(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.