My Top 10 problems with TRON Legacy

Now that my official review of TRON Legacy is done, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of ‘nit picking’. If you are unfamiliar with that term, nit-picking is when you point out plot holes, continuity errors, or just things that hurt the film. I was very grateful that chose to feature my post on their front page this week which in turn attracted tons of traffic and a variety of comments. So I wanted to fan the flames of debate about this much-anticipated and hyped up film. Why? Because I am a nerd and this is what I do. I’ve had almost 30 years dreaming of this sequel so I’ve got to get some of my angst out. Warning, this list is not for the faint at heart. If you aren’t a hardcore nerd then I suggest you turn away now! I agree with this excerpt that explains the overall problem I had with this story:  

Joseph Kosinksi’s film doesn’t have a single problem. It’s got problems. Plural. The problem sectors in script and on-screen gravitate towards one another, feeding off of each other’s deficiencies in some kind of perverse, parasitic relationship that results in them swelling in size until their hideous mass – this swirling, twisted orgy of character failings, action shortcomings and single-minded direction – is so big that it simply must be addressed. But even though it has a myriad of them, all of Tron: Legacy’s cinematic malignancies stem from a sole fundamental failure: The Grid is boring. By Peter Hall –

1. The most colorless colorful characters: Played by the brilliant Cillian Murphy, this was an extremely wasted part. Introduced as the son of former CEO Dillinger, all Edward does is tap on the keyboard during the software meltdown and says a line then walks off. Never to be seen again. Is this a sequel set up? If so, would it made sense to have him play a small part in the Tron world as well? Maybe he should have been CLU’s sidekick climbing to power? His role was non-essential and unimaginative (you are going to read this word a lot so get used to it). Gem, was a very visually striking character that did what? By day she works in a ‘program processing center’ then by night she is a bar fly? Was it by chance she met Sam earlier and did she really just happen to see him on the street that night? The story insinuates a subtle manipulator but doesn’t expand on it. Don’t get me started on Castor. Clearly, he was the only member of the cast having fun, but I think his ridiculous antics just served to cover up the lack of character development. Why was Quorra so confident in trusting him with Sam when clearly she was still a sore subject with Castor? Why did he betray Sam and his belief in the users? The lack of character development for these secondary characters really hurt the richness of this story.

2. Alan’s rockin pager: How exactly did this happen? We are to believe that Alan has been charging his pager every night and maintaining the service for almost 20+ years after Flynn’s disappearance? The Flynn’s arcade phone number has been disconnected and service is down, so does CLU have the ability to manipulate the User world too? CLU has the power to communicate to the outside world and Flynn does not? I understand that it was a plot device to make it feel cryptic and mysterious but it doesn’t make sense. After 30 years of waiting on the CEO if his company, wouldn’t Alan felt a responsibility to ENCOM to explore it himself rather than send a maverick to go snoop around? Or at least go with him?

3. Alan’s 2-D role: Are we to believe that from 1982-89, 7 years of Flynn going back and forth in both worlds that he never felt compelled to tell his best friend about it or invite him to come along? This is a pretty major secret to keep from the only person Flynn trusted. I think it would have made more sense if realizing Flynn’s plight, Alan worked the problem on the outside trying to free TRON while Sam was sent to the Grid to rescue dear ol’ dad. At least it would have given Alan something to do besides talk about an implausible pager story then sit around twittling his thumbs.

4. What in the world?: This is a pretty major one for me. The world crafting in the Legacy was pretty careless and unexplained. Sure it looks visually stunning but how did it de-evolve into its current state. Why are there dedicated neighborhoods, street lamps, buildings, etc? The recognizers are kicking up dust- really dust? Why is their virtual dust flying around? If Flynn programmed it to simulate a real world environment that’s fine but we don’t know that. When Quorra’s dune buggy appears and skids around, she starts kicking up all kinds of smoke. You need friction, physics, and weight to cause impressive peel outs. She also says that CLU’s vehicles can’t drive over the rough terrain to pursue them, what tha what? They can’t build off-road tires? Then why doesn’t CLU just fly after them? What exactly are they eating and drinking anyways? Why do their drinks need ice? Why are they so physically limited to transportation. The original Tron had some limited teleportation and it would make sense there would be some here instead of taking public transportation everywhere. It’s also raining and storming at times. For what? Here’s another random thought, when CLU plants bombs in Caster’s bar, why did he need so many? Is mass of the explosive really that important? There is no physics so it in theory could have been the size of a dime with the same effect. We also discovers Sam bleeds! He now has a physical, blood pumping body in the virtual world? There is air? I thought he was digitized? The world crafting for this Tron incarnation is just lazy and unimaginative. It was more like an alien world or parallel universe rather than a world inside the computer. The original Tron did a better job delineating the real world from the virtual one. Instead of it being a computer world that mirrored the human world, Legacy did it the other way around. Boring.

5. Thank the Users it’s Friday: It’s nice to know that after a long days work that the programs can crack open a cold one and chillax. We see them eating, drinking, carousing, and going out for entertainment. So these programs are not always working? Do they work 9-5 jobs? Do they take vacation and sick leave as well? When was the last time you clicked on WORD and a note popped up that said ‘out to lunch’? Every program should be focused on their design, doing the menial labor like Gem was in the first part of the movie. Seeing how the world operated was much more interesting than seeing downtime at the local bar. There are even homeless people! So there is also unemployment and other society problems. Apparently, CLU’s perfect system is not so perfect. The culture the film develops is really important. It tells so much without using words. So when you see that these programs are no so different from us then it takes the viewer out of the fantasy. I felt the original TRON did a much better job of creating a stronger people culture. I also think it was unfortunate that the ’belief in the users’ talk was dropped. The lack of the religious overtones made this a more shallow experience. Again, an unimaginative direction.

6. What’s the name of this movie again?: Like the Original, the reasoning for the movie title is stretched. At least in the original, Tron was one of the main characters and delivers the killing blow to the MCP. In this one, Tron (or Rinzler) is relegated to a brief cameo and is just a ‘muscle’ character for CLU. Instead of being called TRON Legacy, it should have been called Tron Cameo! He is actually in a lot of scenes  but because his costuming was so similar to the others, you really don’t visually pick up it’s Rinzler. Sure the flashback cameo with the CGI Boxleitner was pretty cool but it was way too quick. His death at the end was also really unrewarding as well as underserved. How did he snap out of CLU’s control? You would think for someone who played a pivotal role in the first movie, would have been given a more meaningful character arc. I know fans are disappointed. Lazy and unimaginative.

7. Sam I Am: I thought that Sam’s origins were strong. From the get go, you are already rooting for him to find his dad. However, once he is in the Tron world, very little more is done with his development. He is a ‘User’ after all. Not only that but he is the son of the creator. Wouldn’t it have made sense that he also manifest extranary powers or skills? He clearly has some programming experience but we don’t see any of that help in later in the movie. He also somehow becomes a trained hand-to-hand fighter which is unexplained. All we need was that as a user, he is able to download skills (like Neo in the Matrix). The worst part is that he really could care less about the Grid. As a user I think it would have been more interesting for him to develop compassion for this new world and see the potential of what his dad saw. I think caring for this new world would have been the biggest fuel for his reason to take ENCOM back over. It was just lazy character development.

8. Quorra chameleon: There is so much about Quorra that is under developed. It’s pretty lame that the Iso people are introduced then so quickly eradicated. I read the prequel graphic novel that explains much of this and even I felt a little confused by the quick treatment. I liked her character but I didn’t like that her purpose was unclear. There was ample opportunity with all the excessive technobabble in the middle section of the movie but it resulted in more confusion. I think a simple line from Flynn like ’I found a way to create new life in here that can exist in the real world. We can make new life!’ It just would have helped the non-techy and non-nerds out there understand the significance of Quorra’s existence. It had to be clear that her survival was more important than Flynn getting out of the Grid.  

9. OMF!: Oh my Flynn! Is he the creator of not? He’s been trapped in this world for almost 30 years (1000 in Tron years) and the most he can create is a mountain side condo? He could have created a hundred CLUs to take the Grid back over. He exhibited more power in the original Tron than he did in this one. They made him really helpless in this world and I thought that was really frustrating. He even had trouble reprogramming the security guard in the hanger! This approach of Flynn’s story reminded me of Yoda’s self exilement on Dagobah after Episode III. The two most powerful characters in the universe decide to just retreat and meditate? Even after he is out, all he does in the club scene is turn off the lights? Ooooh, ahhhh. Even after is ID disc is stolen it didn’t seem to really affect him. I know they story needed CLU to be in charge but I think it could have simply been resolved if CLU had Flynn’s identity disc from the start and was just waiting for the portal to be opened again. This would leave Flynn powerless because of his disconnection to the Grid and justify CLU’s rise to power. Then at the end, when he is reunited with his disc, he could open up some good ole fashion user power. Again, lazy and unimaginative.  

10. End of line?: The stakes at the end was not entirely clear. I’ve already mentioned about the ambiguity about Quorra’s purpose, but what was CLU exactly going to do? Was he going to physically manifest his army into Flynn’s arcade and attack the world? He had enough troops and vehicles to the equivalent of an aircraft carrier. He would be lucky to take over Jamaica with a force that size. But then I thought, maybe his army represented a virus army that was going to be unleashed and multiply in the real world like Skynet (Terminator). Either way, the writers should have picked one story to develop. Stopping the Iso from leaving or stopping CLU from entering the real world or returning Flynn home. As the viewer, I didn’t know who to root for more and was left partially unsatisfied for all. I also didn’t get why reintegrating CLU to Flynn would cause such a cataclysmic destruction. The orignal CLU died and it was just a loss of a program. Granted this new one has evolved but how did the stakes rise so much? Poor Alan. After all that, he is still left in the dark about what happened and who this new chick that suddenly appeared is. Too me, this whole movie can be compared to the introduction of Flynn’s lifecycle. Here’s the coolest and fastest cycle on the grid that is just used to take a casual commute to downtown- boring. You can probably guess my next line; Lazy and unimaginative.

You might be thinking that I am nuts to be thinking so much into this. But hey, I’ve been sick at home in a semi-drugged induced coma meditating over my nit piks. For true fanboys and girls, this stuff is important. It helps build a reality and cult followings that the original Star Wars, Star Trek, LOTRs, Aliens, Terminator, and the original Tron so deserved. TRON has been off the grid for too long and no one more than us nerds want to embrace this new world with endless possibilities. But with uninspired and unimaginative work shown in TRON Legacy, I am afraid that won’t happen. Like Peter Hall’s early quote stated, all this mess just made TRON Legacy boring. Reflected in my earlier review, I still liked Legacy but as a normal movie attendee and not so much as a TRON geek.

Ok, let’s enter the game grid and bring on your thoughts!

2 thoughts on “My Top 10 problems with TRON Legacy

  1. I agree with all of your points.
    Also, how does Flynn’s arcade still have electricity? And why does that area of town look so desolate. It’s kinda run down, but not soooo run down that it’s been evacuated by even the most desparate homeless people. It reminds me of some street you’d see in Gotham city.

    Ultimately, this was less of a sequel and more of a stand-alone/ reboot with flashbacks and ‘do you remember when’ dialogue.

    • Totally agree. It could have been so good but ended up feeling like it was pieced together. The individual scenes looked great but it just didn’t work as a whole. Hopefully the sequel will be much better. Thanks for commenting!

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