Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tron: Legacy is Bad

So, I don't know if it's just being a writer that makes you notice these things more than you might were you not a writer (I have this problem reading books - I'm constantly dissecting) or if it's just because Tron: Legacy was not a very good movie. (I'm leaning more towards the latter explanation.)

WARNING - this contains spoilers so if you haven't seen it and don't want to be "spoiled," (although, in all honesty, I'm pretty sure I'm doing you a favor by telling you about the lameness that is this movie) then stop reading here!

Also be aware that the reason this movie irritated me was all the questions I had while watching it, and will pepper my recap with some of those questions.

I admittedly have little to no familiarity with the original "Tron" movie. I have vague recollections of people in light-up suits riding around on motorcycles from the Disney Channel when I was little. I had no idea what the plot was or why everybody had glowing outfits.

My husband insisted we see this sequel, and I agreed to it as it looked like some good special effects eye candy, and I'm always up for that.

The premise is this - Jeff Bridges, back while he was still young - got into his computer in a landscape called "The Grid" and wrested control away from an evil program that was keeping the programs living on The Grid (who all look human, and take on the appearance of their Users) from interacting with their Users. Jeff Bridges, being The Dude that he is, stops the evil cyber-program that made the programs participate in gladiator type death matches which seemed to consist of motorcycle races (where light trailed from the machines and for some reason if you ran into the pretty ribbon of light you disintegrated) and chucking Frisbees at each other. Jeff Bridges stopped all this, and when he got back to the real world, he took over a major technology company and wiped The Grid clean to create a "perfect" world.

"Tron: Legacy" starts a few years after the events of that movie, where Jeff Bridges' character is played by a guy who wears a really bad, rubbery Jeff Bridges mask (okay, I understand that it was actually CGI in a "Benjamin Button" sort of way, but I found it SO distracting. It didn't look cool or real. It looked like a really bad, rubbery Jeff Bridges mask, or RBRJBM as I will now refer to it). He has a kid named Sam. RBRJBM disappears, never to be heard from again. Sam becomes the richest kid in the second grade.

We flash to present day where Sam is now breaking into his own company to pre-release his Windows type software which isn't any different than the last version - it just has a new number on it or something. Sam thinks the technology should have been given away for free. Seeing as how he's the actual majority shareholder he could have just, oh, I don't know, pre-released it legally, but instead he must break into the building, get past security, hack into the mainframe (which, if you play World of Warcraft, is easily one of my favorite quests) and give it to the whole world, flummoxing his conservative, uptight, greedy board of directors (which includes Bruce Boxleitner, the original "Tron" character, but no one gives him a really bad rubbery face mask. I wondered if he felt cheated at not getting de-SORASed. (For those that don't watch soaps, SORAS is Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome where a kid is five years old one day, and the next he's an angst-filled emo teenager. Thus, de-SORAS would be the opposite of that.) Cillian Murphy is on the board in an uncredited part and I kept wanting him to do something Scarecrow-like that was cool, but he didn't. Anyway, to escape the out-of-shape security guards, Sam has to base jump off the top of his building just so that you understand what a cool guy he is (he drives a motorcyle. Need I say more?).

To further illustrate his coolness, he eschews his billions of dollars and instead chooses to live in a converted garage in a junkyard instead of the penthouse at Trump Towers or something. Regular age Tron guy encourages him to go looking for his dad as he got a page (why would Tron still carry around a pager? Just for old times sake? Seriously, he works at a technology company).

Sam drives his rad motorcycle to his dad's arcade, where he finds the old man's secret entrance to The Grid and teleports himself there.

Lots of fun CGI things going on there. Cool machines, cool city.

Sam gets picked up as a rogue program (like a virus? A Trojan horse? I wondered) and has to participate in the previously abolished gladiator type games. He is prepared for these games by four insanely hot female programs who have to undress and dress him (and lets me know this movie was, indeed, written by a man). They give him a Frisbee disk on his back which is able to essentially download him (despite the fact that he is a human and not a computer program) and is something HE MUST KEEP WITH HIM AT ALL TIMES as it is very, very important.

So of course, the first chance he gets, Sam starts chucking it at people. The disks are apparently not family-friendly Frisbees, since if you get hit by one you "derez" (or deresolution - you basically disappear). So I wondered if these are spinning circles of death, how can people catch them so easily? Why didn't Sam have any issues throwing and then catching his disk? Wouldn't he have needed a warm-up or something? I'm pretty sure I would have lost a hand.

Sam also seems to take the whole thing in stride - the spinning circles of death that he was supposed to keep with him but used to make people disappear - the shiny motorcycles that suddenly materialized and de-materialized, the Daft Punk soundtrack. All of it.

The new bad guy is RBRJBM guy. In the show he's called CLU, but whenever they said that all I could think of was Tim Curry. Anyway, because Sam's so awesome and cool, he's able to survive everything until Olivia Wilde, playing another insanely hot female program, breaks up the boys' club and rescues Sam.

I kept wondering why all the girls had so much eye make-up and platform boots. I would understand if this were like a Sims type world, but it wasn't. Also, most of the men are equally good-looking (but with lower shoes and not as much make-up). If these people were supposed to represent their Users, I'm sorry, I've been to a lot of "Users" Christmas parties. They do not look like the people on The Grid.

Olivia Wilde is a character named Quorra, not Cora like I imagined through the whole movie. She takes Sam to see his father, the appropriately-aged Jeff Bridges. Poor Jeff Bridges has been trapped on The Grid for 20 years, despite being the creator of the entire world and having godlike powers. He creates a Zen world for himself (big surprise, right?) and somehow has food and water that he feeds to his son and to program Quorra. I wondered whether they had to go to the bathroom with all that eating and drinking (nobody stops and does this, in case you were wondering).

Jeff Bridges had wiped The Grid with the intent of making a perfect world. Unfortunately, he got trapped in there before he could watch any cautionary movies that probably would have changed his programming choices. He creates RBRJBM and tells him to make a perfect world. Does he program RBRJBM to not hurt people? No. (Have we learned nothing from "I, Robot?") He creates an autonomous, self-aware, highly intelligent program. (Have we learned nothing from "Terminator?" Don't you know what happens when you make machines smart?) RBRJBM then proceeds to wipe out bad programs that are imperfect and has his sights set on eradicating humans because they are also imperfect. (Have we learned nothing from "Virus?")

Also, there's apparently a group of isomorphic algorithms that are spontaneously created (i.e., they have no User or creator). For some reason they also look human. Why, I don't know. The show doesn't tell us why either. We find out Quorra is the last of the ISOs because RBRJBM decided they were imperfect too (at which point I'm thinking, doesn't Jeff Bridges deserve some of the fault here for making such a crappy program?).

Jeff Bridges is fine with his fate, but Sam wants back into the real world. He finds Michael Sheen, who is playing a bipolar program who runs a bar. And I'm thinking, what would you do if Microsoft Word became crazy? And started spewing random junk while you were typing? And for all the programs that were hooking up in the bar and getting drunk - what would you do if Outlook was hung over? What was the point of all that?

Sam escapes RBRJBM as Michael Sheen is playing a bad guy and turns them over to RBRJBM (shocking, I know). Quorra loses an arm from a flying Frisbee, but since she's a program, Jeff Bridges just reprograms her. He also stops their plummeting elevator by simply hacking into it (not with an axe, just his hand) where at the bottom awaits a transport ship that will take them to the portal! Which is where Sam must go! Isn't that AMAZING?

Big fight scene in the end, stuff blows up, Quorra wants to get into the real world and see the sun.

Jeff Bridges takes one for the team and uses his godlike powers to stop RBRJBM (at which point I'm wondering why he didn't use those awesome powers to take out the bad guy in the first place and get out of the computer, but whatever) destroying them both. Sam and Quorra escape.

Sam decides to take control of his father's empire and change the world. Disappointingly, Quorra is still in human form outside The Grid. I was kinda hoping it'd be like in "Stardust" where if the star crosses from the land of Faerie into the real world she turns from a beautiful human into an actual star (i.e., a piece of rock). Didn't happen.

Sam takes Quorra to see the sunrise. There is no romance or smooching. I know, I was disappointed too (at which point my husband said, "What more did you want? They literally rode off into the sunset(rise) together." Bah, not enough).

I don't mind if a movie doesn't answer my questions as long as they entertain me. Take The Joker from "The Dark Knight." I never knew how he got those cuts on his mouth - every time he told the story he gave a different explanation. But that gave me insight into his character and I got caught up in the story. Tron does not do that.

So after watching this movie, I came to the conclusion that it is not okay for your viewers/readers to be asking so many questions that you can't just enjoy the CGI. Have a little story to go with your eye candy, please. Thanks.


At 1/24/2011 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took my kids 13,11,7 to see it. It was a good family movie (I don't object to the violence as long as it is good vs. evil). There was a bad guy. Good guys had to be willing to fight the bad guy.
I remember being a kid at that age and it is not like I really followed really good plots very well. So I got out of it what I was hoping for.

At 1/24/2011 4:13 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

You needed to see the first movie first. It explains a lot of things you didn't understand. Like when you are in the grid, you are a program, not a physical human. And the motorcycles and Frisbees are actually videogames. The Frisbees are the data (think floppy disk in the old days.)

Anyway, the first movie was not all that good either. Cool effects for its time, but one of the worst scripts I'd ever heard. Even when I saw it as a teen.

So don't know if you would have liked the movie any better, but you would have understood more.

At 1/24/2011 10:03 PM, Anonymous MalibuJane said...

I think I have used Outlook when it was hungover!

I was really hoping Cillian Murphy would show up as a program, or the movie would be about Open Source or Linux or ANYTHING even distantly related to the opening board room scene. No. I wasn't expecting The Matrix, but they could have tried harder on the plot- and given us one.

I enjoyed your review!


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