TRON: Legacy movie review (TCTV)

Part of the TRON press event included an advance screening of TRON: Legacy. We’ve been under embargo not to review the movie, but someone broke the embargo, so we are no longer going to keep it secret.

If you do not like movie spoilers, do not click to read more and do not read on, because I’m going to tell you what I think about the movie and I’m going to include some information about it that you might not want to know. I’m not going to give away major plots, because I hate that, but I’m going to go into some of my thoughts on the movie. If you are curious about seeing TRON and don’t mind a tidbit of information, read on.

When I saw TRON the first time as a child it opened up my mind to amazing possibilities. The story around Kevin Flynn was ok, but the ideas around being transported to a virtual world where programs were personified by human representations are what really stuck with me. I liked to believe that one day this would be possible. I could have an avatar and I could meet people on the “grid”. In some ways we can do this now through MMORPGs etc., but we’re still aware of our real world surroundings. We can’t truly get lost yet. We can’t feel, smell and taste virtual things. Maybe someday.

TRON held a different place in my heart during different periods of my life. As a child, it was just a simple and beautiful thing, but as an adult, I dove deeper into the technology that made it all possible. What TRON achieved in 1982 was ground breaking. From what I understand, it was the first movie to incorporate live action with CGI and hand drawn animation. The results were breath taking. I know you look back at it now and maybe you don’t see it, but you have to somehow use a mental wayback machine to put yourself in the early 80s and imagine it. The animations were rendered on the only PDP-10 in the area using 2MB of RAM.

As a young adult, I played TRON at parties with the volume off. We’d watch it in the background and revel at its beauty. When the volume was on, we laughed at the witty and inaccurate technical jokes, but they were endearing. My favorite character was “bit” who only spoke in binary. Yes and No.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes… NO NO NO NO NO! Yes.

When IMDB launched, I immediately looked up TRON and saw – “In production TRON 2.0, release date TBD”. I waited and waited. I heard the production was canceled, restarted, canceled, restarted, etc. As technology accelerated and movies like the Matrix & Avatar appeared, it made me hopeful for what they could create with a new TRON.

I also love the original Star Wars. When I found out they were making Episode 1, I had extremely mixed feelings. Unlike TRON, I’m not sure Star Wars gets better with improved technology. Part of what made Star Wars so special were the models and limitations of the time. I camped out all night with a friend and we played chess while we waited to see the new Star Wars. I was so disappointed. Jar Jar ruined quite a bit of it for me, but really, if I had to be honest, it wasn’t special anymore. Something was lost. I was too young to realize it then, but those movies were not intended for me. They were intended for a whole new audience and a whole new generation of Star Wars fans that had just recently been born. I wasn’t going to relive my childhood through that movie and I had to move on.

So, really, the Matrix is the sequel to TRON in my mind. That’s where you’d take a concept like TRON to a whole new level for adults. The key word being adult. The new TRON, like Star Wars, is for a whole new generation. It is a stand alone movie that needs to be judged on its own.

It is a Frankenstein story, where the artist creates a world that is meant to be perfect, but everything goes wrong. The cost is the real and tangible relationship with the outside world.  It is also a story about the ethics around artificial intelligence. If the original TRON inspired me the way it did, I wonder what our children will take away from this. Maybe they’ll get the message.

So, if the Matrix, Snowcrash, Diamond Age and Avatar are for adults. TRON is the movie for children. It is the introduction to the complex idea of existing in a virtual world by transporting your brain and identity into an electronic form. Think of it as a Madeleine L’ engle book. If you read a Wrinkle In Time as a child, it was an introduction to quantum physics. This is what TRON is. It is a primer for more complex thoughts that require more literature and other movies.

The new TRON is absolutely beautiful. The Cirque Du Soliel of movies. You don’t go for the plot at Cirque, you go to see some amazing stuff. You go to see how far we can push the human body and you are astonished by the skill. That’s TRON, old and new. It is a wonder of the human imagination. A virtual wonderland.

Even the movie Hackers (another favorite) was like this. If you tried to take that movie seriously and compare it to what was really possible, you’d be disappointed, but if you saw it from the creator’s eyes and how computer people “sound” to people who don’t understand what we’re saying, it made perfect sense. That movie was the re-creation of hearing people talking about a kill -9 on a process. If you asked any hacker what his dream girl might be like, maybe she did ride a motorcycle and skate around on rollerblades. She certainly had the fastest computer which was better than yours and could hack you under the table.  That movie was also a work of art.

As a bonus for the Unix geeks, there’s some actual *real* Unix stuff in this movie when Sam goes through his father’s history and executes some previous commands. I thought that was pretty cool. Usually movies get this all wrong. I mean, in the Matrix, Trinity took down some power grid using nmap, which is a port scanner. It sure looked cool, but it really didn’t make any sense.

“This is Unix. I know this.” – Jurrasic Park

One of the members of the TRON team said not to over analyze it and get lost in the world, and that’s my advice as well. Try to become a child again and imagine being a 5-10 year old and being blown away by the light cycle races. Imagine what’s ticking in their mind and what seeds are being planted.

The original TRON is responsible for a lot of things that we enjoy today. Daft Punk draws their inspiration from the movie, many people got into technology because of it, movies were inspired by it and so on.

After watching the movie, I was left wanting more, which is always a good sign. I felt like they could have given us one hour more of this beautiful world. I didn’t want it to end. That’s what Avatar was for me. The story was basically Pocahontas in space, which really didn’t interest me, but the idea around real living things being driven by a remote host was what really piqued my interest. The creation of a whole new world that I could get lost in, was just amazing. I watched it three times just to see that world and I blocked out what everyone was saying.

The new TRON is sexy, the soundtrack is amazing, the world is beautiful, the characters are awesome and the 3D is amazing.

I don’t normally recommend that you see anything in 3D, but I wouldn’t see this movie any other way. As a matter of fact, see it on IMAX if you can. Just remember, it is a Disney film. Put your child hat on and let go of being an adult for a while. I think you’ll really enjoy it. If nothing else, you’ll be pining for your very own TRON suit and End Of Line club with your very own Daft Punk to play songs for you.

You can view a short TRON: Legacy Featurette below. Plus, watch our interviews with cast and crew Part 1 and 2 (with the original Tron director and more about the fashion) here, and Part 3 and 4 (with Jeff Bridges and Olivia Wilde) here.

You can also pledge your allegiance for TRON vs Avatar here. I watched Avatar 3 times, and I’ve pledged to watch TRON at least 4.