The new Tron Legacy movie updates the original Tron franchise to the more futuristic styles and darker looks that today’s movie going audiences enjoy. The dazzling state-of-the-art production values and computer generated imagery we’ve come to appreciate from a major studio like Disney are carefully woven into an even faster and hipper three-dimensional film tapestry.
An impressive array of contemporary industrial designers advance Tron’s costumes, vehicles, and settings, which are then skillfully balanced with its cleverly crafted new, and yet accurately derivative, story line.
After a brief segue intro from the time of the original Tron, we join Sam Flynn today as the estranged son of Tron creator Kevin Flynn. Sam is now hacking ENCOM, the software giant still exploiting his missing father’s legacy and corporate empire. Apparently as gifted as his Dad was with computer game design, Sam nonetheless languishes in his riverside loft as he schemes of ways to undermine ENCOM.
Alan Bradley, Kevin Flynn’s disgruntled former partner, opts to help Sam and tips him about an anachronistic styled phone page received from the abandoned Flynn’s video game arcade where it all began. Sam breaks into the arcade to discover the long forgotten portal that encoded and transported his Dad into his own video game’s universe. Sam’s bravado also gets him encoded and he finds himself trapped “on the grid” just like his Dad before him.
The new Tron grid has gotten much vaster, scarier, and more powerful since the original Tron. The improved integration of better industrial design, computer graphics, and current 3D imaging creates an intense video game like reality that’s still very unique and also true to the original. More streamlined and faster by several factors, the original Tron video game thugs and bullies are also back again and ready to arrest Sam on arrival.
Sam is immediately thrust into the games, the same as his Dad was, where he survives victorious thanks to his advanced video game skills. As the plot unfolds, Sam continues to prevail in various scenarios derived from his Dad’s ordeals in the original Tron.
We’re also quickly reminded of certain lingering moral contradictions within the Tron story. Kevin Flynn’s claim that his original Tron video game design ideas were stolen by evil ENCOM executive Ed Dillinger smacked of the typical Hollywood evil capitalist clichés — and this cliché is coming absurdly from Disney, one of the biggest and oldest entertainment corporations of all time.
Trying to be hip and get “in” with the new generation of software hacker countercultures, Disney reveals a gigantic, astounding example of absurd crony capitalist conservative me-to-isms. And since they’re stuck with this absurd plot cliché in order to expand the Tron franchise, they’re forced to exaggerate the contradiction rather than resolve it.
The new Tron’s explicit championing of its own self-fulfilling prophesy of the open source free-for-all business model, now even more prevalent than in old Tron’s, shines a giant CGI 3D spotlight on this inherent contradiction.
Quorra, the newest Tron character and an isometric algorithmic miracle program created spontaneously by the grid itself, espouses Zen-like selflessness — and practices it too. Her altruistic sacrifice backfires, though, and she’s necessarily resurrected by the bearded, robed, Moses-like, and now wiser and older Kevin Flynn.
All the “heroes” are out to sink the real corporation from within their own virtual dream world, courtesy of that same corporation and its own technologies. Further contradictions abound as multiple characters morph and shape-shift morally to fit all sizes and forms of computer nerd fallacies inside Tron’s infinitely more flexible and relativistic video game universe.
Multiple dualisms and digital mysticism refract in a fractal house of CGI 3D mirrors that seem to extend into infinity. Anti-capitalism and anti-technology have now entered the perfect hypothetical environment from which to attack reality — all thanks, paradoxically, to the massive financial and creative resources of Disney Corporation.
Complex plot reversals and revisionist history only draw more attention to the twisting of the truth. This extreme exaggeration between several moral contradictions in the new Tron actually offers an amazing opportunity to examine Hollywood chasing its own CGI 3D tail on the global 150-million-dollar scale: Any of the soul, humor, or innocence of the original is finally displaced by faith and force.
While several scenes — like the awesome extreme-speed spectacle of the light cycle battles — are breathtakingly graphic and visually revolutionary, the irrational and derivative script and plot-twists soon unfold as being equally, if not more, underwhelming than the original Tron.
The impressive orchestration of the multiple layers of live action special effects, computer generated imagery and fantastic-looking costumes and sets soon crush the extremely strained narrative of backtracking and extrapolations.
The new Tron attempts to address some of the more scientific logical contradictions of its own legacy while distracting the audience from, and ignoring, the more important moral contradictions that have always been present in Tron. Such a huge waste of impressive production values is truly tragic at any price.
Last, but by no means least, the new movie's Daft Punk soundtrack is good and may be better suited for today’s modern audiences — but the original Tron’s Wendy Carlos soundtrack was vastly richer and deeper in scope, range and even innocence.
I’m somewhat biased, since its music is actually why I went to see the original Tron in the first place — at which point I was quite pleasantly surprised by its imaginative CGI work. I had even overlooked its altruistic themes, so distracted was I by the music and visuals. But you can be sure I’ll be paying much closer attention in the real future.
Andy George is an independent electronics product development craftsman and technician in New York City. He's a drummer, a fan of science and science fiction films, and a pioneer of LED fashion technologies. He also participates actively in the NYC Objectivist community. His website is at www.andy-george.com.