It has been 28 years since the release of the enormously groundbreaking science-fiction adventure Tron, the story of Kevin Flynn, a video game programmer that gets sucked into the virtual grid of the very game he created. As Flynn’s son, now cyber-reunited with his father, points out, decades of technology have bestowed us with cell phones, wi-fi, the internet, and even virtual dating. But one immutable fact stands the test of time—great sci-fi is great sci-fi. Without upstaging the original, TRON: Legacy manages a sleek, stylish, clever sequel utterly germane to the times we live in. ScriptPhD.com got treated to a preview screening in Hollywood this week. Our full review under the “continue reading” cut.
REVIEW: TRON: Legacy
ScriptPhD Grade: B+
TRON: Legacy briskly picks up right where Tron left off. Cleverly superimposed “flashback” scenes (and a very digitally altered Jeff Bridges) are provided for the benefit of fans who missed the original. Genius video game programmer Kevin Flynn (Bridges) has found a way to transport himself into the virtual grid of his game—a place where minutes are hours of time on Earth. He tells his son that he’s discovered a miracle, and promises to show him the Tron world, only to forever disappear. Flash forward to a 27-year-old Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund): reckless, bored, apathetic, but a regular chip off the old techie block, a geeky rebel without a cause. Encom, the developer of Tron, has now become a software hegemony—Atari meets Apple—and has strayed far from Kevin’s principle of freeware open to all. After sabotaging the company’s grand operating software launch, Sam is visited by his father’s partner Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), who has never given up on Kevin. Alan tells Sam that he’s received a mysterious page from Kevin, and begs him to go to the old arcade that he frequented as a kid. There, Sam discovers his dad’s secret underground office and the portal that transports him to the digital grid of Tron.
The world that Sam finally visits is far from the utopia his father envisioned. He is first grouped with other with other deficient “programs” for inspection, outfitted with a sleek gamer outfit and disc (half memory-storage device, half weapon), and thrust into a world of brutal gladiator games where the only goal is survival and the rules change with each treacherous level. No longer is this gaming world one of skill and possibility. It is dangerous, seedy, and lachrymose, as evidenced by the monochromatic whites, greys, and blacks that are virtually the only colors displayed throughout the film. And Clu is no longer the brave warrior digital replica of his father; he is a brutal overlord who committed virtual genocide, hacked the program, and has ultimate plans to teleport to Earth to be with humans. Sam is rescued from the grid by Quorra (Olivia Wilde), an advanced, evolved program not initially designed to go off the grid. She is the “miracle” that Kevin lauded—an isometric being, an entirely new life form, and the last surviving one. When reunited with Sam, Kevin recounts getting “trapped” in the grid after a violent overthrow by Tron and Clu. In addition to executing a genocide against the isos (forever closing the portal to the outside world), they stole Kevin’s original disc for their nefarious purposes. With the help of Quorra and Sam, Kevin has only 8 hours to overthrow Clu’s digital army until the portal closes again… forever.
TRON: Legacy largely has the feel of a 2-hour interactive video game, aided both by the color-coded costumes and a catchy, techno-pop soundtrack by Daft Punk. It’s also a cheeky, subtle commentary on the idea of technological dominance over humans, often explored in science fiction. Is it so unlikely, NASA having just discovered a new non-carbon-based life form, that an evolutionary miracle like Quorra could happen? Could a wily programmer or physicist find himself ensnared in a digital grid? Highly unlikely in the short term, but with digital quantum teleportation on the horizon and China in quick pursuit of the physical variety, it’s not inconceivable in the future. Furthermore, thinking robots are no longer an aspiration, as the age of thinking, self-developing robots has arrived. Even the internet, on which one would argue we are wholly dependent today, has been shown by physicists to abide by the same laws of physics as an integrated circuit! “Our worlds are more interconnected than you think,” Kevin Flynn reminds his son. Quorra, adorably naïve and inexperienced, voraciously devours human literature and longs more than anything to see the sun shine. There is a delicate beauty to humanity that an orderly grid of 0’s and 1’s can ultimately never replicate. We should lift our eyes away from our smartphones, Wiis, iPads, and laptops to notice that every once in a while.
To be sure, TRON: Legacy is not reinventing sci-fi, tech-geek gizmo gadgetry, or a complicated storyline beyond “good guys defeat bad guys.” (Story development was not, in fact, a principal strength of the original Tron, which was considered a breakthrough in cinematic special effects.) Nevertheless, sci-fi fans, geeks and gamers will be able to feast on astounding visual mastery, life-size video games played out before your eyes, and science fiction/fantasy existentialism staple questions (who are we? what is humanity? what are the limits of technology and what we create?). Most importantly, it’s a relevant portal to our current age of digital enslavement, literally redefining modern life before our eyes. Above all else, TRON: Legacy is two hours of darned good entertainment.
View the trailer:
TRON: Legacy goes into wide release on December 17, 2010 in US theaters.
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