Fri
Dec 17 2010 3:53pm

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

Tron: LegacyWhat’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

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. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

10 comments
Erik.007
1. Erik.007
Just saw it last night; I was totally thinking that Jeff was The Dude (albeit with programming knowledge) the whole time. It even showed in his programs, I'm pretty sure I heard CLU say "End of line, man" to the David-Bowie looking guy who ran the club on the roof.
john mullen
2. johntheirishmongol
The other thing I missed having around was Bit. Always thought that was cool.
Erik.007
3. Owners.Inc
The movie was utter rubbish. I have no idea who wrote the script but it was one cliche after another with no breathing space in between. I thought Olivia Wilde's performance helped the movie, but the Dad and Son totally messed it up. The level of truly cheesy scenes (narm if you will) ruined it for me. I would give you examples, but in these rare instances the lines could be passable if not for the execution, so textual descriptions will fall flat.

I should mention that I was born much much after the movie was released. I had no idea what the original was and no longer hold even the slightest curiosity. What I was really disappointed with was that I left the movie not entirely sure why most of the characters were doing what they did - how did Kora/Cora/whoever get out of the Tron-World? She. is. an. algorithm. Not even a program (not that that would help), but as a CS major so much of it made me cringe that I felt relief when the action started. I left the movie with no idea how anything made sense - what was the purpose of the identity frizbies?

In all fairness, the action was good - the way boundaries between ground and sky flipped, the frizbies of identity slicing stuff up etc etc.
Ryan Britt
4. ryancbritt
Greetings Programs,

A friend of mine just e-mailed me an abacus joke.

Here it is:

Why was the abacus so stressed out?

Because everyone was always counting on him!
David Betz
5. RDBetz
"If anything, he’s got a sort of Hayden Christensen thing going on."

Hah! About 10 minutes into the movie I said to myself, "Wait, is that Hayden Christensen?"
Erik.007
6. Master Control Program
For 'Owner's Inc.'

Why would you bother even going to see the sequal to a movie you never even watched in the first place? There is so much in TRON: Legacy that is worthless and without meaning if you have not seen TRON '82.

As for Olivia Wilde's character... you obviously missed that she was more than an algorithm. Did the representation of a triaxial helix not give you any clues as to the fact that while she is data (like Sam and Kevin are while on the grid), she is far more complex than a simple algorithm... she is life in data form. That was what the isos represent.

Seriously, man.

End of Line.
Erik.007
7. Anon Program
Ok, nothing confusing about the identity disc. Think of it as an ID badge to get you into a building or like your freaking drivers licence. Not a difficult concept. You need it to get you places and for it to explain to others your name, purpose/title, clearance etc. So Tron world, it gives your (program)name, (purpose)function and where you are aloud to be, what vehicles you can drive on the grid -whatever. In the case of Tron the ID disc is also a mirrored storage device of whatever program/user it has been syced with. Flynn's disc = master key/master password/super admin, all data needed to do anything. If you lose your drivers license, youre not going to die. If you cut your license in half, youre not going to die. So using your disc as a weapon isnt going to hurt you.

Quorra is an ISO(s) pr.EYE-soh, not isope(s)

It doesnt really bring much relevence to your argument to say youre a ______ major. Its a sci-fi movie with its own mythology. Do you know what mythology is? Being a "major" you obviously havent graduated community college yet.

Abacus jokes. Funny. All the old tech puns were a lot of fun in the original and I think the new one could have benefitted from a little more humor. Also it could have used more action sequences. One perfect part for a chase sequence/driving battle would have been when Sam steals his fathers "vintage" light cycle to head downtown to search for Zuse (yes its Zuse). Otherwise its just a waste of the entire climax of the song playing in the background.

One of the strangest things which never made sense to me was if Kevin Flynn was the Creator and had all this User power. Why cant he just use his skills to create indestructable items for himself or others, cheat codes or the silly backdoor Sam looks up in the terminal window. No God Mode fail safe? Who wouldnt program something like that in, I mean your going into the COMPUTER. Also how is it that Clu can repurpose Tron. Tron is a security program made to watch over the system. Shouldnt he just have been able to send Clu to quarentine? :)
Erik.007
8. Daniel C.
My theory on why the helmet never pealed back to reveal a young Bruce Boxleitner, wrestling with being the bad Flynn's leading henchman, is they simply ran out of money and couldn't afford the CGI needed for the effect. I agree that it would have been cool to see that. However, I was not satisfied with the CGI youth-ified Bridges. I see more emotion on the Toy Story characters than I saw in the young Bridges. The young Bridges' image was flat and unemotional. Whenever he appeared, I fell out of the world the filmmaker's created, and thought I was watching a bad Saturday morning cartoon. A youth-ified Boxleitner probably would have doubled that reaction.
Keith Quigley
9. keithq
I managed to dig up an original copy of Tron '82 prior to going to see the 3D version over the holidays. It was worth the bad resolution of VHS to 'remember' the first one. Might have missed 'Bit' on the mantel piece otherwise.

Having said that, effects were of course excellent, story secondary but the single biggest disappointment was the title character of the film never really appeared. Where the hell was Tron/Boxleitner, even if it was only for a second as he says "I fight for the users". My god man, what a mistake to name a movie after a full face, blacked out helmeted thug who is never revealed except tangentally via a single seemingly redeemable line of dialogue. Sheesh.
Erik.007
10. Evan H.
When I go see a sequel to Tron and I find myself hoping they'll get back to the real human world soon because that part of the movie had been much more interesting to watch, it indicates they've done something very, very wrong.

Most appallingly awful movie I've seen in years. I was prepared for the plot to be lame, but I didn't expect it to just screech to a halt in the middle. Flynn spends half the movie sitting around in his zen retreat talking about allegedly cool but poorly explained stuff that happened before the movie started, and we're supposed to be excited about it?

And of course everyone praises the visual effects, but the visual effects were BORING. This is supposed to be simulated computer world; what the hell were they thinking making it look gritty and realistic? Why do vehicles kick up dust? Why do humans break apart into little pixellated ice cubes when they die, but airplanes catch fire and emit smoke, and buildings blow up with realistic fiery explosions? Why is there ordinary-looking WEATHER? What the hell do computer programs want with a nightclub, and why is Captain Jack Bowie running it? And why in god's name should I care about any of this in the first place?

The original movie was stupid but it was still fun to watch because it was packed with little imaginative diversions--the floating bit, the river of pure energy, the grid bugs, the solar sail simulation, etc. This new movie? At one point Flynn says they're going to have to "cross the Sea of Simulation" and then we don't get to see it. The level of pure filmmaking and storytelling incompetence on display here rivals George Lucas at his worst.

I saw this movie with my son, who is a hyperactive computer-obsessed nine-year-old boy and should have been the ideal target audience and was extremely enthusiastic about going to see it on opening weekend. I should have walked out of that theatre thinking, well, that was kind of stupid, but it's great to see how excited my kid is about the spectacle. Instead, 45 minutes in, the kid leaned his head on my belly and whispered that he was going to try to get a nap. Epic, epic fail. I wish people would stop trying to excuse this piece of crap.

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