He Fights For The Users

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Previously on TRON…

Once upon a time there was a man with two first names.  He wasn’t terribly fond of the first one, so everyone called him by the second, Flynn.  This man loved video games.  So much so, that he owned an arcade, which he named after himself – he practically lived there.  For a job, he worked as a programmer for a company named ENCOM, and he really didn’t like it very much.  So in his spare time he had been programming some video games to suit his passions – a love of motorcycles, tanks, and outer space.  He wanted to start his own company.

Another not quite so nice programmer, Ed Dillinger, figured out what Flynn was doing, and stole his video games.  He presented them as his own to ENCOM, and they put him in charge of the company.  In this position, he developed two programs.  The first was an information hungry artificial intelligence called Master Control Program, or MCP for short – it was good at playing chess.  MCP was a bit of a megalomaniac and felt no connection to any User and therefore unlike other programs it did not have the likeness of it’s creator.  The second program, Sark, who was designed as a guardian (firewall) for MCP, had taken the likeness of Dillinger.

MCP blackmails Dillinger into being his representative in the real world by holding over him evidence of the theft of Flynn’s video games.  Flynn, tries to hack into MCP using his hacker program named Clu, and this causes a security lock down at ENCOM.  A programmer, Alan Bradley, is upset because he’s unable to reach his own security program, Tron, due to the lock down.  His girlfriend, Lora, who has been working on a digitizing laser, leads Alan to Flynn, where they learn of Flynn’s plan to out Dillinger and get him fired from ENCOM.

Alan agrees to help Flynn so he can regain access to Tron, and together they break into  into ENCOM through a “really big door” to retrieve the evidence.  MCP discovers Flynn, and uses Lora’s laser to pull him into the cyberspace world of the Grid.  Once there, MCP turns Flynn over to Sark with orders to place him into the games.  There he meets Ram and Tron, the latter of whom he mistakes for Alan since Tron has the likeness of his creator, Alan.  One thing leads to another and together Flynn and Tron manage destroy Sark and the MCP.  Well, okay, mostly Tron – he does after all fight for the Users.

Did you get all that? Because it’s really hard for me to picture after not having seen the original TRON for about 15 years.  The original TRON came out in 1982 and, while it wasn’t the most successful box office ever, it did okay.  Now it was a science fiction movie, and at the time, teenagers like myself ate it up.  Video games were still coming of age, and everyone who played them fell in love with the idea of being able to enter the game like Flynn did and play from the inside.  I’m sure they wanted to do it without a codgy MCP in the way.

Back then, who’d have thought that 28 years later there’d be a sequel.  It was certainly opened for one, and fans have always wanted one.  But by 2007 most had figured the chance for a sequel was dead.  Then suddenly it leaks out that Joseph Kosinski is heading up a sequel to TRON.  A few months later we learn that Jeff Bridges (Flynn) is in talks to be in the sequel.  And the three year media frenzy ensues.  Many wondered if we’d be TRON’d out by the time it got here.  But here we are in 2010 just one week after the release of the sequel, TRON: Legacy.

We learn that once Flynn ousted Ed Dillinger he became the CEO of ENCOM he set out to use his experiences inside the Grid to try to change the world.  He continued on this course through 1989.  The movie opens with him telling the story of his adventures with Tron to his son, Sam.  He tells of how, along with an upgraded version of Tron and a new version of Clu they set out to create a new version of the Grid.

There was a problem though, Flynn had an obsession with perfection.  Now this is covered briefly in Tron: Legacy, but it is expanded upon in the storyline of the video game TRON Evolution, which is considered to be canon.  The problem was that with his obsession blinded him to the realities that one might learn had they read the poem If by Rudyard Kipling.  Perfection is unattainable.  Unfortunately Flynn learns this too late and a race war begins brewing in the Grid between the Basics – the original User created programs introduced into the new Grid by Flynn, Tron, and Clu – and the ISOs, short for Isomorphic Algorithms – spontaneously created programs that do not stem from Users.

Clu re-purposes an ISO named Jalen into a computer virus known as Abraxus and sets it off to attack Cyberspace with the express purpose of eliminating the ISOs.  Flynn creates a new warrior named Anon specifically to eliminate Abraxus.  Anon manages to derrez Abraxus, and rescue Quorra, but himself derezzes when doing so.  All this is at a price though as Abraxus was merely a distraction for Tron and Flynn meant to last long enough for Clu to form a Coup d’état and take over the Grid.

At the sacrifice of Tron, Flynn manages to escape.  He heads for the Grid’s version of the hills, and basically becomes a zen motivated, Tronified version The Dude from The Big Lebowski.  Now I’m not trying to make light of this, because honestly, I thought it played very well.  In an interview, Eddie Kitsis – writer for Tron: Legacy – mentions that in one of their first meetings Jeff Bridges hands himself and Adam Horowitz some books on Buddhism.  So it’s not surprising that when you put the aged Flynn in a light emitting trench-coat with a light disc that it would come off this way.

I have to say that I’m sort of disappointed with the character of Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund).  I just feel he was really poorly developed.  Not a lot of characterization, and that makes his sudden maturation at the end of the movie seem really odd, when only hours before he storms off on a tantrum causing all sorts of problems for himself, his father, and Quorra.  He causes a lot more havok inside cyberspace then his father ever did, and with much less purpose.  Odd that he’s the main protagonist of the film really.

This is by stark contrast to Quorra, who is just cool on many levels for TRON fans old and new.  She’s a rebel, an outcast, a kick-butt fighter, and knows how to make an entrance.  She is played by Olivia Wilde who you might know as Thirteen from the television show House.  She really helps to make the movie what it is, even though she shows up at least one third of the way into it.

There’s a lot in here for fans of the original TRON movie too.  You’ve got Ed Dillinger’s son Edward as the chairman of the ENCOM board – a potential villain for a third TRON movie.  You’ve got Bruce Boxleitner reprising his role as Alan Bradley from the original TRON and making a brief appearance as Tron.  And all sorts of nifty references to things throughout the movie, especially two references to what is likely to be the next big Disney revival The Black Hole – you get to see a what is either VINCENT or Bob and a poster for the original movie in Sam’s bedroom in 1989.  There are a number of easter eggs hidden throughout.  Including a nod to Blade Runner at the very end.

Overall I really liked the movie.  It held my attention throughout even though I was wondering a lot of the time why it even bothered to reference TRON in the title.  They really could have kept the ties to the original more tenuous, and probably accomplished exactly the same thing this movie managed to.  There was little that hadn’t been covered by movies like The Matrix in the interim.  It has a lot of tasty eye candy – especially the lightcycle battle – but not as much as Avatar.

If you’re looking for TRON: Legacy to be the best movie ever, it’s not.  What it is is a really good sequel to the original TRON.  It’s also a really good science fiction movie hearkening back to the great movies like Forbidden Planet and 2001 where the key protagonist is really just acting out in order to question its own existence and purpose in the universe.  I definitely feel this is one you’ll want to see in the theater, on the biggest screen possible, in 3D.  And as you know from my Tangled review I’m not a super-fan of the overuse of 3D in the movie industry.

What about you? Have you seen TRON: Legacy?  If not do you intend to?  Are you TRON fan?  Or new to the whole TRON mania?  If you did see the movie, what did you like most about it?  Least?  Are you on the Grid?  You’re messing with my Zen thing an that’s just Flynntastic.

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Posted on December 23, 2010

6 Responses to “He Fights For The Users”

  • Black Hole Redux? Really? I’m not sure whether to be happy or sad. When I originally saw it in a theater, I was horribly disappointed. There were so many enticing possibilities for story line about crossing the event-horizon–none of them were part of Disney’s poorly-imagined screen play. Sigh. Then came Eisner and things got better. Maybe between Iger and Lasseter, a resurrected Black Hole would be better? Maybe not.

    • Yeah, considering that Tron:Legacy is doing well enough you can expect another Black Hole. Unclear if it will be a remake or a sequel though. But really, it needs to have Vincent and Maximillion (Thanksamillion!) No one really knows… but I think I’d see it. I didn’t really hate Black Hole when it was out, but it was a really cheesy and a poor Forbidden Planet ripoff.

  • Thank you for the Tron write-up, Todd! I really enjoyed it. It took me by surprise to see that they might be doing another Black Hole, though. (Got a bit side-tracked in my comments.)

  • I have to say first off that while I watched the original and liked it, I didn’t ever watch it again and I never sought it out on dvd. My main reasoning for watching it was the return of the Boxlietner :-) (big babylon 5 fan) I have to say that while there were gaping holes in the plot, and the occasional goofy or movie cliche moments, I bloody loved it. I haven’t felt so enguaged in a movie since Serenity, I really felt like a child again watching what became one of my contempory movie favourites. There was a distinct clockwork orange vibe to the soundtrack as well which kinda nocked me sideways. Can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed this film. Apparently there is a part 3 coming in 2014 and I will be front and centre lovin every minute of that one as well. Thanks for your review. very good write up of a very good film :-)

    • I wouldn’t mind a sequel either. It’s just a bit off, I actually believe production isn’t set to begin production until 2014. It has no working title. The new animated series “Tron: Uprising” is fairly good though, and actually has Bruce Boxleitner voicing the character of Tron.