End of Line, Man: The Legacy of the Classic Tron in Tron: Legacy

What’s the most memorable thing about the original Tron? Most people would probably say the lightcycles, or the disc-battles. But what was your favorite line of dialogue? Mine is this one part when Bruce Boxleitner makes a joke about balancing his checkbook with an abacus. Because abacus jokes are HILAROUS. But seriously. There are only two lines of spoken dialogue anyone remembers from the classic film; “end of line” and “greetings program!” And because you don’t deRez a functional program, those two famous lines are back for Tron: Legacy. Sadly, jokes about abacuses have vanished. Here’s a guide to what’s old, what’s new, what’s borrowed, and what’s neon out there on the grid.

Spoilers ahead.

They Still Play Video Games to Stay Alive

Tron: Legacy

In the original movie, Kevin Flynn is thrust into the games almost immediately after entering the digital realm, and in the new movie the same happens to his son. In fact, the first several sequences of Sam in grid are thematically identical to the original film. Like his father, Sam tells everyone he’s not a program, then he is issued an identity disc. Then like his father, he cracks a funny joke. Oh wait. Maybe not. Sam’s not nearly as Han Solo-ish as Kevin Flynn was in the original film. If anything, he’s got a sort of Hayden Christensen thing going on.

In the original, we’re told Kevin Flynn’s prowess in the games comes from him being a video game inventor in the real world. In the new movie, Sam is good at the disc battles and the lightcycles because he’s sort of hunky and a daredevil. We do learn he’s a hacker of some kind at the beginning of the movie, but then again, so is Mark Zuckerberg. (Yes, I’d like you to imagine Jesse Eisenberg in the disc battles now!)

Another relevant point of departure between father in son is apparent immediately. In Kevin Flynn’s first all-neon battle he refused to kill his opponent. Sam Flynn on the other hand, has no qualms deRezing the crap out of people right from the start.


Female Characters Still Have Minor Roles

Olivia Wilde in Tron: Legacy

If you get your hands on a DVD of the classic Tron, the deleted scenes all have one common trait. Seemingly every single scene cut from the first movie is a love scene between Tron and Yori. Now I am not saying these scenes would have given Yori more depth, but they would have helped us to understand who she was and what she was doing with Tron. In the new flick, we get Quorra, who is basically some kind of computer alien/special lifeform/miracle who looks like a Suicide Girls model. Quorra is the last of the isopes, which apparently is extremely important. I wanted to like Quorra and get excited about her being an interesting character as opposed to Yori for the old movie. But any of her badassery was a narrative convenience. When it was handy for her to be self-sufficient, she was. When it was fun for her to be in need of rescue, she was totally helpless. Also, the whole isope thing made no sense and wasn’t explained well. Here, little has changed from old Tron to new Tron.


Technical Stuff Still Doesn’t Make Sense

Tron: Legacy

What exactly is the nature of a program’s consciousness? Is their clothing an abstraction? In the new movie Sam is given new clothing. But what purpose does it serve? How do the identity discs work anyway? In the old film, Tron, Ram, and Flynn drink from a stream of “pure energy.” I still have no idea what this means. In the new movie, Clu needs Kevin Flynn’s disc because it’s “the master key.” To what exactly? The outside world? If you need your identity disc for all sorts of reasons, isn’t it a little reckless to use these things as weapons and be throwing them around all the time? Doesn’t giving Quorra Flynn’s disc like turn her into Flynn or something? Did I mention I don’t understand what the identity disc is even for?

Luckily, most of the technical stuff that doesn’t make sense still looks real cool. From the lightcycles, to the solar sail-boat ship, everything from the old movie looks way cooler in this movie. I could have done without the “turret scene” however. Enough with the overt Star Wars references in nerd movies! It’s bad enough to have Sam in a turret, but did Quorra really have to say, “Here they come”? In all honesty though, all the other visuals were awesome. I just didn’t like the flying stuff. I like when the people on the grid stay on the grid.



Tron in Tron: Legacy

Well, well, well. Tron is very persistent, and he is back in the new Tron movie! Rejoice! Honestly, I know everyone will be talking about the great visual effects in this movie in regard to the action scenes, but some of my favorite stuff was the digital de-aging the movie-makers did with Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner. The flashback sequences with the young Tron and Flynn were awesome. But Tron himself exists in the present-day version of the grid, though he’s somehow trapped as this evil alter-ego Rinzler. I liked that Tron was sort of secretly present throughout the movie, and mostly as a bad guy. This was a neat twist and a good way of paying homage to the old movie, without wasting too much time. However, I did feel sort of cheated that Rinzler’s helmet never popped off to reveal Boxleitner. That would have been cool.


Jeff Bridges

Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy

The big news about Jeff Bridges in this movie isn’t that he plays two roles extremely well and convincingly, but more importantly that he’s channeling The Dude from The Big Lebowski the entire time. This, I think is an improvement on the original Kevin Flynn character, who while a wiseass and sort of cool in a dorky way, wasn’t super memorable. In the new movie, Bridges (in both roles) definitely gives the whole thing some humanity, mostly just by saying “man” after most sentences. This worked for me, because Sam didn’t really seem to have sense of humor. In the old movie, Tron was sort of humorless, while Flynn was the funny guy. So, I guess it makes sense that with Sam in the role of the new hero, that Flynn would again be the funny one.

Contemporary action adventure movies seem to have made a clear division with male heroes. Most of them are extremely dark and stoic, like Christian Bale’s Batman, or Daniel Craig’s Bond. I sort of miss the days of Harrison Ford and Jeff Bridges in Tron. And through all the great effects, and heart-pumping music, it was nice to have someone like Bridges cast a wry smile every once and awhile. I just hope we won’t need CGI to keep the funny SF hero alive for future generations.

End of line, programs.

Ryan Britt’s writing has appeared here, Nerve.com, Opium Magazine, The New Inquiry, Clarkesworld Magazine, and elsewhere. He likes abacus jokes. Send him some. ryancbritt@gmail.com


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