I watched Tron:Legacy for the second time last Wednesday. When I watched it for the first time, I had a whole bunch of thoughts about it that my brain, overwhelmed by the sheer visual spectacle, did not have the ability to process. The second viewing helped me pin down some of the thoughts that were swirling around, and they did not form a pretty picture. The review’s going to be spoilery, so I’ll put the bulk of it under the jump. Be warned, though, it’s not exactly a glowing review (if the title didn’t already clue you into this. Clue. Ha ha. Clue. I kill myself sometimes).
First of all, I did enjoy the movie. The visuals were fantastic (especially in 3D), Jeff Bridges was amazing (particularly as Flynn), Bruce Boxleitner was awful (and that’s why I love him), and the music was by Daft Punk (which is really all I need to say about it). The plot was weak and watery, but that could be ignored by focusing on all the bright, shiny artificial additives. Disc wars! Lightcycle races! Scenes stolen right out of various episodes of Star Wars! And all the little references to please the fans of the original movie (although– NEEDS MOAR BIT IN THE MOVIE).
But the plot. Yes, let’s get back to that. What a let-down. What a waste. The premise of the movie– about real people getting into the computer world–had so much potential in it that just wasn’t explored. I was so excited at the start of the movie when Sam Flynn put up Encom’s latest bloated, overpriced OS on the Internet for free download– I thought the movie was going to be about open source projects, DRM and all that fun stuff– but that was clearly just a red herring, as the rest of the movie veered disappointingly into a standard hero-quest-type story. Come on, this is the twenty-first century, way to miss an opportunity to make your franchise relevant, man.
The story inside The Grid itself wasn’t so great either. What the hell was up with the ISO storyline? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all over the idea of emergent sentience from complex computer systems. It’s a sci-fi concept I adore, one I think may not be all that ludicrous (say, compared to light-speed travel or giant fighting robots). I’m just waiting for the day where Google and Wikipedia combine, develop intelligence, rename themselves “The Real-World Skynet” and take over. So the idea of new lifeforms arising from the complexity of Flynn’s Grid is nothing too mind-bending.
What breaks the deal for me, however, is that these isomorphic lifeforms somehow magically held the key to “science, religion, history… everything!” Like, bzuh, what? Why would lifeforms originating from a entirely closed, man-made system have anything to do with what goes on in the real world? a) It doesn’t make any freaking sense, b) it does absolutely nothing to further the plot, c) IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY FREAKING SENSE. It, in fact, seems to have been dumped into the movie as a last-minute thought.
Let’s just put it this way. If the entire plotline about the ISOs had been removed from the movie, NOTHING WOULD HAVE CHANGED. Sam Flynn would have gone in, found his father trapped in the Grid by a corrupted program of his own creation, thwarted said program’s plans for world domination, and busted out of the Grid. None of the above plot points had anything to do with the ISOs. At all. And said plot points were the only things that were actually driving the movie forward.
Honestly, the only reason I saw justifying the inclusion of the ISO plotline in the movie was to give Sam Flynn some sort of reason to bring Quorra out of the grid. That was it. That was all. They dumped in a ridiculous plot point just so that the female character had some kind of purpose aside from being eye candy.
Note that at this point Quorra has no motivation of her own to leave the Grid, she just tags along with the elder & younger Flynn because that is apparently what she does. It looks like Hollywood still hasn’t gotten the memo that a woman who goes around kicking ass does not a strong female character make.
Let me be frank, there were parts of the movie that I had issues with, and the issues were certainly not improved on the rewatch. Please tell me I’m not the only one skeezed out by the scene where the old master Flynn was healing Quorra. Like, ok, let’s have 2 men cooing over an unconscious woman and watching her heal like “isn’t that so fascinating son” HELLO THIS ISN’T A SCIENCE EXPERIMENT IN A PETRI DISH good lord how is that not creepy at all? Brrr. Good lord.
Needless to say, of course, the movie fails the Bechdel test spectacularly. Spectacularly. There is just one–count it, ONE–line spoken by one female character to another, and it’s “He’s different”, and it’s about Sam Flynn. Pfft.
The one thing I did like about it in regards to such matters, though, is that there was a shocking lack of romance in the movie. When was the last time you watched a big budget flick that didn’t have some iteration of boy-gets-the-girl? So this, at least, was a refreshing change from that. Unfortunately, it seems like the scriptwriters hadn’t figured what to do with the female characters aside from making them love interests, so clearly they hadn’t thought their cunning plan all the way through.
There were tons of other failures with regards to representation in other areas, too. For example, you can literally count the instances in the movie where a POC speaks with the fingers of one hand. Two of the five said characters die, and none of them are ever named. Hurrah for white male Hollywood!
I rewatched the original Tron at my small Christmas gathering over the weekend, and it was absolutely glaring to me how much better the original was, in terms of dialogue, plotting, and
homoerotic content actually having a coherent theme to speak of. It just made me sad that Tron:Legacy didn’t do it justice, after all the hype and effort that was clearly put into it.
So. There you have it, my review of Tron:Legacy that partially turned into an angry feminist review of Tron:Legacy. I’d do more angry feminist reviews of things, but that I think would compact my fannish world into to a joyless one of infinite suffering. Sad, but true.
Photos from IGN, except for Quorra-on-the-couch which I found floating around the Internet without attribution.