Movies

10 Critical Thoughts About… Tron: Legacy

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Highly specific observations on the long-awaited, videogame-inspired sequel featuring Jeff Bridges.

Tron

Tron: Legacy is the sequel to Tron, in which hacker Kevin Flynn literally enters a computer mainframe to prevent corporate wrongdoing. He's since become trapped as a User in that world, known as the Grid, among an army of corrupted Programs that he once created. His son Sam enters the Grid in order to bring back his father, whom he hasn't seen for twenty years.

1. It is the spectacle you want it to be.
This movie knows you came here to see lights, “cameras,” and action, so it delivers. Anybody expecting commentary on the human condition or airtight plot lines should probably stick to their Joss Whedon DVDs. But if you just want to yell “Whoa!” or “Whoo!” or “Whaa!” through a mouthful of popcorn, get in line.

2. I can’t wait to watch this movie twenty-eight years from now.
You know how when you’re in an Apple store, you think to yourself, “This is the future, it’s here, I’m in it, I’ve made it”? Well, Tron: Legacy wants you to know you’re wrong. The pulsating metropolis known as the Grid is sleek and trippy — for now, that is. Tron was similarly dazzling for 1982, and now it just looks like a really intense Trapper Keeper. I’ll bet by 2038, your average gay club will make Tron: Legacy look like your average straight club.

3. Aw, no jai alai!
One of the weirdest parts of Tron was that random jai alai match between Kevin and a Program. It felt so odd and anachronistic that it almost made sense somehow. Of course that’s what tiny people inside a computer would play! But there’s nothing like that here, just motorcycle racing and Mortal Frisbee or whatever.

4. Daft Punk does not disappoint.
Their score is one of the best parts of the movie. It’s elegant and minimal when it needs to be, and hypnotic and pulsing at other times, while never distracting. It’s the kind of thing that I’d listen to during a morning jog — which is remarkable, because I don’t jog. Bonus: Their brief appearance as club DJs is the funniest part of the movie.

5. 0101010001010010010011110100111000101110
Tron was fairly clever at times, which is probably part of why it remains a cult classic. You heard a Program ask, “Who does he calculate he is?” You met Bit, the cute R2-D2-like unit that could only say “yes” and “no” — like a single bit in a computer, which can only be positive or negative. The sequel opts for brawn over brains, but considering that today’s moviegoer knows more about digital matters than ever before, staying away from nerdy tech humor feels like a missed opportunity.

Tron: Legacy6. Program? More like brogram.
Sure, this movie is about a father and son reconnecting. I get that. But there are times when the Grid feels like a fluorescent frat house. There are only two types of women running around: the sexpot bots, whose jobs are to undress and dress men, and Olivia Wilde’s Quorra, who wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for her male roommate. Tron had Lora/Yori, an intelligent, bespectacled woman who programmed with and sometimes around the big boys, while Quorra can’t even keep track of all her limbs.

7. Tron: Legacy could learn a thing or two from Wall-E.
This movie seems to be worried that people will get bored and throw their 3D glasses at the screen if a minute passes without an actor saying something, anything. Case in point: “Have a nice swim,” Sam says as he watches a villain fall into… something liquid-y. 

8. There are a lot of white people.
Look, all I’m saying is everybody in the Grid was created by someone — like, somebody who had to decide what color people should be. And that somebody decided to create a predominantly white community (there’s even a British person!), with maybe a stray black person here or there. From what I could tell, there aren’t even any Asian people. If you were populating a computer-engineered world, wouldn't you at least want some Asians?

9. The Grid has a Whole Foods.
Well, not really, but somehow Kevin eats a Thanksgiving dinner every night. I’m (mostly) fine with the Ikea furniture in his Pierre Koenig-inspired abode, or the Tolstoy and Dostoevsky tomes gathering dust on the shelf. But where does he get bread rolls, or butter, or the flesh of animals? Maybe I don’t want to know.

10. The term “spoiler alert” is rendered useless.
It’s always, um, nighttime in the Grid, so only Users know what the Sun looks like. One Program, however, has been reading a lot of Western literature (see #9 on that one), and asks a User what it’s like. “Beautiful,” the User says. “I wish you could see it.” And it doesn’t really matter that you suspect the story will end with some sort of sun-related scene, because you already got exactly what you paid for: a laser show of a movie.