Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tron: Legacy

Tron was not a successful movie in it's time.  It was groundbreaking, and certainly influential, but it failed financially.  In fact if you even mentioned a Tron Sequal in the  Eisner Era you'd probably be fired.    That said it's grown a following over the years.  A sizable chunk of Gen Yers saw Tron and saw the future.  They didn't see the flaws their parents did, all they saw was flashy effect, cool motorcycles, and the future.  These children grew up to be adults, and a bit of revisionist history happened.  Sometime in the early 00's Tron went from one of Disney's great failed experiments to a triumph of visionary movie making.  A movie of that stature surly deserves a sequel, right? John Lasseter though so.  So one of the first things he did when he took over the reigns of Disney was green like Tron 2.

It's not secret that Tron: Legacy is, for me, the most anticipated movie of the year.  Even since Disney dropped the test teasers in 2008 I've been hooked on the Idea of a Tron sequel. I was slightly too young to see Tron in the theater, but I caught it years later on Disney Channel or Wonderful World of Disney.  For a young computer guy the the whole concept spoke to me.  I will be honest though.  Until I was forced to examine my thoughts on Tron when the sequel was announced, I can't say I was a huge fanboy.  In this examination I realized how much I really did like it, but no where beyond, "I liked Tron so a sequel would be cool" territory.  The Eureka moment happened when it started to Disney's plan for the movie started to coalesce.  Stephen Lisberger was involved as a writer and a producer.  Jeff Bridges was in talks for more than just a Cameo.  The film would be a real time direct sequel as opposed to a remake or re-imagining.  (Can you imagine Tron: Begins?)  It seemed for once Hollywood was doing everything right.  They weren't cutting corners, they were doing what the fans want.  Signing Daft Punk to score the movie was the final proof that these guys were doing something special.

They did do something special.

There has been a lot of initial criticism about the normal things in a Genre movie.  Wooden acting, bad script, etc.  What I found amazing about the film was how layered it was.  Yes on the surface it's a cliche movie about a kid who's pissed that his dad left him, and how he deals with that, and how it affects his relationship with his dad after he's been found again.  It's all been done before.  (These days what hasn't).   There was much more to that movie thematically, and it touched on the mythos, logos and ethos of our modern area.

The first overarching theme deals with the nature of freedom itself, and more specifically technological freedom.  The opening scene is all about Sam continuing his fathers dream of software being for the people.  No corporation should own software, it should be available for all.  This ultimately is a critique of DRM, and whether anyone can really own a program.  It's this notion that pushes Kevin Flynn to create The Grid.  A perfect world, where all programs can be free, an allegory for what's going on in the real world with his Operating system.  His world was so perfect that a new lifeforms was able to come to being.  Life though is in inherently imperfect, and the same drive for perfection spelled the end of his dreams.
There were a number of mythological aspects to the story that would make Joseph Campbell proud, I noticed both references to Paradise Lost and Icarus in the way the dealt with the message they were trying to get across.  Flynn thought he could create perfection only to be shown that The Grid like The Sun could not be tamed by a mere mortal.

Paradise Lost, tells the story of the war in heaven between the rebellious angels and God.  Flynn being God created a perfect world with perfect followers to build it.  He created Clu first, who was to help him build his world.  More programs were created who like angles were prefect, and where subservient to The User.  ISO's would be analogous Humanity.  Flynn saw greater potential in the ISOs than he ever did in his creations.  Clu's singular drive was perfection, but in some ways it was also Jealousy.  His coup was motivated jealousy.  Jealously of having to share Flynn's love and Jealousy that ISO's have a choice.  Choice is key.  Choice in Faith is what separates the ISO's and Programs, and Humans and Angels alike.  There are two story arch in Paradise lost, one tell the story of the fall of Lucifer, the other tell the story of the Fall of man.  The question I have, if we get a sequel, are Sam and Quorra Adam and Eve?  Cast out of the Garden of Eden?  Is Sam Jesus?  Is Neo Jesus?  Stop trying to hit me and hit me!   Don't get me wrong, this isn't a "Christian" movie, it's probably more aptly a "Milton" movie.  The allegory isn't nearly as blatant as Narnia.  But still it's there.  It merely uses a familiar construct to get it's message across...

I'd be wrong to not mention the Music and the 3D effects.  As expected Daft Punk's score for this was amazing.  It's probably up there with John Williams- Star Wars, or Danny Elfman-Batman, in terms of shear perfection in setting tone and mood for the film.  I'll be posting a separate review of the soundtrack when I get it.

The 3D effects were also excellent, they did a mix of 2D and 3D, and only the scenes that benefited from 3D done.  This was great because it gave your eyes a rest during slow parts.  The special effects were also awesome.  A great update to the classic Tron look.  I've heard some criticism. about the CGI Clu.  I though the effect was good, at least as good as Avatar.  The only real difference, and the reason it stood out more, is that unlike Avatar, Clu spent most of his screen time on with other real humans.  This direct comparison widens the Uncanny Valley.  He's also suppose to be a computer program so being too "Perfect" is to be expected.  

Oh... and for the critics who called the acting wooden... Most of the character are computer programs. They're suppose to be a little stiff.  This is why Quorra is more animated than the rest.