Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Father, Why Have The Users Forsaken Me?

Directed By Joseph Kosinski

"The Social Network" stays in the boardroom arguments that "Tron: Legacy" pranks and dismisses in it's opening moments.

The color schemes on "The Grid" do not pop the way they did in the original Tron.

The world has grown “more complex and more dangerous”, which is supposed to explain the darkening horizons.
This lack of color is the most noticeably disappointing thing about the film however this is made up for by the fantastic sound design and the soundtrack from Daft Punk.
Leaving an action film and humming along the score is always a good sign, and hum I did as I left Tron.
To quickly summarize the original “Tron”, man named Flynn gets sucked into an early computerized land called “The Grid” where programs believe that loving “Users” watch over them, and some evil program wants to do something evil so Flynn and a computer hero-messiah called “Tron” defeat him and save “The Grid”.
Fast forward to the sequel and Bridges how has become a billionaire game designer disappears in the late 80’s leaving behind a son who lives off a trust fund and annually pulls pranks on his father’s company which he formally owns but refuses to control.
One such prank is giving away the companies latest soft-ware for free online.
The company is aghast, insisting free software disappeared with Flynn and the 80’s.
Our boy hero finds his way back to daddy’s arcade and before you can say “Matrix” or "Wax: Or How I Discovered Television Among The Bees", is sucked back into the world of “The Grid” and forced to participate in the gladiatorial battles to the deletion, which is the fate of all rouge software and free programs.
Just like the first film we are introduced to the neon streaked disc fighting and cycle riding that made the original so iconic.
The film adds a few new twists though to imply advances in game design, the disc fighting (based on "Pong") now comes with altered gravity and the cycle riding now takes place on a multi-level platform which includes ramps, twists, and drops.
We discover Flynn is trapped on "The Grid" after creating an artificially intelligent double of himself who is obsessed with perfection to a fault.
That fault being he destroys everything he believes to be imperfect, like the Isopes, a race of computer-programs that were not designed but “manifested” inside the system.
Flynn believes these beings hold the secret of hacking the human genenome like code, quantum teleportation, the solutions to "science, religion, fashion, and everything..." but never gets into too many specifics.
Having renounced the hotheaded 80's Flynn of old for the wisdom of wabi-sabi he's taken to the burn out speak of "The Big Lebowski".
The Isopes is new, different, and independent and the evil-Flynn (clad in emergency orange) wants everything to remain regulation, and in a criterion he can easily scale and value.
The action advances in fight sequences which resemble raves, streaks of glowing light, glowing weapons, and even fighting on a dance floor as "Daft Punk" work the dj booth above.
The original “Tron” had an unmistakable influence on the development of electronic music and artists, so it’s no surprise to see some give and take as the system of "The Grid" has evolved.
Zeus is intentionally a post-retro throwback that looks like Ziggy Stardust, since he’s part of the “old system”.
Likewise Bridges sits in a home resembling the “Beyond The Infinite” segment of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, a white on white brightly lit afterlife, that’s also a relic to bygone futurism.
“Tron: Legacy” is no longer the video game inspired franchise it began as (“Gamer” is much closer to the modern world of video games) but has now moved onto the more lucrative populist sentiments of the “digital socialists” as I heard one cranky critic (http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/2876-digital-socialism-and-the-tyranny-of-the-consumer-part-i) pejoratively describe the pro-piracy/pro-downloading/pro-free shit on the internet crowd.
Besides these plot details which I point out are likely to be forgotten in the swirl of lights, chunky acid dance beats, and the 3Dness of it all.

We see enough to know there will be sequels.

Despite its corporate tie-ins, and promotion machine that will likely drive away serious viewers, “Tron: Legacy” is as visually arresting as “Avatar” , kinetic as "Speed Racer", and as briefly and glibly knowledgeable about the current digital frontiers of today and the back-stabbing, mis-management, and human-error that these can engender as much as “The Social Network”, which for all its “I am the Citizen Kane of your generation” blustering.

If I were a pessimist I would say “Tron: Legacy” is just another in a series of clever Disney products that tries to capitalize on anti-big corporate/anti-Disney sentiments (like the anti-obesity, pro-green platitudes of Wall-E) , but feeling more charitable I think this latest “Tron is a decent fantasy adventure film with ideas dancing at it’s peripherals which though half-heartedly expressed are more novel and thoughtful than they have to be.

Just don’t expect “Tron Legacy 2” (already in production) to be downloadable for free.

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