Movie Review: Tron:Legacy

by Elusive Wapiti on January 10, 2011

(Warning, plot spoilers follow)

Over Christmas break, I watched the re-make of Tron with S1, S2, and S3.  Then I did something I rarely do: I watched this fantastic movie again in theaters last night.  What a great movie, particularly for a remake, with a slamming soundtrack by the techno duo Daft Punk (who make a cameo appearance in the movie as, naturally, DJs in Castor/Zeus’ nightclub), and amazing graphics. If you are interested in seeing it, don’t wait until it comes out on DVD, you would do well to catch this in the theater for not only the visual but for the musical experience as well.

Now on to the plot: both Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner re-appear in this movie.  Of course, their faces show the ravages of the nearly two decades that have elapsed since the first movie was made; however, through some CG magic, the movie studio has grafted a young Jeff Bridges face onto the current one for the character CLU and for a late-80s vintage Kevin Flynn. And this is where the movie starts, with the 1989 disappearance of Encom CEO Kevin Flynn, a single father whose unexplained disappearance creates some mild daddy issues in his son Sam.  Fast-forward 18 years, and an adult Sam, who is wholly uninterested in running the company his father led except for playing an annual prank on it, enters his father’s arcade, finds his secret office, and is blasted into The Grid, a parallel virtual reality that his father had created. But the Grid is no utopia, and Sam is immediately captured by elements of CLU’s secret police and forced to play in the games, during which he breaks out with the assistance of a rogue program called Quorra.  Sam meets his exiled father, is betrayed by a David Bowie-meets-Merovingian Castor/Zeus character (played deliciously over-the-top by Martin Sheen), and together the three (Sam, Kevin, and Quorra) stop CLU from breaking out into the real world and taking it over using conscripts shanghaied into CLU’s army.

But where Tron really makes its money in my book–I mean, other than the eye-popping visuals and foot-tapping score/soundtrack–is in the social commentary is contains.  First, the big one: Tron throws a huge spear at utopian 60s-vintage hippified day-dreaming, noting that the pursuit of perfection by those who are imperfect themselves (i.e, the Kevin Flynn character whose human imperfections are transferred to CLU) results in tyranny, abuse, and the extermination of undesirables.  The movie even contained the digital equivalent of the colosseum, where kidnapped programs fight gladiators for the amusement of the mob.  Apparently, even digital totalitarians need bread and circuses to distract the masses from the abuses of the police state under which they live.  So, given that left-liberalism is merely the incarnation of a belief in the perfectibility of man–and especially the perfectibility of human society–this movie perhaps inadvertently delivers a flying elbow smash into the face of God-complex left-liberal philosophy.  This is the true subversive genius of this movie, in my opinion: in how it promotes individual freedom by providing a case study in how totalitarian regimes are started. Moreover, this movie is doubly subversive given how the target demo of this movie is men and teenage boys; for we know that the male sex is much more receptive to the (risky) concept of individual freedom and suffers the most under the present matriarchal state.

In keeping with the theme of sly subversion in this movie is the manner in which women are portrayed.  Sorry bean counting-obsessed feminists, you’re not likely to cotton well to this movie, for with the exception of the Quorra character, women figure very little in this movie, and when they do appear, they do so primarily as ornaments. Svelte, attractive ornaments in plaform heels and tight get-ups, the better for the male eye to feast upon. So why do I say subversive, instead of merely sexist? Well–and follow me here for a moment–in keeping with the meme that leading women in action movies are ass-kickers, Quorra does not disappoint, for she does quite a bit of that while helping the Flynn the Elder and Flynn the Younger escape to the I/O portal. Both females and males enjoy this staple of action films.  But it’s fiction, full-on fantasy, and we all know it to be true: the vast majority of women in real life can’t hope to hold their own against a male in a fight, let alone fend off multiple male combatants in a melee. But hey, all the fights take place on The Grid, it isn’t real. No, the real shift comes when Quorra enters the real world…for upon doing so, she changes from confident she-warrior to wide-eyed submissive girlfriend, gladly and comfortably riding the pillion seat behind Sam on his Ducati and reveling in cuddling up behind him as he slews his motorcycle down the blacktop.  The message, muted as it is? Yes, fantastical martial arts prowess is good to fantasize about, but women and girls are happiest and most complete when following their hero, when riding pillion behind their man as he leads them both forward through life.  Ergo, the example of Quorra’s conduct off-grid is subversive to the feminist fish-and-bicycle conceptualization of how men and women should relate.

The next piece of commentary this movie delivers is in the advice it gives to men.  Fathers, whatever widget you’re working on, don’t forget to keep your family a priority, for they suffer with your absence. You are not expendable.  And sons, if your dad’s not present, think twice before blaming it on him.  It may not be his desire to be absent from your life.

Bottom line: rocking movie. Completely recommended.  Ignore some of the obvious plot holes, like Kevin Flynn biologically aging inside a machine, and sometimes annoying dialog–e.g., Kevin Flynn saying “man”, like, a bazillion times, fer sure, and sit back and enjoy the movie for what it is intended to be…total guy candy that teaches a lesson or two along the way if you bother to read between the lines.

About the author: EW is a well-trained monkey charged with operating heavier-than-air machinery. His interests outside of being an opinionated rabble-rouser are hunting, working out, motorcycling, spending time with his family, and flying. He is a father to three, a husband to one, and is a sometime contributor here at Spearhead. More of his intolerable drivel is available at the blog The Elusive Wapiti.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

aharon January 10, 2011 at 09:43

The review was really deep and provided many insights into the film’s political-social message. Thanks.

Being a scifi junkie I have been planning on seeing Tron. Interesting how many great scifi writers are libertarian males.

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1
Herbal Essence January 10, 2011 at 09:43

Agreed. I loved it too.

I found it to be a wonderful audio-visual experience and quite thoughtful as well, if not very original. Not every sci-fi movie has to be an intellectual powerhouse to be uplifting and worthwhile.

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1
NMH January 10, 2011 at 09:52

For me Tron Legacy was a boring movie; after 1 hour I was waiting for it to end, and it finally did another hour later. I thought the acting was good but the great problem was the incredibly poor character introduction and development. In contrast, I loved the “Kings Specch”, which had outstanding character introduction and development; in the end, you were really rooting for the good guys, which I was not for in Tron.

I found the music in Tron to be loud, tedious and tiresome, one of the worst aspects in the movie. Very 80′s and sounded dated.

There are so many great sci-fi movies out there with great character development: ie Blade Runner. Tron is not one of them.

Do not see Tron Legacy.

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 10
Firepower January 10, 2011 at 09:55

Tron II can’t be much of a scholarly critique of Technomerica by ignoring that 800 lb dumpster of online cyber porn funding the tardy sequel to a movie made 30 years ago.

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4
Keyster January 10, 2011 at 10:29

A sequel is produced when there are no new ideas.
I thought the game sucked and I thought the first Tron sucked.
I might rent the video this summer if I have nothing else to do, just for the fact that there’s no gratuitous heroic chick empowerment moments.

Surprisingly the heavily mysogynist “Social Network” (because it was based on reality, not fiction), won the critics movie of the year award.

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3
Firepower January 10, 2011 at 10:42

Keyster January 10, 2011 at 10:29

Surprisingly the heavily mysogynist “Social Network” (because it was based on reality, not fiction), won the critics movie of the year award

As I grow ever more wise cynical from actual experience, I perceive that “award” as MSM’s lifepreserver brown-nosing of the leading crotch rub singles site on the interwebz.

If it’s online, praise it…so we don’t lose even more readers.
News is all about advertising now.

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
Firepower January 10, 2011 at 10:47

NMH January 10, 2011 at 09:52

There are so many great sci-fi movies out there with great character development: ie Blade Runner. Tron is not one of them.

Planet of the Apes is always more intriguing every time I see it. Get the Blu-Ray.

I just watched Hellboy II last night on FX – I didn’t want to waste time/money on a theater when it came out. It was amusing junk.

Not worth buying – but Soylent Green sure is.

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2
Wobbegong January 10, 2011 at 11:59

Tron was almost 30 years ago, not 20. :-)

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
AfOR January 10, 2011 at 12:09

I hate to say it, but Second Life has more going for it than Tron 2.

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
Lovekraft January 10, 2011 at 12:39

I’d like to see a remake of “THX 1138″, George Lucas’ first movie.

One part that really stood out for me when I first watched it was when Donald Pleasance, the gay higher-up, arranged for Robert Duvall’s (THX 1138) “mate” to be removed because his gay lover/roommate died, and have THX move in with him. The look on Duvall’s face when Pleasance tells him of his future is classic. Inner torment against a tyrant.

I wonder if you’re thinking the same thing as I am: that we would likely never see a negative portrayal of a gay in this day and age. Luckily, the 70s was before the gaymafia infiltrated MSM.

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0
SingleDad January 10, 2011 at 13:36

I agree, my favorite sci fi film of all time was THX1138. It was quite a commentary on society and was in some was prophetic.

The children on drugs to make them docile. Three dimension hologram where people just watch some guy getting beat by a supposed police officer, similar to our current TV fair of reality train wreck shows watching people emotionally and sometimes physicall beat each other.

I would not like to see a remake though, the original was so good that even modern effects could not improve it and Rober Duval is such a great actor that I can’t think of anyone today that could touch his performance.

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Augenblick January 10, 2011 at 13:54
Augenblick January 10, 2011 at 14:04
Watcher January 10, 2011 at 14:28

“in keeping with the meme that leading women in action movies are ass-kickers”

That meme has ruined so many movies for me…

Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2
Herbal Essence January 10, 2011 at 14:38

Watcher- “in keeping with the meme that leading women in action movies are ass-kickers” That meme has ruined so many movies for me…

Yes it can get quite ridiculous in sci-fi/fantasy, but I look past it if there is a backstory as to how they became super asskicker.

Quorra: A computer-generated girl trains diligently for years under a wise and powerful mentor, becomes an asskicker with superpowers. That’s believable.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: A girl in Orange County wakes up one morning, discovers she’s destined to be a vampire slayer, is instantly an asskicker with superpowers. That’s retarded. For the record, I’m not any more amenable to male sci-fi/fantasy characters that become instant asskickers.

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2
Elusive Wapiti January 10, 2011 at 19:29

Tron was almost 30 years ago, not 20.

Hmm. Goes to show ya, never do math in public.

There’s a lot more to this movie than what I’ve discussed…for example, the obvious fascist/commie demagogue imagery in CLU’s speech to his conscript army, and the implications of God complexes in humanity.

But here’s a piece of advice to anyone who hasn’t seen this movie yet: don’t bother with the 3D. It sux. Badly. It made the movie unwatchable, and I ended up leaving the 3D showing and walking to the adjacent theater and taking in the normal 2D one.

3D is proving to be the scourge of movies today just as it was 30 years ago.

Kyle January 10, 2011 at 21:31

Great review. This pretty much summarized exactly why I enjoyed this movie.

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Opus January 11, 2011 at 03:23

Never do Math in public Elusive Wapiti, and I think you will find that the previous incarnation of 3D was just over fifty not thirty years ago (before my time) – or so I am told. Cinema was ruined when they introduced the talkies.

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by_the_sword January 11, 2011 at 07:12

I remember seeing the first Tron when I was a kid and not being impressed. Maybe I’ll give this one a whirl

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Stickman January 11, 2011 at 07:37


when i went to look at the site i realized something they actually named the woman. and put her face on the web before she has been found guilty of any crime. regardless of how guilty she seems to be (allot). at least this time the feminist media were consistent in there ill treatment of an accused wrongdoer
i wonder if it was because it was a minor or the editor was sick that day

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CashingOut January 16, 2011 at 00:27

I waited until I saw the actual movie before I read this article, and I have to say that I agree with the synopsis given in the main article 100%. This, my friends, is how they used to make movies once upon a time. Good, strong, intelligent, likeable heroes (with a dash competent but faithful and supportive female sidekick) go to fight straightforwardly evil adversary.

I also have to agree with the OP on some of the subversive, subtle messages in this movie. I don’t think that it is the next Clockwork Orange or Mice and Men or any such thing, but I definitely think it’s worth more than 1 watch.

Rather than bicker about the merits and shortcomings of this movie, I’m going to say what surprised and impressed me the most: Kevin and later on Sam Flynn were portrayed as good, intelligent, strong, competent men. Not men who were intelligent but couldn’t even wipe their asses. Not men who just had a lot of money but were only showpieces for the women who really ran the show. Not idiots who just happened to luck up into power. The protagonists were portrayed as solid men. I really cannot think of the last time that has happened in a movie, that a man was allowed to be both a hero and a man in a movie, with no backhanded commentary about how weak they are, or how women would do it better, or any such thing. So if for no other reason than that, I would suggest seeing this movie. Despite the tech involved, this is one of those old school movies where manly men do manly things.

One interesting thing that I have heard through the grapevine as well is that Walt Disney Co. has openly stated that they are going to cater more to boys now, as opposed to girls as they have been doing. I was already told that Tangled was completely rewritten to appeal more to boys. Now this movie, which is unapolegetically a man fest, gets public release. Maybe Walt Disney’s undead corpse might be on our side, who knows?

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