Tron: Legacy a Movie Review
It is bad enough that movies have become so formulaic, but when they are, they could at least follow the rules of the formula.
In Tron: Legacy, we have:
– Search for and reconciliation with the father
– Travel to the underworld for the completion of the self
– Travel to the underworld to save the world
– The realization that technology cannot replace humanity
Search for and reconciliation with the father. Nobody does it better than Star Wars 4, 5, and 6 (the original three). For one thing, there is the advantage of having three movies to unfold the story, but Lucas is also a great storyteller. There is not much dramatic tension in a son finding his lost father and teaming up with him when they have always loved each other. When your father is Darth Vader, you have the potential for real drama. And even The Who’s Tommy has more tension in this area than Tron.
Travel to the underworld for the completion of the self. The makers of Tron understand that Sam Flynn has to mature in the course of his adventure, but they could have done more to show the process. He is pretty competent going in and the only change we get coming out is, “I think I am going to assert myself in the family business.”
Separation from ordinary reality (the first step of Campbell’s hero journey) by going underground (Sam goes downstairs into a cavern) has certain requirements (see my comments following Ebert’s review of Burton’s Alice in Wonderland on this site). The hero should mature–specific adventures should develop weak areas of the hero’s character. Going in competent to throw a frisbee and ride a motorcycle and then coming out still competent to throw a frisbee and ride a motorcycle is not a development.
Travel to the underworld to save the world. Clu (the bad guy) is plotting to leave the grid (virtual reality) and invade our real world. Sam and Kevin Flynn have to stop him. Here there is something odd about Tron. In the beginning of the movie we see ENCOM, a giant Microsoft-like software corporation. It might be evil. And we see a hotshot programmer there. One of the requirements of a well-done underground hero journey, besides the completion of the hero’s character, is that there should be parallels in situations and characters between the underworld and this world. Thus Clu’s empire in the grid might parallel ENCOM, and Clu might parallel the hotshot programmer. We don’t get any of that, but the notion is so obvious that one suspects that it was there in an earlier version of the story line and got dropped. Probably at the insistence of suits who wanted more time for motorcycle chases. Which was dumb because according to the New York Times, Tron, among other vapid movies, is losing out at the box office to Alice in Wonderland and other intelligent movies.
The realization that technology cannot replace humanity. Kevin Flynn, the father, was unable to fully appreciate the human love between himself and his son, and sought to make a better world in virtual reality. His creation was “perfect,” but also a nightmare. Kevin Flynn comes to realize his mistake, and at the end of the movie rectifies it. One of the inhabitants of this virtual world is Quorra, a self-produced program that carries the potential to unlock mysteries in science, religion, and medicine. She reads Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, and longs to see the real world. In the final scene she is in the real world on the back of Sam’s Ducati seeing a sunrise for the first time. Her reaction is the best acting in the movie.
Tron: Legacy is satisfying in visual design, characters, and story telling, but not as satisfying as it ought to be. The rules for this kind of movie are not complicated. More Tron sequels are rumored. Let’s hope they get it right next time.