Friday, December 17, 2010

Movie Review - Tron Legacy

Tron Legacy is the sequel to the cult classic film Tron, which was released 25 years ago. I'm not exactly sure who thought this was a good idea, but ok. Sure. Tron, for those who don't know, was about Kevin Flynn, a computer nerd getting sucked into a computer system and finding a magical world inside. Lot's of stuff happened, and most people mostly remember one scene.

Cutting edge, back in the day. And still, even though the technology looks dated, a fun scene. It has tension, and is in general a good, fun scene.

So, Tron Legacy takes place in present day. Kevin Flynn went back into the grid in 1989 (the computer world) and vanishes, leaving his son, Sam Flynn, our main character, to grow up an orphan.

Years pass, and Sam is a rebellious, 27 year old who's not yet taken over his fathers company Encom (which is basically a Microsoft expy, in case anyone was wondering.) and does things like break into the Encom building, and do WACKY SHENANIGANS!

As one might expect, before too long Sam ends up getting zapped into the grid himself. And that's where the movie really begins.

So, let me talk about what I liked about Tron Legacy. (Don't worry, this won't take long.)

First of all, the visuals are very nice. For example, the lightcycle scene in this one is a lot of fun. There are ships that look like big space invaders, and the grid looks very sleek and minimalist. Unfortunately, while they excelled in making it seem minimalist, this is not always a good thing, since every solid surface is black in the entire film, that means you have black buildings on black streets in front of a black sky. There are small streaks of color but... The world just starts to feel dull and empty before too long. While the visuals are nice, there just wasn't enough color.

But the visuals were nice. I'll give them that much. The effects are impressive, if not a bit too dark.

The other major success in my opinion was the fact that they got Daft Punk to do the entire soundtrack. Seriously. Daft Punk and Tron are a match made in heaven.

I'm not the biggest Daft Punk fan, but they fit this movie so well it's not even funny.

Ok, so now let's talk about what I disliked about this film. This part may take a bit longer.

Now, I'm going to get a bit spoilery for the first hour or so of the two and a half hour film here, because I seriously can't explain how monumentally stupid this plot is without... Well... Explaining how monumentally stupid this plot is. So uh... Be warned. I won't spoil anything past the first hour or so, but... Yeah. The first hour or so of the film is fair game past this point.

So let's talk about the story shall we? What words can I use to describe the story of Tron Legacy? Hmm... Tedious. Nonsensical. Technobabble. Stupid. Uninteresting. Dull.

Yes, I can use all of these things. You see, the story of Tron Legacy is stupid. Really, really stupid. Now, I didn't have high expectations for the story of a film about a guy finding a magical world inside a computer, but this was BAD. Really BAD.

So. Kevin Flynn has been stuck inside the grid for 21 years (1989-2010). That's what we're getting at here, yes? Ok. First, let's take a look at why he's trapped. You see, the portal in between our world and the grid only stays open for 8 hours. And my favorite part, it can only be opened from the outside. Why? Why would you do that? Why would you not include any sort of failsafe in the device, in case, you know, YOU GOT TRAPPED INSIDE FOR 21 YEARS? Especially if it were a secret that such technology even existed, and you told NO ONE about it.

And even then, are we to believe that the computer has simply stayed online for 21 years? That's a long time! I'm sorry but there's no way that's possible! Let's even ignore the most obvious problem, that the facility is shown to have been without power when Sam first enters it, and pay attention to the fact that to keep a computer running for 21 flame would require constant upkeep!

There are many reasons why this wouldn't work beyond the power, but let's take a look at the first one that popped into my mind.

Do me a favor please. If you're on a desktop, get out of your chair for a moment, and look at the fan vent on your computer. It'll likely be on the back, although if you have a nice case there may even be multiple ones. If you're on a laptop it'll probably be on the bottom of the laptop. Tell me, what do you notice in the fan vent? Likely, the answer will be a lot of dust.

You see, computers and dust are not friends. That's why microchips are made in clean rooms which have been completely sterilized from all dust. That's why laptop fans are designed to be so hard to clean, so that they'll break and you will have to buy a new one.

Caution: Mild language

Now all that dust you see on your computer is just from you running it for, let's be generous, 8 hours a day. How long have you had your computer, assuming you've never cleaned your vents out? (also: shame on you) Probably, in fact, definitely not since 1989.

Now, for a computer to continue running for 21 years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and never be cleaned at all (and it's pointed out to us that it hasn't been.) then... I see no way that system could still be running.

So there's our first major plot hole. How far into the movie are we? 15 minutes? How long is it? 2 and a half hours? Oh.

So, we get into the grid, and what do we find? Programs are people too! Lo and behold, a computer is just like a city. Ok. Sure. This is Tron, I'm going to let slide the fact that this is NOT HOW A COMPUTER WORKS AT ALL.

So we get taken to the games, and run into Clu, the resident Evil McBadguy of the grid. He looks just like Kevin Flynn because yes. Apparently Kevin "made him in his own image" by looking in a mirror or something. This is never adequately explained. Get used to it, nothing in this film is adequately explained.

So Sam gets put into the fanservi- excuse me, lightcycle tournament, and... It's a visually striking scene. It takes out a lot of the tension of the original scene in my opinion, because... Well the original scene was shot largely from the perspective of the driver. It was cramped, and claustrophobic, and at the same time you knew what was going on. This one was much more hectic. Still, this is one of the better sequences in the film, so I won't complain.

Before the fanservicemobiles can kill Sam though he's saved! By a GURL! Gee, I wonder if this mystery woman will be some sort of creepy love interest for Sam in this film? (Hint: She is.)


This has to go up there as one of the WEIRDEST romantic subplots in film history. I mean... I just... WHAT?! She's a computer program! It's just... WHAT?! You seriously want to... Well... I'm just saying... THERE WOULD BE PROBLEMS. MANY MANY PROBLEMS.

Don't even get me started on what the children will look like. Because I seriously don't know. It's a mystery.

In any case, luckily this PAINFUL subplot is put on the shelf for MOST of the movie, and if you try REEEEAAAALLY hard you can ignore it.

So Kora, the... Ugh... Love interest... Takes Sam to his father. His father then explains the two worst plot points of the movie, or to be more accurate, mentions the two worst plot points of the movie.

You see, neither of these plot points are ever explored in ANY detail AT ALL. And the worst part is, if either of them were explored even slightly further, they may actually have not been half bad. In fact, they could even have possibly saved the film. Or at least made it better.

The first TERRIBLE plot point is the introduction of the Isos. What are Isos you ask? Well so did I. Isos are, and I paraphrase, "new life forms which began within the computer system". Why are they important? Apparently they hold all the secrets of the universe? Why? How? THIS IS NEVER ADEQUATELY EXPLAINED.

No seriously. All they say is, "Here's the Isos. If we got them into the real world we could cure cancer, change science as we know it, cause world piece, end world hunger, and punch Hitler in the face. Why? That's an excellent question. Allow me to not explain this at all in any way ever."

The Iso's... They're DNA or whatever hold all the secrets of the universe. Why? Because BLAH.


They were all killed by Clu for being imperfect when he overthrew Kevin. Ok. Sure. Why not.

The other STUPID PLOT POINT OF STUPIDITY is the fact that apparently programs will be able to leave the grid using the portal and enter the real world, if they have Kevin's disc. Why do they need Kevin's disc to do this? What's special about that disc? THIS IS NEVER ADEQUATELY EXPLAINED.

They tell you over and over that Kevin's disc is the master key to everything, and never explain why. They don't even give you a technobabble reason why, they just expect you to accept it. NO. I REFUSE. I REJECT YOUR STUPID STUPID REALITY AND SUBSTITUTE MY OWN.

Yes, that's it. It's official. The reason why Kevin's disc can let programs materialize into the real world is because KEVIN IS A UNICORN. OK? OK.

Now, I'll stop here, in case anyone actually can't see exactly where the plot is going. I won't spoil any more of it.

The more observant of those reading this may notice that, for a film called "Tron Legacy" there's a distinct lack of a certain security program called "Tron" in this film. Well you see, that's because Tron himself has all of 15 minutes of screen time. That's right. This is Tron, without Tron. Sure. Why not.

You see, in order to make Clu, which is a younger version of the actor playing Kevin, they actually used advanced technology to make him look younger during the film. Now I gotta say, that's actually really cool. It also looks really good. Although there's a bit of uncanny valley going on, it's still pretty darn cool technology. Unfortunately it's also expensive, so they chose only to make one character look younger, not two, and so Tron is hardly in the film. Much sadness.

There's also a few... Strange moments that seem to be contradicting what we already knew about the Tron universe, and the way the grid works. For example, every program has an identity disc. This identity disc records everything the program does and learns. Ok. Sure. It's Tron logic, but I can accept that.

Up until the scene where we see a program with two identity discs. What? No seriously, what? Is this a program with multiple personality disorder? What are we to take from this?!


The characters are bland and generic, when they aren't having some sort of EXTREMELY STRANGE AND PROBLEMATIC sexual tension going on between them. The villain is generic. He has a generic henchmen. Kevin is a generic wise old man character. Sam is a generic young protagonist. Kora is a generic female lead.

The only character with any, erm, character is killed off after less than 15 minutes of being introduced. This character who shall remain unnamed was the only one who was even semi watchable in the entire film, and even his personality felt over the top and forced. But hey, at least he had a personality.

In short, Tron Legacy is a film which is saved by it's effects, and just barely saved at that. It's a watchable enough film because of the effects, but the story is absolutely idiotic, and the characters are all painful. Also, PROBLEMATIC ROMANCE IS PROBLEMATIC.

Bottom line, Tron Legacy is a film that, while worth seeing, I only recommend being seen in theaters if you are a major fan of the original. If you weren't a major fan of Tron, wait until this hits DVD, and rent it. For now, spend that extra dough, and go see Tangled. Again, if you've already seen it. It was a much better film.

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