any of the other familiar Disney characters. EPCOT Center billed itself as a serious theme park – Half of it was called Future World, detailing what our future was going to one day resemble while the other half introduced Americans to a World Showcase, filled with pavilions featuring architecture, exhibits and products from countries most had never been to before. There were no tea cup rides or roller coasters anywhere. Instead, guests could use something weird called “telecommunications,” real-time computer-assisted surveys, touch screens, robotic arms…

Unfortunately, both properties suffered from setbacks. TRON had the misfortune opening in the same year as a certain extra-terrestrial. EPCOT Center was unfairly perceived as boring because of the lack of Disney characters and the amount of rides base on the size of the park. A new managerial team, led by Michael Eisner, soon arrived who were more interested (in some cases, legitimately) in revenue generation then reviving imagination. Despite the fact that TRON, the movie was profitable and EPCOT Center was, at times, standing-room only (some rides had hours-long lines), neither property weren’t profitable enough – TRON made a pittance compared to that adorable extra-terrestrial and the Magic Kingdom was still making more money then that new, “serious” theme park.

As a result, both properties began to recede from their original courses. Projects to include more TRON-related exhibits in EPCOT Center were cancelled. Sequels for TRON were cancelled, despite the video game based on TRON being more profitable then the movie itself. The new theme for EPCOT Center was “accessibility” – Pavilions were made more humorous, celebrities and Disney characters were added to pavilions to draw larger crowds, pavilions themselves were altered or demolished to allow for more thrill rides.

Both properties, in their original states though, would go on to inspire the next generation of creative producers. “Horizons,” the only pavilion to be demolished at EPCOT Center, has since become an unofficial rallying cry for EPCOT Center purists yearning for a return of the spirit and ingenuity of the original theme park. John Lassiter, one of the creative geniuses at CGI film maker Pixar, has cited the original TRON as one of his main influences.

Many times, the attempt to make a TRON sequel has ended in frustration. Disney executives were wary of revisiting a property that had failed to live up to it’s financial potential. Script treatments were confounding to executives not familiar with computer terminology or themes, such as “search engines” and “Internet.” A 2003 computer game, “TRON 2.0,” despite solid reviews, did not garner the financial profit that Disney sought because they failed to release modding tools for the game and poorly modified the computer game to play on consoles that had limited capabilities.

Finally, though, interest in reviving the TRON franchise was renewed when a demonstration reel of what a TRON sequel might resemble was presented at a convention. The response to the footage was overwhelmingly jubilant. Even the budget-minded executives with the coldest hearts had been persuaded that something was there – Something marketable. Something profitable.

And so, TRON: Legacy – 28 years after the original – was born.

Unfortunately, TRON: Legacy resembles more the modern-day “Epcot” then the classic “EPCOT Center”… And not in a good way (if a good way even exists).

TRON: Legacy is a 2010 movie starring Garrett Hedlund as Sam Flynn, the son of Kevin Flynn (the co-star from the original film). Years after the events in TRON, Kevin Flynn disappears into the computer world, never to be seen again. When a mysterious page (no, not a person – a page from a pager… Oh, go ask your parents about those, too!) emerges, Sam investigates the old arcade (Go ask your parents about arcades as well) that his father owned and discovers a secret office that holds the gateway into the computer world that Kevin disappeared into. Sam, inside the computer world, must now find his father while evading a sinister force that has reasons for trapping Sam inside this new digitized world…

There is no doubt that TRON: Legacy (hereafter abbreviated as T:L) looks impressive. Computer graphics are now photo-realistic and the possibilities for their use are virtually limitless.

Yet, for all of the shiny packaging that T:L provides, the story lacks depth and completeness. Despite extensive exposition, some more creative then others, storyline loop holes run rampant and undermine all of the pretty scenery.

  • Kevin Flynn, the man, ages inside the computer world. Why? Isn’t he, in essence, a computer program now? While it’s understandable that his unintentionally evil computer program, CLU, wouldn’t age (CLU is an actual computer program), why does Kevin? This is never explained.
  • Wouldn’t Alan Bradley, Kevin Flynn’s partner in TRON and returning for an extended cameo in T:L, figure to look for Kevin in the computer world since he knows he’s been there already and has returned on multiple occasions?
  • Why does anyone need to get to a portal to physically go home? Can’t they just communicate with the outside world like TRON did with an I/O tower in the first TRON movie?
  • How can a computer program be digitized into a human? Really? There’s no establishing precedent. It’s one of many loose ends.
  • If computer programs fear being de-rezzed (their term for “killed”), why not just make multiple copies of oneself? Can’t a copy of Kevin be recreated from the disc that’s teleported back into the real world?

I could type until my fingers are numb at all these types of loop holes but it would be to no avail; The point is that when people ask themselves these types of questions, it damages the movie watching experience. If these questions are being asked by the audience, they are not watching the movie. It doesn’t matter if these questions are slyly answered in the movie, it matters that these answers are not addressed clearly in this movie. Even if you ignored the computer-esque loop holes, there are still many conventional story loop holes that will disconnect the audience from this movie, such as:

  • Why introduce the son of Dillinger if he has no point in this movie? At all? If it’s really intended to set him up as a future villain, put him in a post-credits scene. By introducing him early in the script, people will think he has some relevance to the main story which he doesn’t.
  • Why have a movie called TRON: Legacy if there is no character TRON? Yes, Rinzler is technically TRON (the same way that Anakin Skywalker is really Darth Vader in the Star Wars universe) but shouldn’t a movie called TRON have the actual character TRON in it? How ridiculous is it to completely ignore the title character OF THE ENTIRE FRANCHISE?!
  • The entire GEM / Castor betrayal has no weight because they are never portrayed as good. They never do something good to make the betrayal seem that much more evil. Again, it makes no sense. I’m not even going to bother with Castor’s *ahem* eccentric personality which could be misinterpreted easily as a lifestyle orientation. At least the LGBT crowd can rest easy knowing that they’re represented in the digital world.
  • Why were the “Sirens” there at all? Isn’t it a little inefficient for them to “re-robe” everyone in that matter? Yes, it looks pretty but… You’d think computers would be a bit more efficient. After all, they’re computers.

Like modern-day “Epcot,” TRON:Legacy is recognizable only in the broadest of strokes to it’s predecessor. The pavilion Spaceship Earth is still there and so, too, are identity disks. The Living Seas pavilion still exists (albeit renamed and gutted) and so, too, are lightcycles. World Showcase still exists as does the usual “Red circuitry are for bad guys and blue circuitry are for good guys.” Yet TRON and T:L are the same as apples and oranges, as chalk and cheese. TRON’s storyline was, by no means, Citizen Kane in scope but at least it was complete in it’s simplicity. TRON’s look and setting had an uniqueness for it’s time that T:L simply can’t compensate for. 28 years later, everyone uses computers in some form: Smartphones, laptops, netbooks, desktops, e-book readers… Without the novelty in setting or delivery of the special effects, T:L is forced to rely upon a confounding story in a setting without established rules. Can an user be killed in the same way that program is? It’s never established (they can bleed, apparently, though). Where did the ISOs come from? How did they form? It’s a miracle that’s not explained like so many other items not explained.

TRON:Legacy is not a horrible movie – It’s just an indifferent, mediocre movie. With so much attention paid to the special effects, shouldn’t some of that attention have been paid to the story? Ask yourself this – Would Pixar have made the same movie? Pixar before it was bought by Disney?

Just like it’s sad to see modern-day “Epcot” gutted of it’s original purpose so that executives can pride themselves in ensuring that 6-year old children aren’t bored (which they really weren’t), it’s sad to see that, after 28 years, all that remains of TRON is an unique setting and… Not much else. And that’s a sad legacy to leave.

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