Another month is drawing to a close, and that means it’s time again for “Geek of All Trades” to make its triumphant return. Thanks for sticking with me as I explore (and stumble through) new and geeky worlds. In my first three articles, I discovered that Portal and I do not compute, corrected a fundamental misstep in my life and watched the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time, and put together a (not at all) foolproof plan for my own survival during a zombie apocalypse. This month, we’re going to change things up just slightly.
Usually, “Geek of All Trades” is about me doing brand new geeky things – often badly. This month, we’re going to take a look at a part of the geeky universe I know and love well, but approach it in a new way. I’m going to try to understand why people think TRON: Legacy is a bad movie.
Fundamentally, I just feel like these people are wrong. Let’s do some simple math:
For those of you whose basic addition is a little rusty, I’ll break it down even further – TRON: Legacy boasts three important things:
- Light cycles, which are literally the merging of classic motorcycles and glow-in-the-dark night at the bowling alley.
- A killer soundtrack that is a veritable love letter to classic gaming by the ever-popular Daft Punk.
- Jeff Bridges. In fact, double Jeff Bridges – he also plays his own arch-nemesis, the rogue program, Clu.
What else do you need, people?! If the entire movie was just a three-hour still shot of a room that was entirely empty except for those three things, I’d still watch it. But I promised to try to understand the point of view of the film’s detractors, and I really will. Here are some of the most common complaints I hear about TRON: Legacy (and why they’re wrong). Fair warning: I will spoil the whole movie for you.
- “There’s no plot.” Well, you’ve got me there. Or at least, there’s not MUCH of a plot: Kevin Flynn gets trapped on “The Grid,” the digital world housed inside the games of his arcade. His son, Sam, who thinks his father is long dead, inadvertently winds up there, too. The Flynns must then dodge Clu, a once-friendly program the elder Flynn created, who is now supreme ruler of The Grid and doesn’t care much for “users” like Kevin and Sam. Not super complex stuff here, sports fans, and fleshed out just enough to keep the viewer’s interest. Inception this is not – if you’re looking for plot lines that require a Mensa-level IQ, you’ll be sorely disappointed in TRON: Legacy. If you’re looking for light cycles and Jeff Bridges saying things like, “You’re throwing off my zen thing, man,” you’ll be very pleased (and we can be best friends).
- “What’s the point of Quorra?” Short answer: I don’t know. Quorra, played by Olivia Wilde, is intentionally introduced as a bit of an enigma. Despite her impressive abilities on a light cycle, and the fact that she seems to have already won the trust of Kevin Flynn, we don’t truly learn what’s special about Quorra until about ¾ of the way through the movie. Part of her arm is “de-rezzed,” (or blown off into pixels), and Kevin is able to manipulate her DNA to regenerate it. Which is apparently a thing that Quorra’s species, ISOs, can do. Surprise!We’re led to believe that has some sort of implication for the “real world” outside of The Grid, but who’s to say what it is, or why we care, or why we were asked to deal with such a random plot twist so late in the movie. Sorry, Quorra – we could’ve done without you. But love your hair.
- “It’s corny.” Fact, but so is a lot of what’s in the realm of science fiction, gaming, and comic books – genres that TRON merges effortlessly. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that being geeky, in large part, is being willing to be enthusiastic about something to the point of corniness. Galaxy Quest, a spoof of all things space fandom, is based almost entirely on this premise. Yes, it’s really corny when Tron, another of Kevin Flynn’s morally ambiguous programs, realizes the error of his ways and veritably shouts “I FIGHT FOR THE — USERS!” But it’s also really great.
- “The CGI is bad.” You shut your mouth. This is a picture of Jeff Bridges at age 30ish next to a CGI image of Jeff Bridges as Clu.
THEY’RE IDENTICAL. THE MAIN CHARACTERS OF THIS FILM ARE 60-YEAR OLD JEFF BRIDGES AND 30-YEAR OLD JEFF BRIDGES. I rest my case.
- “It’s not as good as the first one.” This is an argument that I hear almost exclusively from the Baby Boomer crowd, and with good reason. The original TRONwas released in 1982 (5 years before I graced the world with my presence). Arcade gaming was huge! Digital technology was not at all yet. The idea that someone might “fall into the pixels,” as it were, was timely, cool, and not at all overdone. The special effects that the original TRON used were groundbreaking for the time, the idea was fresh, the universe new and different.TRON: Legacy doesn’t have any of those things going for it. In 2010, when TRON: Legacy was released, the idea of a virtual universe had been thoroughly explored (The Matrix, anyone?) The special effects, while well done, are kind of par for the course in terms of what we’ve come to expect from any major motion picture. And, on top of all that, it’s a sequel – we know the characters, we know the basic premise, and we know the rules of the universe – we’ve taken the edge off of the element of surprise. Perhaps, for these reasons, the first TRON edges the second. But the second is no less fun.
- “They killed Jeff Bridges!” I know! And if that ruined the movie for you, you’re in good company (namely me). Motion to include a rider in Jeff Bridges’ contract for each of his future films that makes him immortal. Agreed? Agreed.
TRON: Legacy may not be a great movie, but it’s a good one if you can set the right expectations for it. Visually interesting, musically stunning, and well-acted throughout (lookin’ at you, Jeff), TRON: Legacy is enticing enough to keep you interested for 125 minutes, and thought-provoking enough to change the way you play classic arcade games. Give it a chance, user; Jeff and I will be glad you did.