Remember Y2K, you guys? That was the best. So scary! Haha. Y2K. What was THAT all about? I’m not sure I ever even understood it completely, but the basic idea, if I remember it correctly, was that the Eastern Seaboard’s power grid was going to shut down, all of the banks were going to go to zero, and the world was going to collapse into the ocean because the clock in the upper right hand corner of your desktop thought it was midnight on January 1st, 1603, or whatever. Sure. Let’s all build bomb shelters, JIC. (Obviously, I make jokes, but I’m still pretty nervous about Y2K because as far as I’m concerned, the threat is still real and it is still out there. In case you have not noticed, computers STILL HAVE CLOCKS on them, as if we REFUSE TO LEARN OUR LESSON.) Anyway, there is something about Lawnmower Man 2 Tron: Legacy that speaks very deeply to our communal (and persistent and vivid and serious and real) Y2K fears. In a world that is self-destructing in actual, calculable ways, with genuine and persistent threats of annihilation all around us, the idea that a VIDEOGAME is going to TAKE OVER is fun and hilarious. Because no it’s not. CGI Jeff Bridges face terrifies me for lots of reasons, but that is not one of them.

TRON: Legacy was so fucking stupid that it almost didn’t matter how stupid it was. Fun trick!

As soon as you start actually THINKING about this movie, it falls apart so quickly that it’s laughable. Even the “real” world makes no sense. I’m sorry, but there is no such thing as an abandoned arcade where they just threw tarps over all the games and locked the door for 25 years, but still pay the electric bill every month. And are you really going to tell me that an internationally famous videogame designer (ha) is going to hide his secret laboratory in some kind of child’s dungeon behind the Pac Man machine? No. But the real trouble, of course, comes on The Grid. WHAT’S UP WITH THE GRID, YOU GUYS? For ne thing, if you are going to create a world entirely of your imagination, maybe you should create it better. Because that place is terrifying and also shitty. Oh, and here’s a question: WHY DOES A COMPUTER NEED A BEDROOM?

Why does a computer need anything, really? Like, why does a computer need a motorcycle? Why does a computer need a fancy rooftop cocktail lounge with celebrity DJs? Why does a computer need an executive assistant? When a computer goes to watch computer prisoners compete in computer games to the computer death in a computer stadium, do they need to buy computer tickets? Why is a computer embarrassed when it knocks over a vase? Why does a computer jet that is imagined by a computer and flying through the computer sky in a computer world STALL OUT SOMETIMES? These are the types of questions you might ask yourself while watching Tron: Legacy, but you should be careful, because they’ll make your head fall right off.

The analogous world would probably be that of The Matrix, but there is an explanation of The Matrix‘s simulation, which is that it was designed by the machines to trick HUMAN BEINGS so that they would not realize they were being turned into ROBOT JUICE. Here, there are no human beings. So the computer is just…tricking itself? Speaking of the computer…

Have you ever heard that apocryphal story about how when native Americans first encountered European explorers, they thought that they had just magically appeared on the beach even though there was a giant anchored ship in the water because a giant anchored ship was so unlike anything the native Americans had ever encountered that they didn’t have the neural-networking to process the visual information? (The extension of this idea suggests that were aliens to land in Central Park right now, we might not be able to see their spaceship not because it was invisible but because it would be so unlike anything we were used to processing visually that it wouldn’t register in our brains. I’m not making this up, I read it somewhere. Someone else might have been making it up, but it was not me. Anyway!) That is how I feel about the Jeff Bridges CGI face. Like, I don’t even have the emotional intelligence to describe the many existential horrors I feel when I look at it.

Oh, and speaking of the computer…

If you are so emotionally ravaged by the disappearance of your father and consumed by social dysfunction to the point that you’ve never had a human girlfriend, something tells me you’re not going to fare much better with a COMPUTER GIRLFRIEND. Like, having a COMPUTER GIRLFRIEND is the definition of a DIFFICULT RELATIONSHIP. I just don’t think Sam even has the tools necessary to make that one work. You need a lot of very deep knowledge of your own needs and expectations in an intimate, romantic couple to even begin to approach that thing. And what is going to happen to his computer girlfriend if they break up? Yikes. I guess, J-Date?

The movie had other problems, too, of course. Like all the dialogue in the first half of the movie being so weird and clunky (“I have a dog, Marvyn. He’s a rescue.” HUH?) just so that they could make a call-back to it in the second half of the movie so that DUMB DUMBS would think that was so impressive and, like, “fate” or “the circle of life” or something when really it is just the very laziest possible writing. The very worst instance of this being when Sam is meeting with Alan in his admittedly AMAZING AND WONDERFUL APARTMENT at the beginning of the movie and is like “Come on, Alan, do you really think I’m ready to run a Fortune 500 company?” and you know immediately that at the end of the movie he will definitely be ready to run a Fortune 500 company, but so, ultimately, the real DRAMATIC STAKES of the movie are that we are supposed to be excited and hopeful to see whether this brat decides he’s ready to be a CEO? Cool stakes. HOPE THAT PORTAL CLOSES SOON.

Also on the matter of dialogue, hey, Jeff Bridges, you haven’t seen your son in 20 years because you’ve been trapped in a computer nightmare. How about SPRUCING UP YOUR RHETORIC, BUDDY? If I hadn’t seen my dad in 20 years and he kept calling me “man,” I would punch him right in his dadface

And yet, despite ALL OF THIS, I still had a fun enough time. Don’t ask me to explain it. I’m sure it is some kind of BIOINTERNETJAZZ, MAN, but the fact that it was so dumb kind of let it off the hook. You know what I mean? Like, fair enough. We can’t all be smart. We can’t all even make any sense whatsover, apparently. But 3D laser-beam motorcycle chases? Why not! 3D laser-beam sword fights? Sure! 3D laser-beam Daft Punk soundtracks? Yes, please! But ultimately, why this movie that was so bad in so many ways was entirely enjoyable is just one more unanswerable mystery to throw onto this movie’s giant unanswerable mystery pile. Maybe it’s that sometimes you just want to unplug and have fun. Get it? Unplug? COMPUTERS USE PLUGS! Tronnnnnnnn.

Comments (93)
  1. The mascara and eyeliner budget on Tron alone musta cost several millions.

  2. As a 26 year old is it alright for me to have absolutely no idea what Tron is or what it’s even about?

  3. But yeah, I agree, Gabe. The visuals were amazing, I generally enjoyed myself, but the screenplay was so stupid and cliched it was numbing.

    I like to play this game where, when watching a film (or TV show or whatever), I try to guess the plot point or the dialogue. If I’m watching a David Lynch film, for example, I score a 3 percent if I’m lucky. Watching Tron I hit about 90 percent, which might be my best score ever? And I’m not that smart!

    • My favorite terrible movie game is to guess the next line of trite dialogue and say it aloud with the character. Most people find it almost as impressive as it is annoying.

      What I’m saying is, I’m popular at parties.

  4. I don’t see anything in this recap about Mark Wahlberg boxing, did I watch the wrong movie? Oops

  5. The 3d made my eyes tired, so when they got on that ship that looked like the ship from the first movie, and nothing was happening I took a nice little nap until the action started again.

  6. I think I’ll save my money for True Grit

  7. So to sum up what you’re saying here, Tron is this year’s Avatar?

    Got it.

    • Exactly.

    • When CGI Jeff Bridges first came on screen, the guy sitting next to me said “Wow that guy has some bad makeup.” All I could think about for the next 20 minutes was how incredible he must have thought the Avatar makeup was.

      Cool Story CA.

    • Oh man. Not to be an Avatar fanboy, but the gap between Tron: Legacy’s storytelling and Avatar’s is immense. Cameron is no Aaron Sorkin/David Mamet, but he knows how to tell a story, cares about characterization, and establishes alternate reality rules that his scripts stick to.

      Tron: Legacy had no rules nor internal logic. Consider: everyone’s about to die in an elevator crash (hahaha) but Jeff Bridges saves them by typing fast on a wall? They get out of the elevator and Jeff Bridges says, “Ever jumped a freight train?” And that gets you thinking: whoa boy, we’re about to get an exciting, high-speed freight train-jumping sequence (one of my favorite kinds of scenes), but then they calmly walk from a platform to a “freight train” that spins on a beam of light? Sure.

      • Yeah, I agree. I am loathe to defend Avatar, but it had a story and the 3-D effects were WAY WAY WAY better. I mean, Tron could have ditched the 3-D and looked as good if not better. During Avatar, I sat there in utter amazement the entire time. Tron, not so much. The soundtrack was awesome. I just tried to pretend it was a really long Daft Punk video starring Jeff Bridges.

  8. Instead of watching Tron, you should see The King’s Speech. So good.

    • My stars and garters ambarella, i just got back from seeing it and it was SO GOOD. Truly a classic film. The acting was superb, the weight of historicity about it was palpable, and the tension that built into a beautiful and triumphant crescendo was breathtaking. Fascinating, brilliant work.

      I’ve been avoiding Tron like the plague, all my friends want to see it, but I just want to go see The King’s Speech again.

  9. Because you mentioned BIOINTERNETJAZZ, was the plot like, “It’s the story we’re NOT telling.”

    What? That’s like a trick!

    (I heart Paul F. Tompkins. I’ll take any excuse to reference him)

  10. The worst part about the computer world is that every semen stain is HIGHLY VISIBLE.

  11. It needed more Lacey Underall.

  12. I loved this movie dearly, in a deep and personal way that makes me think I just might be ready for committment after all. I did not go into TRON expecting great dialogue or a logical plot, I went in to satisfy my nerd girl self. AND SATISFIED I WAS. *pushes up glasses*

  13. So Tron: Legacy is pretty much the perfect illustration of the expression “polished turd”?

  14. The movie makes perfect sense if you figure it’s just a subplot from ExistenZ that ended up on the cutting room floor.

  15. Though I saw the original Tron when it was released, I don’t really remember that much about it. I never played Tron with my brother and don’t remember being that impressed with it. I did, however, love the Tron arcade game.

    My mother, being a single mother of four who worked a fully time job and was going back to school, took us out to eat for dinner most nights. One of the places we at at frequently was this small hamburger place called Buster’s. I would run up, order the Buster (a double cheeseburger with cole slaw and onion rings on it) and then beg my mother for quarters so that I could play Tron. The machine sat in the wood-paneled corner of the place next to Joust (which was impossible to play) and a rack of Chick Tracts.

    I have never been very good at video games but I was good at Tron. The game had four levels and I could beat each of them, though I never beat all of them in one sitting. Sometimes I would beat the lightcyles and the tank, but die in the MCP cone. Sometimes I’d beat the MCP, but die on the lightcyles. I could beat each level and I knew that if I kept trying, eventually, I would beat the game.

    Every time, though, I died and before I could get another quarter in, our food would come and it was time to sit down and eat. I never beat the game and now Buster’s is gone, replaced with a bank building. I like to imagine that all of the money that the bank dispenses through its ATM smells like french fries.

  16. Has anyone pointed out yet that the first Tron was a Terrible Movie? Because it is. And I say that as a sci-fi fan of a certain age who by all rights should have loved it, but for the fact that it was Terrible.

    • I have played Kingdom Hearts 2, so I’ve seen a lot of the Tron world, but I have not seen Tron. I have always heard the story is paper-thin. The look of the film is definitely the thing people remember/is worth remembering.

      I didn’t even realize that the poster for the new film was a callback to the old film until yesterday. I read somewhere that the film has a bunch of callbacks to the original film, yet the rules of the Tron world of Tron: Legacy conflict with rules set up in the original film.

      Being me, I know things about things I don’t care about, yet I know them anyway. Baffling.

    • Not sure if you already heard this but Disney was really worried the original Tron would make people think twice about seeing the new one. So last month, they had all major retailers pull every copy of the original Tron off the shelf and made Blockbuster and Netflix stop renting it.

      I’m sure they will do a big Re-Release next year, but for now, it’s pretty damn hard to find a copy or the original.

    • I had seen it when I was a kid, and I was bored. Then I watched it a few months ago and I was bored again. It’s cool in a geeky way: the concept was ahead of it’s time, and it’s perhaps the first pop culture acknowledgment that computers are cool/fun/dangerous/important (I don’t know if this is true, but it’s probably close to true). But the execution was poor, and watching the original movie recently, I would label it quaint and forgettable.

      The new movie is really a lost opportunity. It would have taken a true genius screenwriter to make something new and awesome out of the original flawed concept, but it could have been done. Instead, they just made it a special effects movie.

  17. you guys feel like we’re playing tron when we’re downvoting videogum commentators? I give you worst commentator of the week score is like me throwing the glowing tron disc thing through you and your body shatters in to digital shards

  18. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Would have liked to have seen more of The Grid in the virtual Tron world, more of the intricacies of everyday life, etc, but a good crash bang brain off time

  19. I liked this movie (no 1010)! The writing was terrible and made no sense. It acted like it had big ideas (isomorphs) and those big ideas came with big stakes (isomorphs will change the human world?), but no they weren’t (big ideas) and no they didn’t (change the world).

    When I left the theater I heard three people say “the graphics were amazing.” GRAPHICS. As if this is 1998 and we’re discussing how many hundreds of polygons our Sega Saturns can do!

    Still, I got excited when the motorbikes blew up and when Wesley Snipes shot light bullets out of his cane(?). Two thumbs up.

    • That’s Wesley Snipes, Liz’s soulmate, that I’ve been watching play air guitar on his cane in the trailers? Man, I gotta see this movie now!

    • Oh yeah, Isomorphic Algorithms. My belief was gracefully suspended right up until I heard “Isomorphic Algorithms”, whereupon it came crashing down and shattered into a million glowing orange cubes. The concept is fine, but since “Isomorphic Algorithms” is a combination of two words that actually mean things but don’t make any sense in this movie. I couldn’t let it go after that.

      It’s like, if you don’t understand french, then you don’t care if someone speaks shitty french in a film. But if you do speak french, and someone speaks terrible french in a film, it really fucks with your interpretation of the film, even if you try to ignore it.

      That said, loves this film. It was so badly written but so pretty to watch.

      • are “isomorphic algorithms” our generation’s “mideochlorins”??? Oh Phantom Menace why did you have to tarnish pretty pretty Natalie Portman

      • Agreed. I saw this movie with some intense science nerds (including someone who actually studies stuff like quantum teleportation). We were providing a “wrong time for laughing” laugh track through almost all of the dialogue.

        But it was pretty!

  20. I’m just going to lay it out there and hope I don’t get downvoted to hell- I don’t think you really *got* it, Gabe.

    I’m not trying to say that TRON: Legacy was well-written, well-plotted, or anything more than a “hypervisual thrill ride” (feel free to cite that in your next trailer, Disney) but it’s also not as carefree with its ideas as you seem to think. “Why does a computer need a bedroom, etc.” The world of TRON is nothing more than a human visualization of the way Kevin Flynn imagined computers to work. TRON is the computer, not the individual people. The people are programs in the computer, and we can think of everything in the TRON world as being analogous to a computer. (I guess that bedroom is like a folder for the program? And its vases and Jules Verne books are like plug-ins. And assholes in the street handing you flyers for things you don’t care about are like INCREASE YOUR PENIS SIZE popups. )In a a That’s not to say they’re at al relevant to the way programs work, but they’re there because we’re supposed to see TRON like an alternate universe, not like a computer.

    And Quorra wasn’t Sam or Kevin’s girlfriend. There were moments where I assumed there was gonna be romantic tension, but we never saw that because it was never supposed to be there. I didn’t think the “I have a dog” part was that weird. I mean, if I had a rescue dog I loved and had never had a girlfriend, I’d probably mention that too. But maybe I’m a weirdo.

    Anyway, I enjoyed it. It’s by no means a movie with a great story, but I still plan to see it again. (this time in 3D, because OH MY GOD YOU GUYS!)

    • Also, Jeff Bridges kept saying man because he knows nothing that is not from the 80s. It’s just how he actually speaks.

      Oh, and when J. Bridges of Madison County (I call him that when we hang out as we so often do) walked out for his Saturday Night Live monologue on Saturday, without his beard I started wondering whether or not CGI J. Bridge to Terabithia (alternate nicknames) was hosting.

    • Seriously, bravo! You explained this much better than I did (I took notes and will be quoting you to my nerd friends). Also, you totally have to see it in 3D because WOW.

  21. I feel kind of bad about myself, after Gabe mentions that he would probably punch his Dad in the face if he kept on saying man all the time. As I started saying the word man a lot, after watching Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back on cable a couple of months ago. (I’m 14 years old)

  22. What bugged me (get it? It’s about computers) most about the movie was how CGI Jeff Bridges was supposedly bent on creating the perfect system. “Did I not create the perfect system, living-person Jeff Bridges?” he asks. But the system is obviously a pitch-black wasteland police state — a system in which computer programs are plotting a revolt, committing suicide, etc., because it’s such a fucking nightmare. But, of course, living-person Jeff is all, “Yes, of course it’s perfect. LOOK AROUND.”

    • Also, living-person Jeff Bridges had his info disc for 20+ years, but couldn’t figure out a way to open the portal to Earth, yet he’s afraid of CGI Jeff Bridges getting it… why? I don’t know how to open a portal, and this thing is the sum total of my knowledge, and yet if someone else knows what I know then… forget it. Of course CGI Jeff Bridges uses it to open a portal in under two minutes. LOGIC!

  23. I loved it. I thought it was a wonderful light-hearted tromp. I don’t think it ever asked me to suspend disbelief whatsoever. They wrote it in the same loose, wacko computer metaphors as they did in the early ’80s, and I’m fine with that.

    The one part where I did step outside of the tronsperience was when I saw Michael Sheen on screen as Zuse (I didn’t make up the spelling). I could only imagine Wesley Snipes from 30 Rock saying all of his lines.

    Also, I guess they spent so much money digitally shaving and botoxing Jeff Bridges that they had to have ‘computer’ Bruce Boxleitner wear his helmet as Tron the whole time. Whatever. I liked this movie a lot.

    Did anyone see it in 3D? I think that would be too much…

    • The 3D was really poorly done! I’m not a huge fan of 3D in movies anyway, but I noticed it maybe twice during the whole thing… A disclaimer comes up at the beginning of the movie and says something like: ‘many scenes in this film were shot in 2D and were meant to be displayed this way, keep your glasses on throughout the film’

      If you lifted your glasses during much of the dialog scenes, you’d see a normal looking (not-blurry) but much brighter movie. If I see it a second time, it won’t be in 3D.

      • Cool. Good to know.

        Also, sorry M.Swann for not refreshing before making an observation about Legendary Nixon interviewer David Frost being the guy who raises the hopes of the tron rebels (trebles?) and then walks away to talk to Sam Flynn in private, and tells Daft Punk to keep the tron world’s programs entertained. I’m a plagiarist commenter!!!

  24. The “native Americans not ‘seeing’ the ship” thing was in the film “What the Bleep Do We Know?” and launched my ex-boyfriend and I into a week long argument about how stupid I found the movie and that idea in particular. It took us twice as long to get through the movie as it should have because we had to pause it repeatedly to argue. FUN TIMES!

    Just thought I’d share because as soon as I read that sentence I felt my eyebrow twitch – muscle memory!

  25. If this movie was titled: FUTUREWARS: WARS OF THE FUTURE, I would not be cutting it as much slack as I am simply because it’s the sequel to a movie I really liked as a kid. It had it’s problems, but I definitely enjoyed it and will probably end up seeing it a second time in the theater!

    That being said, I would like Disney to once again seal the vault on Tron and not make another sequel, at least for another 20 years. We know what Tron looks like in 1982-o-vision, and in 2010-o-vision. We don’t need to see what it looks like in late-2012-o-vision.

    I’m glad Gabe ended up having fun despite all the things he didn’t like about it.

  26. tron funkin blows

  27. You been DaftPUNK’d.

  28. I saw it under the best of circumstances: IMAX 3D and with another Monster!! Life is good.

    It was visually fun and I loved the Daft Punk soundtracked scenes.

  29. Why we were all disgusted by Jeff Bridges’ CGI face:

    “The uncanny valley is a hypothesis regarding the field of robotics.[1] The theory holds that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The “valley” in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot’s lifelikeness.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley

  30. You mean Pocahontas had a good story.

  31. I wanna know why this review managed to talk about every dumb nonsensical thing in this film without mentioning the ANY of the following (which stood out WAAAAAAY more to me):

    1. Cyber computerized turret JAMS
    2. Cyber people explode into pixels but vehicles SMOKE LIKE REAL WORLD CARS when they start to have trouble
    3. Cyber roast on cyber lettuce that’s full of color when everything else is basically trichromatic

    But mostly I’m wondering why ANY of the above (or any of Gabe’s points) matter when we’re talking about a movie that’s premise revolves around a guy who goes into a videogame to save his father from a younger doppelganger named CLU who plans on stealing a circle from Jeff Bridge’s back so he can make all digital people into real physical human beings who will take over Earth. THIS IS CLEARLY NOT A MOVIE MEANT TO BE SCRUTINIZED! Not that that’s always a legitimate argument for movie-bullshit, but in this case it is.

    I have no problem saying I loved it and I don’t think any of the problems detracted from it at all. I actually probably would’ve liked it less if they tried to have it all make sense and wrote it like a serious movie.

    • A problem that bothered me even more: “Oh no, we have to stop this army of 5000 guys with glowy sticks from getting out into the real world where they understand essentially nothing (for example, how money works) and are basically like children emerging from the womb! They’ll destroy us all!”

    • Didn’t the turret get shot up by the bad guys, which caused it to jam?

  32. Okay so I’m late to the party, but there was not a lot of discussion of Gay Tony Blair in these comments — and I *really* wanted Gay Tony Blair to be awesome, so I could come out of the movie and say, “Gay Tony Blair was the best part.” BUT! Gay Tony Blair was nowhere near as good as Gay Tony Blair should and could have been. Alas.

  33. Honestly, this film was a nightmare. I get that it’s a fun romp but it didn’t even make a tiny bit of sense. And I agree with everyone that this was the the crowning turd in this particular mound of shit:

    Grreeeeeeetings Prrrrrrograms! Libations! And handbags!

  34. I saw the original Tron back in the ’80s when I was a youngish whippersnapper, and I thought this sequel completely dropped the ball on the clever use of computer metaphorical terminology made real. The original wasn’t great, lord knows, but this one had absolutely no cleverness to it at all. It was just a delivery system for special effects.

    Also? Seriously? Cattle cars and Nuremberg rallies? Inside a computer? Way to bring a gun to a knife-fight, guys.

    CGI Jeff Bridges was disgusting. The very, very brief CGI Bruce Boxleitner (before being relegated to helmet head, as Paul Gallo notes above)? Also disgusting.

    Those 3-D glasses hurt my nose, too, and the movie ended up being more watchable without them.

    But Olivia Wilde was very pretty! And that was TOTALLY worth 13 bucks.

    Ahem.

  35. No, she’s repeating “We’re going to waffle.” You’re a terrible lip reader.

    OP: It’s called “suspension of disbelief,” and it’s not intended to make a lot of sense.

    The first thing I thought when I saw the new recognizers was “oh look, they upgraded the physics engine.”

    It’s a damned story, people!

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