Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tron Legacy

Dir: Joseph Kosinski

I saw this two evenings ago, with a few friends, after I decided to give 3d a second chance. It helped that I'd read the 3d effects in Tron Legacy were more subtle than in Avatar, and it helped that this was a sequel to Tron. Be warned if you read this, this post contains a great many spoilers.

I've always thought of Tron as being an updated variant of the story in 'Fantastic Voyage', where a puny human is taken from his normal environment and pitched into another, highly dangerous environment and must survive by his wits and a good strong dose of luck. 'The Incredible Shrinking Man' was another such film and there are any number of movies devoted to unfortunates who get catapulted through time to face everything from dinosaurs to killing machines. What set Tron apart, was not just the visuals, but also the fact that the new environment was cast as man made and thus the human in question became something akin to a fallen angel.

Tron Legacy was good and it certainly had a lot of effects, but I felt it didn't quite live up to its potential. The story was linear and some what contrived and the story writers didn't seem to have thought a few things through. As Goeg said, the film lacked philosophy. There were a number of obvious questions which were largely ignored in favour of a stream lined plot which squeezed in all the favourite vehicles from the first film.

The most disappointing aspect of the film from a visual perspective was the alternate reality itself. In the original, the digital world is a seemingly endless landscape with an apparently global reach, but in Tron Legacy, the 'grid' is hardly more than a single city surrounded by an abstract terrain of bleak rocks. This is explained as being because the Grid is a construct designed and created by Flynn as a perfect environment, which I took to mean that the whole thing existed only within Flynn's own personal computer. Considering that computer was meant to be twenty five years old, then it would have to be pretty fucking huge, which makes it all that more unbelievable that it has been running by itself in a basement workshop locked away and forgotten underneath Flynn's old gaming emporium. Surely some one from the accounting dept at the corporation which Flynn left behind (and which has grown fat and powerful in his absence) would have noticed the vast expenditure on electrical power required to run this computer. Apparently not. Flynn must have been a real wizard programmer too as his computer runs flawlessly, for these twenty five years, never once requiring any maintenance.

The emphasis on what appeared to be a single city location gave the film a contained feel that sat at odds with the premise of the story. Flynn, having created the grid along with his two program friends, Tron and Clu fell into a problem of morality when a sentient digital form of life arose from the process. These entities are referred to as Iso's in the film and are never really explored. They become the means by which Clu's tyranny can become as Nazi like as possible in Flynn's misguided search for perfection.

Clu of course betrayed Flynn and trapped him within the 'perfect world' of the Grid (since the master mind Flynn never gave himself a way of exiting the Grid except by means of a portal which only stays open for eight hours and can only be reactivated from the outside). Clu then set about his purpose of creating Flynn's perfect world, and ethnically erased the Iso's. Having done this, he then sat about watching gladiatorial games where programs are derezzed for his amusement for the next twenty years, and failing to catch Flynn who has cunningly hidden himself in a luxury condo over looking the city from a nearby dark cliff face... where no one else resides. Note that Flynn's apartment is often lit up in a brilliant bright white decor which was apparently designed by some one who'd just watched '2001', but despite being a big bright block of light in the darkness beyond the city's perimeter, no one notices this amazing hide away and Flynn spends his time safely meditating, reading the classics of literature and tutoring the last of the Iso's.

Note that Clu is unable to create his own programs so every time he derezzes one for his own amusement, he is diminishing his own world.

One day however Clu apparently has an idea and sends a message to Flynn's old companion Alan (the guy who created the original Tron program) out in the real world. It doesn't say much for Clu that it took him twenty years to hatch this plan, nor the 'build an army and invade the world of the users' plot that lies behind it. Alan tells Flynn's son Sam about the message which has originated from Flynn's old office at the abandoned gaming emporium and Sam rides his sexy motorbike over to investigate. He quickly discovers the secret lair and activates the super computer with ease. Alas he also triggers the laser cannon which breaks down his body's molecular structure and rebuilds him within the grid (this process having been explained in the original film).

Sam is immediately picked up and put into the games where he survives long enough to face a deadly gaming program named Rinzler, who easily defeats Sam, but at the last moment recognises him as a user. Sam is then hauled before Clu who gloats for a bit then puts Sam in to a light bike game.

Things are looking dodgy now though. Flynn's perfect new world appears to be nothing more than a shinier version of the old one, and one wonders what the purpose of execution by gladitorial combat has to do with a perfect world, but fear not. The laws of probability are easily disregarded and Sam, despite heroic self defence is rescued in the nick of time by Quorra (the last of the Iso's) and taken to meet his aging father. Sam discovers that his father has been trapped in the computer all the years he was missing (good job the power never failed, or the laser broke down), that Tron has been destroyed by Clu and that the only exit from the Grid is about to close and lock him in along with his father. I can't imagine a worst fate than being locked into an alternative reality created by my father...

Fear not however, no Disney film is going to doom a hero and his girl and Sam duly escapes with Quorra, though how Quorra manages to be rebuilt by the laser given she hasn't left any biological matter with which to be reconstituted is any one's guess.

Essentially the whole story is nutty, but its still worth watching.

1 comment:

brando said...

I kept hoping that the blonde gal was going to get nekkid, but it's Disney, so no chance. She was about 10X more striking than Oliva Wilde. My favorite part was when Tony Blair was dancing around to Daft Punk tunes. It makes no sense, but it was fun.

Your observation about Clu killing programs is awesome! He's diminishing his own world, with no chance of reproduction. Sweet.

Also, Clu wants to take over our world with a few thousand troops that can't be replaced? No guns, no vehicles, no logistics for food/water, no understanding of the laws of nature in the physical world. All constricted in a tiny basement. Good luck with that. Not exactly a diabolic plan to be worried about. During the first 12 hours, they might be able to cause some carnage, but as soon as we respond with real force, their "invasion" would be over.