Amazing visual effects but a stupid plot. That’s the original Tron movie in a nutshell. But that didn’t prevent from Tron becoming one of the biggest nerdy sci fi cult movies ever. So after roundabout thirty years of standby Disney made the logical decision to reboot the franchise with Tron Legacy. Was the effort worth it?
For most parts, and especially the plot, the answer is no. Tron Legacy felt to me as if the two writers Kitsis and Horowitz mistook the movie for the famous TV series Lost, for which they wrote 21 episodes each. Why? Because as Lost, Tron Legacy suffers from the horrible plague of “hinting”, “setting up” and “never paying off”.
Tron Legacy starts rather promising, though, because they were able to not shove the best things of the digital world down our eyes in the very first few minutes. It’s quite the opposite as the movie begins rather slowly with a talk between Sam and his father Flynn, who besides other stuff hints at important things to come. But then Flynn disappears from the world and Sam has to grow up without his father. Okay, this is typical blockbuster stuff at work here because Sam grows up to be your usual off the shelf genius beauty boy with a hang for extreme sports and righteousness. While this setup is a cliché of clichés I went on with it at first because of the welcomed slowness of the plot and the mystery surrounding Flynn’s disappearance.
The Encom break in scene some minutes later proves, though, that Tron Legacy doesn’t give a shit about itself, its plot and worst of all us viewers. Sam’s not only able to break into the Encom building, nope, he also uploads their newest OS into the internet in a timeframe I can only call seconds. But it gets better because only some seconds later the Encom board is already informed by this – but is beaten already by a TV station that’s one second faster than them…Ehm what? Did nobody get the feeling that this is, well, bullshit?
I assume they knew but didn’t care because starting from that moment on the quality of the takes a nosedive and is never to be seen again. The absolutely tragic part about this disaster is the fact Tron Legacy had some amazing potential. Heck, it had the chance to easily surpass its predecessor in terms of story quality. But instead of doing that the two writers decided to shit on their script.
Nothing in Tron Legacy feels epic, mysterious or at least gives the impression of a movie that knows what it’s doing. The writers bring in so many different subplots that it’s no wonder Tron Legacy has no coherent plot let alone a plot that’s properly build and resolved.
Out of all different subplots that problem’s especially evident with those mysterious Isos Flynn mentions at the beginning. Instead of build upon this idea and creating a truly epic story, the writers decided to use that as a background story for Clu’s betrayal of Flynn.
Another small example is the coin Flynn gives his son at the beginning. Instead of using this coin as a symbol for the bond between father and son, the writers decided to reduce the coin to a gimmick which Sam nonchalantly uses for a gaming machine – although he treasured it enough to keep it for twenty years. The same goes for the fastest lightcycle of the grid, which is used solely for driving into the city. You know, I’m not the brightest when it’s about screenwriting, but even I know that it’s total bullshit to mention something when you as a writer have no notion whatsoever to use that later.
Another thing is the disc of Flynn. This gadget has the master key necessary to leave the grid and therefore is important enough that Flynn keeps in hiding for a very long time, so that Clu is not able to get his hands on this valuable item. To a certain point this makes sense to me. What I don’t understand, though, is the fact that Flynn does absolutely nothing when his disc gets stolen. I felt totally cheated because at first I truly believed Flynn might have some sort of plan which made it necessary to “lose” it. Like a virus. But nope, there was nothing going on. In other words the writers again didn’t care at all about their plot and our intelligence.
The icing on this trainwreck of a subplot is the revelation that Flynn doesn’t even know what Clu’s up to. The only thing he knows after he lost his disc is that he wants to reach the portal despite the fact it’s pretty useless to go there without the key. Okay, Clu wants to get out, too, but I call this idea stupid because it’s rather risky in my eyes to not get the disc first. In the end we can gladly thank Mr. Chance leading our heroes right to the main head quarter of Flynn. I don’t know when the last movie I watched had so many chances.
But it gets even better because the plan of Clu is only one thing: absolute illogical bullshit. Okay, Clu was programmed to create a perfect world. That much is clear. But where the heck does “bloody” gladiator fighting fit into this? Where’s perfection in that? And what has all of this to do with the real world? I don’t get it.
Moreover the plan itself is utterly stupid…or to be more precise the premise of the plot. The more I think about it the stupider it gets and I sincerely wonder how the writers believe a computer works. Okay, so humans can enter the grid via the laser. Tron Legacy makes the statement that this process can work in the opposite direction as well. In other words: programs/code can become reality. Seriously, why did they write this? Didn’t they think about it for a second? Everything on the grid is basically code in one form or another. But by implying that some hundreds of lines of code can become a normal intelligent human is as if this blog post would become a book including a heavy cover and many paper pages.
I can understand that the writers needed some sort of crisis but the quality of that crisis is so lackluster that I cannot forgive them for writing this. Compared to Tron in which the MCP was a threat to the world, Tron Legacy has nothing whatsoever of that scale. Everything takes place in a computer completely disconnected from the world. Basically it’s a crisis in a sandbox. If the secret door wouldn’t have fallen on Sam at the beginning, nothing would’ve ever happened to the real world. They even state that the portal cannot be opened from the inside. So thanks a lot, dear writers, you created a scenario with no urgency at all.
The plan itself also doesn’t feel as if the worlds at stake. What could’ve been the worst scenario if Clu were able to enter the real? I’m sure Clu’s thousand untrained, unarmed henchmen would’ve been the perfect shooting training material for the US military. (By the way, Tron Legacy made a massive mistake with this whole evil plan subplot which the writers weren’t able to solve at all: since the grid resides in a disconnected computer it’s absolutely impossible for Clu to send a message to Allen.)
Thinking about Allan/Tron brings me right to the thing I hate with a passion about this movie: the way the writers care not about the eponymous character Tron. Instead of building on the idea of a fallen hero regaining its “human” side, Tron gets reduced to Darth Maul. Nothing happens to him that is of significance. There’s no character arc. Nothing. Only right at the end the writers remember about Tron and decide to let him – out of the blue – fight for the users again. Some seconds later, Tron is never to be seen again. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I watched this scene. It’s really amazing how every single writer didn’t use this amazing potential of a plot but kept on feeding us this shit.
On a visual level there’s not much to not like. The world inside the grid is quite impressive with its minimal minimalism. Unfortunately, the result doesn’t come close the first movie and its gorgeous and radical minimalism. In a way I’d say that the new grid of Tron Legacy is looking good but too often feels like our world with some neon lights added here and there. In light of the possibilities of today’s computers and rendering abilities I expected a little more to be frank.
One thing that totally annoyed me, though, were all the small illogical details of the grid. Why does a digital world have clouds, thunder or lightning? What do they represent? Or what is about all the dust that gets blown up almost everywhere? Or the earth? Why is Flynn able to eat something? Does that mean he needs to go to the toilet now and then? It’s those details that almost ruin this world for me because they’re inconsistent and not digital at all. They’re stupid as hell.
Since Tron Legacy was hyped because of its visual style, too, the result feels surprisingly bland and uncreative. And I don’t mean the visual style in general but the concrete buildings, designs and gadgets used throughout the story. When I watched Tron Legacy I had the eerie feeling I’ve seen everything already. And that’s no wonder because I’ve already seen everything of importance in the first movie which got recycled for the sequel. The recognizers, the lightcycles, the grid, the flying cruiser with the army that looks like a copy of Sark’s ship and the solar sailor. Everything, really everything was a modernized copy of the original.
When I think about it, Tron Legacy almost feels like a piss poor direct to video sequel after Tron turned out moderately successful. Sure the look is polished and modern, but neither the writers nor anybody else added something new or exciting to the franchise and the mystery.
Compared to the hype, the fan love and the amazing possibilities, Tron Legacy is quite a letdown. If the producers would have spent a “little bit” more time polishing the script and go for something truly new, the sequel could’ve turned out to be the new Matrix. Seriously, the foundation was there. But nope, the producers didn’t care about that at all. I felt that ignorance in every single frame. This is a movie without a creative spark or a cool idea; it’s just a money making machine. It’s nothing more. Of course, all movies are money making machines, but Tron Legacy is so blatant it hurts.
So what’s left of the cult classic sequel called Tron Legacy? Not much as it left me cold on almost every level. I didn’t care for the characters, I didn’t care for both worlds at stake, I didn’t care for the plot, I didn’t care for anything. At its core, Tron Legacy is worse better or worse a badly written direct to video sequel that was released on the big screen. With regard to the already bad story quality of the first movie that’s the worst thing that could happen.