I live for films like TRON. I really truly do. I remember the sensation that shot through me that as I sat at this computer, 3 years ago, when I stared slackjaw at my computer screen as the first shaky-cam footage of the Comic Con TRON LEGACY test footage was unveiled. I remember hearing that comic con Hall H crowd cheer – and I remember how even though I was well over a 1000 miles from Hall H, I replayed it over and over and over. Called up friends like Merrick… especially Quint, he had been there when it played… He knows how much I love TRON. TRON wasn’t for everybody. It didn’t have the merchadizing legs of STAR WARS. However, there was an audience that saw it, and it affected them forever.
I saw the original TRON in 70mm at the AMERICANA – and I thought that all the effects were made in a computer. I had a computer. Maybe I could do that. Gosh that’d be awesome. I never could make TRON effects on a computer, but last week, I suggested that folks do that… and they did. Quickly. Scarily quickly. That contest is amongst my favorite. Right there with Quint’s Stop Motion animation contest.
Watching Jeff Bridges playing a standup arcade game – that… by itself was a degree of affirmation. I played Stand Up Arcade games, I had the little electronic Football handheld – constantly in my hands… This adventure could happen to me. The idea of being digitized by a laser and taken into a computer… and that inside there were the creative souls of all the users imprinted upon their programs. I wrote programs. Sure, I was programming in BASIC, but I didn’t know any better. TRON and WAR GAMES were seminal films for me. I get that it wasn’t for everyone, but I also felt that lots of folks just couldn’t see the brilliance of TRON.
It wasn’t the lightcycles and the tanks and the recognizers… it wasn’t even the fantasy of our creations carrying a bit of our souls with them. It was the idea that all the computers could be connected. That was a huge idea for my brain to process. This thing in my bedroom, through it, one day, I could be connected to the world. What would I want to say, what adventure would it lead me on. How will this computer change my life. That’s a lot for a movie to take on. The original helped me dream of the world I currently occupy. It’s why I was ready those 14 years ago to create this site. I’d been waiting my whole life with a lot to say and I kinda knew that it’d be with a computer. That’s why I took those typing classes… the keyboard could not be an obstruction between thought and expression. They needed to be effortless. That came from TRON. Alright, so I was a geeky rotund superfreak – already in Boy Scouts and dreaming about computers being IMPORTANT.
What could TRON offer me now that I was 38 years old, kind of found my calling and well… with a lot to think about, beyond heading to the arcade, pumping quarters into TEMPEST while justifying to my little brain that this would somehow mean something when I grew up. It did, it showed as a kid, I had properly identified the coolest stand up arcade game of all time. Giggle. But seriously, what had TRON become.
For one, it became a gargantuan film. Disney spent a mint on TRON LEGACY, we’ve all been seeing the evidence of that in the sheer enormous ever-present marketing scheme for the film… but what was the film going to say. I’d heard through the grapevine that TRON LEGACY wasn’t going to touch any of the modern realities of the computer space – this was a private server, designed by Kevin Flynn, for reasons unknown. I wasn’t sure if I liked that premise. I wanted to know how the programs work with Users constantly communicating through them. Multiple devices, different levels of digital consciousness… what would the enemy be, where would the conflict come from?
Then there was this new guy. This Garrett Hedlund, the son of Flynn… Sam Flynn he was called. He’s got one of those voices that sounds like it was forged with whiskey, cigars and honey. He seemed to be pushing that JIM STARK vibe that Dean nailed so greatly. But was that appropriate for TRON?
Before I get into TRON LEGACY – Let me just say – Hot damn, this movie is cool! TRON LEGACY is tech sexy. It’s so tech fetishistically awesome that I sat on the edge of my seat and smiled like a monkey in banana heaven, tail wagging and eyes bugging. I love the TRON aesthetic. It is just one of those visions of reality that I accept, not as being real, but as something that should be real. I want girls in sleek glow attire, hell – I totally accept that world – it was even glimpsed ever so slightly in BLADE RUNNER with them nifty Neon Tubed Umbrellas (I totally have one of those).
I think TRON, the original was always cool, to me… but TRON LEGACY, this is a whole next level of cool. I love Wendy Carlos’ score, but DAFT PUNK… Jesus, there were whole sequences of this movie where I caught myself rocking to the movie. Daft Punk makes this film have a vibe that I think a shit ton of folks will grok.
The basic storyline has Kevin Flynn disappearing telling his closest and dearest that he was on the verge of a miraculous great whatever, that was gonna change everything. His company, ENCOM, was left without its leader, and like all great companies formed and led by a visionary, when the corporate structure takes over, the company ceases to have heart and vision, and becomes about bottom lines.
Kevin has been gone for 20 years, his son is now 27, having grown up as essentially a cyber-batman that terrorizes his own company to keep it as close to what his father dreamt, without him actually stepping up to take his father’s place. This whole first part isn’t in 3D, but you’re wearing the glasses, the light has been brightened to the same level as the 3D, so that you have a very bright and sharp image, but once Sam hits the Grid – the 3D kicks in, the DAFT PUNK gets to rocking and you know… Jeff Bridges is gonna be on screen soon.
But I wasn’t anxious, I was there with Sam. He gets thrust onto the game grid a lot faster than Flynn did. And these games are more complicated than what we’d seen before – and the music is less dreamy happy, and more… badass. I found myself anxious for each new reveal inside this grid. Once CLU shows up, played by Jeff Bridges plus amazing digital help, I found myself staring at CLU and finding the soul of Flynn missing. It seems to be a tad of purposeful uncanny valley – and it makes CLU disturbing as hell to me. I mean, imagine… this is your father minus any humanity or love. This is your father, around the same age as you – and he wants you dead.
The initial Lightcycle battle is crazy fucking cool. I found the only problem in the light trail action to be… getting caught staring at the trail, while missing the focus of some of the action, but that’s simply because in 3D, I couldn’t help but just stare at the effect. It’s beautiful. It looked like hard ribbon candy – and kind of alive. This was nothing compared to what was to come though. Once Sam finally escapes the clutches of CLU, he finds himself aided upon his quest for his father, and is taken right to him.
This wasn’t the cold face of CLU – this was his dad, some 20 years older – and the film for me began to soar. Bridges plays Flynn as an extension of himself – and it seems, that while Flynn has spent a digital eternity on the grid, he’s still Flynn. I missed this guy. In particular, I’ve always loved fun Jeff Bridges, and I saw this before I saw TRUE GRIT, and the combination of that and this, just made me love Bridges as much as I’ve ever loved the Dude. He has many quotable lines that crack me up, but what I love is that Sam’s impatient quest to get out to finally save his dad… well, he becomes a man possessed. He’d stopped believing in this possibility.
Meanwhile, for 20 years, Bridges has been playing digital chess with his younger self. A program that hasn’t the capacity to know more than what he was programmed. He’s static, never changing, visually or through memory. He was told to create a grid filled with perfection, but perfection as he was programmed to perceive it – and therein lies the rub. We humans, creating intelligence that is meant to govern absolutely… It can get scary, and CLU is hurt by the ever changing FLYNN, the FLYNN that developed a new plan that he discovered on the Grid – the miracle that he told Sam about. The thing he couldn’t have predicted. The key to changing everything. It was perceived a flaw by CLU – and war broke out. Chaos reigns. CLU brings order to the grid. Digital perfection in his programmed vision.
I LOVE THIS STUFF! I’m sorry, I love it whether you call it FOUNTAINHEAD or fucking FRANKENSTEIN. I love that TRON LEGACY is essentially a mad scientist story – and that fucking Jeff Bridges’ FLYNN has turned into the Mad Scientist… but as only Bridges could.
Garrett’s SAM is completely up to the task of being the action lead, Olivia Wilde… damn. Ya know? Damn. In fact all the ladies in their TRON gear and crazy makeup… dreamy. But the thing that really sells this world is DAFT PUNK. It’s why the costumes are cool, why the GRID is cool… it has the pulsating funk of DAFT PUNK – and you’ll either chime in and dream of this digital madness or fight it. Whether you dig the story or not, even the naysayers are going to be blown away by the visuals of the film.
The aerial number that takes place on the race to the I/O tower… I think another 5 viewings are in line, just to attempt to process what I was seeing. It’s visually beyond stunning. Is it perfect? No. It feels like a middle film. Something that’s getting ready to really kick it up even higher. In particular, I could have used more Boxleitner TRON. I really wanted… nay, needed that. But I’m fine.
The word of a TV Series starring Bruce has me giddy. TRON LEGACY – I’ve no idea how it’ll play beyond the core. I am the core, it works wonderfully for me. Far better than I was hoping for. I laughed and cheered throughout – and after the screening, Father Geek, Quint, Merrick and Son Of Merrick were united in gleeful TRON geekery for a full hour… talking about what could happen next. What permanent actions had taken place. What’s around Sam’s neck exactly – and the notion of bringing… well, you should discover some of the questions on your own.
I can’t even predict what Yoko will think. I know she likes the look of the world – and I know she loves her some DAFT PUNK. I also know she loves a lot of the same things as me… but is she geek enough for this? Does it require that? I don’t know. There’s a part of me that seriously wants TRON to belong to a subsection of the world forever, simply out of a geek snobbery position that says in a manic Daffy Duck, “It’s MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE ! MINE!” I don’t need this film to do AVATAR business, that’s Disney.
For me – just standing around with my friends like Merrick & Quint and geeking out over the film, that’s what I wanted to be able to do afterwards. I didn’t want to come out and see that dead stare of “I loathed it” that you get sometimes. Not that I couldn’t handle that, but it’s just way better when you want to do the Maverick / Goose high 5 / low 5 because it fucking kicked ass!
The first TRON was about what a corporation does to things it doesn’t understand or value. In TRON LEGACY, it’s about the artist playing GOD and fucking it all up. Where does it go from here? I don’t know, I hope we get to find out. That’s the only reason it has to succeed, but if not… I’m 100% cool dream chatting with my buddies about what could happen in 20 years when another mad geek genius takes TRON into the chemical synapses of our brains through injection! Cinematic drug cocktails? Sounds right for TRON. However it comes, plug me in and boot it up. I’m a TRON geek for life!