RANT: Why Tron >>>> Tron Legacy

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Tron Legacy. But I like Tron better, and was really aggravated by some of the stuff they got wrong in the new one.

It’s not the new flick’s clunky, predictable plot (seriously, I called every “twist” and major event a good 15 minutes in advance). It’s not the parts of the original they skullfucked (CLU was a program who DIED in service to the Users. I am so pissed that they named the villain in the new film after him. His filename should’ve been hung up, like when a baseball player’s number is retired). And there was plenty to enjoy about the new movie — the bits of Zen, the spiffy graphics, etc.

No, there are two simple reasons that the new film pissed me off and made me long for the old one (which I had rewatched a couple days prior):

  1. The programs aren’t programs.
  2. It doesn’t feel like the inside of a computer.

Those are two of the things the first film got right, and the new film gets very very wrong.  I was going to compare it to the Matrix, but hell, the programs in the Matrix act like programs (Agent Smith, anybody?), and when they stop acting like programs, it actually means something.

Sure, one could argue that Flynn’s attempt to create a perfect world is why the programs in Tron Legacy act like humans — he created them as human simulators or something, rather than the programs in the first film, which were security programs (Tron), actuarial programs (that poor schmuck from the holding cell), data-sniffers (poor old CLU), simulation calculators (Yori), etc. But frankly, I don’t give a shit. If this is supposed to be a sequel, let’s at least set it in the same basic world, okay? I’m all for sequels giving the original a fresh coat of paint, but this is more like knocking the whole thing over and building a new one.

I missed the alienness of the original, the way the programs were ineffably programs, so straightforward and centered on their purpose. Even when they went off on their own with a new purpose (like Yori), they were very focused on that. Their natures were colored by what they were written for. That’s why Flynn is so different from them.

This is really, painfully obvious if you just compare the lightcycle sequences from the two films. In the first film, Ram, Tron, and Flynn are condemned to the game grid and forced to battle the game’s AIs. It’s not totally clear whether they’re in an installation of the video game and a human somewhere is also playing or not, but it’s very clear that there’s no audience of programs. Sark is paying attention because he’s under orders to, and there are security guards to make sure they don’t escape, but that’s it. There’s no entertainment factor.

In Tron Legacy, the games exist almost solely for the entertainment of other programs. They’re a form of drawn-out execution, made public so the audience can see what happens when you cross CLU and so the programs have something to do in their spare time. What is this fuckery?

The Nightclub Scene From Tron LegacyFurthermore, why on earth would programs want to hang out in a frigging nightclub??? Again, if they’re supposed to be human simulations, okay, I’ll grant you that. But it’s never suggested that these programs are fundamentally different from the ones in the original. GRRRR. At least PRETEND that you think the audience loved the first film — that involves more than sprinkling winking references through it. I liked the references, but I would have really appreciated actually respecting the content and themes of the original. The look-and-feel is all gone, we’re left with a little familiar window dressing around a whole new product.

I can handle the updated landscapes, but they don’t make sense as the interior of a server. For example, Flynn is hiding out in the mountains outside the Grid so CLU can’t find him. Which… what? What on earth is that supposed to correspond to in an actual server installation? At least the first film tried to be faithful to how computers actually work, and to how they’re said to work in the flick.

And while we’re on the subject, how the hell did CLU expect to bring anybody out via the laser? The laser in the first film just holds the physical object’s molecules in stasis while its digitized form is in the computer’s memory. There’s no mention of the one in the new film being able to generate matter. None. This is never explained.


I understand that times change, and the sweet humor and sense of wonder from the first film aren’t really what Hollywood is doing now, but I missed them. The dark-and-ominous-for-its-own-sake crap made me sad.

The original is filled with the wonder and possibility that computers held and represented back in the eighties. This new one feels like it lost its way.

This made me extra-bummed and -irked because I loved the stuff about perfection and waiting vs action and all that. I was intrigued by the whole “fuck the Users!” angle (as opposed to the “are the Users still out there?” / “the Users are a MYTH!” thing in the first one). Having them mixed in with the fail just made me more aggravated. I could see the potential for Tron Legacy to be really awesome, and that made the ways it fell short far more disappointing than if it had just been totally brainless eye candy.

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