My Thoughts on TRON Legacy

arcadehero December 20, 2010 7

I might not be a movie critic but I am a fan of TRON and arcade games so I may as well share my thoughts on the movie in lieu of some hard arcade news.

For the non-spoiler/short review: I really enjoyed it. It was entertaining, epic, and visually pleasing. I wasn’t bored by the film, it never felt like it was going on for too long and they put forth some interesting concepts in digital advancement. I’ve heard many people slight the first film for lacking character development and I didn’t see that with TL. They look at the angle of how one’s work or attachment to technology can endanger your human relationships but I never felt like it was getting preachy or insulting. There are plenty of little nods for the fans – lines or objects that are exactly the same from the original. Another good thing about it is that even if you’ve never seen TRON, they never reference the original so deeply that you would get lost but it is referenced enough to please the fans.

For a deeper review of it all, continue on

There are SPOILERS here. So you’ve been warned. This also may contain rambling – I’m just going to write my thoughts down without worrying about figuring out how to formulate a stars or thumbs up/thumbs down rating.

As I stated, I did enjoy the film as I found it entertaining and epic. I know a lot of people are bashing it for the story but I personally found the storyline to be intriguing. There is plenty of stuff they borrowed from the first film, not just for aesthetics but as plot devices but that doesn’t detract from some of the films unique touches and it all works out to become an enjoyable experience – different in it’s own way from the first movie but not necessarily different in a bad way, as we see happen in many Hollywood reboots.

As one expects, it is about a person who gets zapped into the digital world and there they have to come to terms with how to get out and how to survive. This time the person involved is Sam Flynn, son of the famous Kevin Flynn who disappeared about 20 years ago, leaving behind a tech empire and his son. We do get a brief scene at Flynn’s Arcade although it’s been shut down for 20 years, everything is dusty and the games are covered up. When in the digital world, it looks markedly different from the original Tron, something that may take some getting used to for some fans. I do think that the world could have used a more diverse color palette but it’s nothing I found distracting. The 3D was quite good, I can’t compare it to anything else as it’s the first full-length feature film I’ve ever watched in 3D but it didn’t give me any problems. The real world scenes were done in 2D but there were a few instances where they seemed to have a little ‘pop’ to them anyways, which can happen with HD content on occasion; the transistion from the real to digital world was neat although I would have liked a little longer sequence to take place here – I would not be surprised if a moviegoer unfamiliar with Tron did not understand exactly what happened here since they don’t actually show Sam getting zapped by the laser and downloaded into the machine.

One thing that will stand out in TRON Legacy is that the character development/interaction is more involved than it was in the first film. This part actually surprised me and I liked it. We get to see a deeper side of Kevin Flynn and while he has changed by now – being trapped in a computer for what seems like centuries will likely do that to a person (but I know that some are saying it’s just The Dude as Flynn – I haven’t seen the Big Lebowski so I can’t comment on that) but despite the change, he is still a likable and interesting character. He occasionally spouts out words or phrases that were hip in the 80’s which is a nice touch. I liked how they handled his relationship with Sam, I expected Sam to be whiny about it the whole time as we often seen in father/son stories of this caliber but I was happy to see it not work out exactly that way as Sam shows that despite the hardship of their prolonged separation, he still loves and respects his father as opposed to resenting him. Sam understands that the reason for Kevin’s abandonment was outside his control and after that point we don’t have to worry about angsty resentment bogging down the film.

One major part of the film that some have seemed to misunderstand or not really grasp is the introduction of the ISO’s. After I saw the movie my brother said he didn’t get what the point of them was all about and I’ve since heard that same sentiment expressed by others who saw the movie. I’m not sure why this is confusing as I personally thought they explained them well enough and they are really the basis for the whole movie. It starts when we hear Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) tell Sam about how he was onto something that would change everything in our lives, including science and religion. Once we do find out that the catalyst for all this are the ISO’s, then it’s obvious that they are an important part of the film. Essentially they are a new kind of computer-based lifeform that sprung from Kevin Flynn’s virtual playground – they were an unexpected result of Kevin Flynn designing his own world from inside the computer. They are much more advanced than a standard computer program and even hold their own kind of DNA. This expounds on a concept presented in the original movie, that “programs will be thinking soon”. But the movie goes beyond that to another concept put forth in the first movie – “Won’t that be grand, the programs will start thinking and the people will stop.” In a way I guess you could say that the entire concept of the ISO’s is based in a Star Trek-style story, where one reason humans explore space is to seek out new life and new civilizations and In TRON Legacy that is accomplished on our own world and inside a computer.

In hearing some other opinions about TL, I’ve heard lamentations that the film didn’t tackle what the internet looks like in the TRON world, with Facebook and Twitter, etc. Instead the movie tackles something  more important, albeit briefly  – how one’s obsession with something (in particular technology) can lead to neglecting more important things in life such as personal relationships with others including those closest to you. If you want your movie to get some sort of philosophical point across then I would say that what TL did rates higher on the scale than seeing an interpretation of how Twitter works in the Tron world. As for how the movie handled the balance between the action side and the thinking side, I would say that they did a good job at it – not great but I don’t think that anymore time needed to be spent on getting those thinking points across then they did. The pacing could have been better in regards to that balance in some areas, which perhaps can be chalked up to the fact that this is the director’s maiden voyage of a film. Considering that I’d say he did a pretty good job.

Naturally as a big Tron fanboy I enjoyed the nods they gave to the first film, from the big door at the beginning to the BattleZone sitting in Flynn’s at the end (BattleZone was one of Jeff Bridge’s favorite arcade titles when filming the first movie). There are some things you wonder about, such as the inside of the new tanks (which were big in the first) or you missed such as a Bit adding some comic relief (I think that Michael Sheen’s character could have had a lot of fun playing off a Bit) but their exclusion aren’t big deals.

One distinctive aspect of TRON: Legacy is that this film is much more epic than the original. It feels completely different and that is something I can understand of being a problem for some fans.  The amazing soundtrack by Daft Punk certainly helps with the epic feel but the overall design and scope of the digital world backs it all up. The light-cycle matches and Disk Wars were phenomenal to watch, happening on a scale that is witnessed by more than just a dictator in his tower (like the original), making those events more exciting and involving. I particularly enjoyed the new light-cycle matches, they are more deadly than ever and even more fun to watch. The Disk Wars segment shows some changes in the way such battles take place – the disks behaved a little more realistically where they didn’t include impossible physical movement (such as in the first TRON where sometimes a disk could move about differently). They added a nice little touch where Sam first grabs the flying disk and almost drops it, much like Kevin Flynn when he was first getting the hang of the Pong-like battle in the first movie.

As for some things I found disappointing, there were a couple, I want to try and not give you my opinion here with rose-colored glasses so here we go:

I was hoping that they would have shown Tron a bit more in the film – his brief cameo where they show you a young Bruce Boxlietner really leaves you wanting for more and hopefully that’s just what they will give us in the sequel. Honestly why they don’t show his face later in the film when Rinzler is defeated and we all know he’s TRON – this was the biggest let down for me, a wasted opportunity. They could have easily given us a disk battle at the end that wasn’t there just for the sake of having a disc battle but using that as an accumulation of Rinzler’s anger at Clu for having used him for all of those cycles, giving the battle some extra meaning. But they would have had to build things up a little differently throughout the film for it to get to that point. I did expect some kind of disk battle at the end, ala the first movie but to no avail. I’m not saying that disk battles need to become pointless like light-saber battles became in the Star Wars movies (just showing light-saber fights for eyecandy and little else, as opposed to the originals) though. I simply expected them to mimick the first in that aspect as well, with either a Flynn Vs. Clu fight, Sam Vs. Clu or Tron Vs. Clu thing going on so if you were expecting that as well then it does work out differently.

I think everyone was hoping for a better effect on Clu and it’s another case of something that’s not bad but not great either. He’s an OK villian – he didn’t have any lines that really stuck out for me like they had with Sark, who had a sarcastic edge to him I liked. with Clu lacking any of that, it left plenty of room for improvement.

Some seem to hate the new main character Sam but I don’t have any big gripes about him. He’s not as big a goof as Kevin was but I see plenty of potential for the character to grow. I’m also interested to see where they take Quorra as a character in the future. There is a good character driven moment towards the end when Quorra asks Sam to describe the sun that was a nice touch.

There is certainly potential for the TRON series here and I hope it can continue as it’s a world I have always thought to be cool. There’s a little hope that we’ll see more arcade stuff happening in a sequel and I certainly hope that the movie does well enough to warrant a follow-up. I would recommend checking it out and in 3D, 3D might not be a primary reason to go see it but it’s a nice touch.

So until the next big TRON thing…



  1. BDD December 21, 2010 at 6:34 am - Reply

    I really enjoyed the movie, although as a comparison to the first, I didn’t find it exceptional. Great, but not insanely great. That said, I definitely want to go see it again; this time in a non-3d theatre. The 3d was good, but the glasses made everything too dark for my tastes.

    The non-development of the Tron character was the only real huge disappointment for me. For a movie that shares his name, you’d have thought that they would have explored more of his character. I’m not sure if he was derezzed or not in Legacy, so maybe we’ll see more of him in a sequel…?

    Other than that, it was a great movie and a great time. I’m definitely not disappointed after waiting so many years as I was when Phantom Menace finally came out.

  2. Kenny December 21, 2010 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    I would have to disagree with you being a huge tron 82 fan. I thought the story was lacking big time. Kevin Flynn was not very confident in himself like he was in the first one. I loved the go getter attitude. They missed a chance to make a touching moment by not explaining his dad and his relationship as much before they met, again.
    Also, I was really confused why they had isos (aliens) in the movie. It does not make sense. For the Tron cameo, If his rinzler is so powerful, how does clu beat him in 10 seconds. Weak written on there part. The visuals were stunning, but the movie should be called flynn of isos, not tron. Anyways for the arcade nods in the film, i think it lacked heavily. How was Same good at the games if he was never introduced as a gamer, he was really good at riding a motorcycle….
    I felt chipped and kinda sad when he looked at the arcade in the last seen and just kinda left it behind. It seems as though he that (arcade) was the past and he was now going on to do better things.
    All and all, the movie took itself way too serious, not as fun or lite hearted as the original.

    • arcadehero December 21, 2010 at 12:24 pm - Reply

      Um, the ISOs make complete sense – At the beginning of the movie Alan says Flynn was going on to change everything, science, religion, etc. That is exactly what they ISO’s were as they were a new form of life. Being massarced by jealous programs like Clu would have been a tragedy to that whole idea. Quorra is an ISO, the last one in existence and it’s important to Flynn to make sure she survives, so important he sacrifices his chance at freedom to make it out as well as possibly his life. How does that not make sense?

      I agree that TL should have taken itself less seriously and it certainly won’t be as an iconic film as the original but this talk of it being terrible is also being overblown, probably because people let themselves get too hyped up for it.

      And as for the last look at Flynn’s, seeing how he left everything on, I was thinking that perhaps Sam would rebuild it. It’s not like they were going to have him start pulling the covers off of games and start playing as an ending when there was other things to do.

  3. neil December 26, 2010 at 12:39 am - Reply

    Here’s a pretty good review that’s the antithesis of your review 🙂

    • arcadehero December 26, 2010 at 3:39 pm - Reply

      I know that I’m pretty much a lone wolf when it comes to my thoughts on this movie, since it seems like people were expecting exactly the same movie they saw 28 years ago with even newer CG. I never had that expectation even though I am a big fan of TRON so I don’t feel as let down (or in the case of the review you link to, enraged) over how the movie turned out. I had my problems with it (a few of which that reviewer shares) but I’m not in a nitpicky mode about it where nothing is ever good enough. But to each his own

  4. Galane December 27, 2010 at 3:15 am - Reply

    It’s good enough as it is but could have been better. Since Sam Flynn grew up playing the games his father created, and riding motorcycles, they could’ve done even better things with the lightcycle battle.

    Something like Sam saying “You think you’re good? Watch this!” as he pulls ahead of one of Clu’s programs then does a right angle turn in front of him. POW! Followed by that programs lightwall dropping just in time for Sam to run across where it was. In Legacy we never really see what happens to the lightwalls of crashed vehicles. Legacy is pretty short on the strategy of avoiding the ever extending length of the lightwalls.

    They used the 3D, multi-level arena to avoid having to pay attention to that, where in the original the lightcycle grid was a finite bounded 2D plane and the tension mounted up as maneuvering room constantly reduced.

    That’s a ‘legacy’ of the original TRON, its lightcycles are the inspiration for the ‘snake’ games just about every 1980’s micro computer and game console had at least one version of.

    Now there’s the freeware game Armagetron Advanced. Google that, also get the moviepack graphics and sounds. You’ll have to Google for the sounds because they’re not linked on the Armagetron Advanced site. That game has advanced beyond the original grid battle. There’s capture the flag, fortress and sumo modes, among other additions. In sumo mode you have to stay within a circle. Get forced out of the circle for too long and you derezz. If your computer is good enough you can turn up all the details and the game will look better than the original TRON movie. 🙂

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