CAST OF CHARACTERS
SAM FLYNN (Garrett Hedlund) – A twenty-something (emphasis on “something”), layabout billionaire with dead parents. Hobbies include hacking, breaking and entering and BASE jumping. Despite this backstory, he has somehow avoided becoming a Batman-esque superhero.
QUORRA (Olivia Wilde) – A sentient computer program with a fondness for Jules Verne and the game of Go. Childlike and innocent with an A-Level in Badass. Being the perfect computer woman she is of course the love interest for Sam.
CLU (Jeff Bridges) – Did you know that in the original film Clu’s name was actually an acronym for Codified Likeness Utility? Yeah, me either. I bet the producers of that film also didn’t know that. In this movie he’s trying to take over the real world… or something. For some reason.
ALAN BRADLEY (Bruce Boxleitner) – Here is where I’m expected to make a whole series of jokes based around Babylon 5. Well, I never really got into that series. Shocking, I know. So instead you’ll have to put up with whatever other lame jokes I can think of. Sorry.
MICHAEL SHEEN (Castor) – Having become increasingly unpopular since his party led the war against a rival OS, Castor stepped down as Prime Minister, left politics and took on a new job as the host of the Grid’s most popular talk show, Castor Over the Grid. When ratings declined he opened a nightclub and began impersonating David Bowie for reasons unclear.
KEVIN FLYNN (Jeff Brigdes) – Here is where I’m expected to make a whole series of jokes based around The Big Lebowski. Well, I haven’t seen that film. Shocking, I know. So instead you’ll have to put up with whatever other lame jokes I can think of. Sorry.
Back in 1982, Disney released a risky, ground-breaking film called Tron. Now this isn’t the Disney we all know today, who’ve released such movies as every Pixar film ever made, The Lion King,Beauty and the Beast and the ever-thrilling The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This isn’t even the Disney that released such films as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. No, this is Disney coming off the 1970s, which were a dark, dark time for the studio.
See, somewhere in the 1970s, they’d lost their way. They’d stopped making interesting animated films and instead began releasing crappy live-action movies like The Cat From Outer Space, The North Avenue Irregulars and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. In fact the only notable animated film during the 1970s was the all-fury version of Robin Hood, and even that wasn’t all that great.
But Disney did have one really memorable release during this time period, and that was The Black Hole. It wasn’t all that great, really, and was a bit confusing for the audiences, but it was bold and it was different from what they usually did (even if they did still manage to somehow have a Disney character in the form of a robot voiced by Slim Pickens). The fact that it was clearly done as a reaction to Star Wars was incidental. It didn’t make a huge amount of money for Disney, but it did do respectable box office and it proved that they could handle adult material.
So it was that in 1982 Disney released another science fiction epic. This one, Tron has had a far greater legacy (snicker!), than The Black Hole. It featured ground-breaking special effects and… well, it had a story… and some acting… but, yeah, mostly just ground-breaking special effects with a story that was good enough to not insult your intelligence. That alone places it on a plane higher than certain other films I could mention (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay’s entire filmography!). The movie proved a box office success and spin off merchandise (including a memorable video game), helped keep Disney afloat long enough to let them get back to making cartoons, which they did in 1989 with The Little Mermaid.
Since 1982, fans had been asking for a sequel. Well, the studio dithered and did nothing about that for the longest time (except for a decent, but not great, video game a few years ago). Then they decided that since so many other movie franchises had done so well picking up the pieces a decade or two later, well, why couldn’t they? After all, how hard could it be?
Our film opens with some lights and circuits accompanied by the voice of Jeff Bridges talking about the Grid to the decent opening theme by Daft Punk. It then morphs into the streets of some unidentified American city that I’m going to call Seacouver. We go along through the streets and toward a lovely house where we hear and then see Bridges talking to his young son, Sam. He’s telling him the story of Tron while in the background we see a room filled with things like a movie poster for The Black Hole and, confusingly, one for Tron, as well as several toys based around the first film. So… Flynn came back to the real world and made a movie about his experiences? No reason not to, I suppose, but it seems a bit odd to me.
Not nearly so odd, however, as the boy he is talking to. So, get this, it’s 1989, right, and the boy is supposed to be his son. It’s implied the boy’s mother is Lori from the first film (it’s later mentioned that she died in 1985). There is no mention of them having a child together in the first movie, so presumably this happened after that. So, okay, no problem. They had a kid sometime after the first film, which probably took place in 1982, so that means the kid should be six or seven years old. Logically this means that the producers should cast a thirteen-year-old boy to play the role.
So… young Sam suffers from precious puberty? I mean, I don’t know too many seven-year-olds who keep a special sock under the bed, but this one sure looks like he does. For the record, the actor who plays what the credits themselves call “7 Year Old Sam Flynn”, is named Owen Best, and he was born in 1997. If this movie was shot in late 2009, that means he was twelve, almost thirteen. So nearly double the age of his character. Jeff Bridges is 61 and this would be like casting him to play someone who is only about 30. Something you’d need serious CGI work to accomplish.
Now I know this seems like a minor point and I suppose it is, but it speaks to really shitty continuity. And while it’s possible that the character is actually 12 or so and we simply never heard mention of him in the first movie, Sam himself, later in the film, gives his age as 27. This movie takes place 21 years after 1989, so that means the character as a young boy would be six and not seven. This is really clumsy writing on someone’s part, accompanied by clumsy casting on someone else’s part, and it does not bode well for the film as a whole.
Anyhow, once we’re done establishing this happy father/son scene, we see Flynn drive off on his motorcycle and then go to some TV-based exposition telling us Flynn has disappeared and left his company, Encom, behind and Alan Bradley is running it now. It’s actually not the worst way of telling the story, and it includes Flynn channeling Steve Jobs telling us about the virtual world and how “in there” is our future and our destiny. The scene ends with Sam looking out of a rain-spattered window. How tragic. We’re told the future of what happens to the company depends on what happens to “this orphaned little boy”. I vote the kid moves into Wayne Manor and hires Alfred.
Sam runs from his well-meaning grandparents and hops onto his bike. The shot flashes to his older version unsafely riding a motorcycle at high speed. Because he’s a badass rebel who doesn’t have to play by your “rules”! Yeah! Stick it to the man, you spoiled multi-billionaire!
He gets chased by a cop and, through some incredibly irresponsible, unsafe driving, eventually eludes him, and I conclude, before the character even takes off his helmet, that he’s basically a dick. Nothing I see in the rest of the movie would prove to change my mind.
And when he does take off said helmet, he reveals himself to be Garret Hedlund, best known to the world from his appearance in the Oscar-worthy fantasy epic Eragon, where he played a character far more heroic than the actual hero. He proved then what sort of an actor he was and continues that trend with this film.
He leaves his motorcycle out on the street where, despite probably being fairly expensive, it’s somehow not stolen. He then uses a Nokia smart phone to break into Encom through a big door. Yes, it’s apparently the same big door as in the first movie. And does he comment on it? Yes, he does, saying, “Now that is a big door,” in a perfunctory fashion. Because this movie will rub your face in references rather than just let you sit back and enjoy them. That’s ok. I want to rub this movies face in a steaming pile of Bay.
Inside the Encom boardroom, the people who actually run the company and let Bruce Wa-excuse me, Sam Flynn-do what he pleases, are preparing for the release of their new operating system software, Encom OS 12. Cut in with this discussion are shots of Sam sneaking his way through the company, including blinding a security camera with a laser pointer. After he runs past a guard notices the white-out on the screen, which shows multiple camera feeds, and taps the screen with his coffee cup. That of course fixes the problem. Kind of like how thumping on your windshield will fix a problem with your spark plugs.
Up in the board meeting, the Evil CEO is talking about Encom OS 12 and makes special mention of Edward Dillinger, Jr. This is so we all know who the bad guy will be in the next movie. I know this because a: he’s played by a reasonably well-known actor (Cillian Murphy), and b: he serves no purpose to this movie other than to be a set up for the next one.
Sam is continuing to dinker around, sneaking through the building. I suppose to be fair I should point out here that we haven’t been told this is actually Sam Flynn. But we all know it is from the trailers and because we’ve seen movies before. Those of us who are of a thinking sort of mind might start saying to themselves, “Hang on. Kevin Flynn owned Encom, right? Or at least was a majority shareholder? Presumably when he ‘died’ those shares transferred over toe Sam, right? That makes him majority shareholder. Why is he sneaking around through his own company?” To which the movie replies, “Shut up, that’s why.”
Sam makes his way into a server room that has some interesting overtones to it.
In the process he trips a laser alarm which causes the security guard (apparently the only one in the building), to dash from the room, spilling his coffee in what I think is a variation of the Praxis Teacup Rule.
Upstairs Alan Bradley asks what changes and upgrades have been made to OS 12 to justify a new release and the associated expenses to students and businesses. The Evil CEO replies, “This year we put a 12 on the box,” and then cackles with evil glee and eats the arm of a dead baby. Because, as we all know, that’s all software companies do. Because they are evil. And stuff.
Dillinger explains that the software is the most secure ever and that the idea of giving it away for free vanished with Flynn. Well, ok. No one suggested giving it away for free, but maybe there was an edit that removed a line of Bradley saying that or something. Of course what this really is supposed to be is a setup for a scene a few seconds later when we see Sam uploading a copy of the software onto a file sharing site, thus essentially releasing it for free. Well, unless the company requires some sort of activation code or something like that. Or requires online verification of the software. Which they probably would. Sure, some people would be able to get around it, but most people would still have to buy a copy, so he may have just cost the company about 1% in sales. The company he basically owns. What a rebel.
As the OS hits the web, the Evil CEO panics, wondering how he will explain the fact that their new expensive OS has just gone out for free, because no one has ever had an operating system leak out to the public on file sharing sites before. Dillinger plays it cool and tells him to just say it was intentional, then walks out of the movie. It’s possibly worth noting here that by doing this, he costs the company billions. If they just ignored the file-sharing they still would have made tons of profit on this product. Now he’s saying they should just give it away free to everyone, which means the company loses all the money from it. An odd solution, to say the least.
Moving out to the roof, we see Sam standing at the end of a crane looking down at the world. As he does, the one security guard the company employs comes out to the crane. He’s apparently very committed to his job because rather than just wait on the safe end and call the cops, he starts edging out toward Sam. I have no idea why. I also have no idea why the two pick this time to have a discussion on the ethics of software piracy with the guard taking the legally and morally defensible position that stealing is wrong and Sam taking the substantially less valid position that information wants to be free. Sam then confirms that he is indeed the largest shareholder and then jumps off the crane, parachuting down to safety. Well, more or less.
First he gets caught on a lamppost, then drops onto a cab. “Hilariously”, in a completely not racial-caricature kind of way, the cab driver speaks with a thick accent and shouts “No free rides! You pay! No free taxi!” as anyone would under the circumstances. Our “hero” then eludes the cops for a bit before finally being caught; throwing his arms into the air, grinning and saying, “Ok, boys! You got me!”
We then cut to the police station where Sam is being released. I’m not sure why this is happening. Off the top of my head, I’d think he would be charged with Breaking and Entering, Resisting Arrest, Theft, Vandalism (landing on top of the cab probably did it no good), the probably illegal BASE jump, possible criminal trespass charges, and the Reckless Endangerment and Speeding charges from earlier. Multiple felonies, but he’s allowed to walk free on the same night. And don’t say, “Well, he is the majority shareholder, so it’s not a problem.” I bet it is actually a huge problem. I’m fairly sure there are laws against sabotaging your own publicly-traded company, especially when it could potentially cost them billions in profits. He didn’t own the company and didn’t own the software. If he wanted it to be free, he should have called a board meeting and voted on it.
This also begs another question: why did he break into the company? And, “Shut up, that’s why,” is not a valid answer. If he’s got any computer skills at all, I’m sure he could have hacked into their servers remotely and got the files from there. Failing that, I’m very sure that waving a wad of money under some hard-working programmer’s nose would have been enough to get them to download it onto a flash drive for him. Obviously from a story-telling point of view it was designed to show what a bad-ass he is, and how fearless, and how wonderful, and also what a total dick he was. I mean, if his little stunt wound up releasing a viable copy to the world, that could cost the company billions, and that would likely mean downsizing, which means a lot of people losing their jobs.
So, yeah. Here we have a character that’s committed multiple felonies and done something that might result in a lot of people becoming unemployed. He’s the hero, mind you.
Once he’s released from jail, he goes to the Batca- er… Dumont’s garage. Yes, that’s a reference to the first film. It turns out this is where he lives for some reason. Also, Alan Bradley is there. The two talk and Sam makes some reference to Bradley acting as a surrogate father when Sam was twelve. So… right. Back to the age thing. The character looked about twelve or so in those scenes, and if he actually was that might make sense, but it contradicts things later and-
Ok, fine. Where was I? Oh, yes. Sam. And he’s about to take off his shirt. Of course this being the movie it is, it promises more than it delivers and all we get to see is his slightly bruised back. Bastards. Anyhow, the two engage in a conversation where the entire purpose is for Bradley to tell Sam he got a page from Flynn’s arcade. I didn’t even know pagers were still available, but ok. Why not? Anyhow, Sam waffles a bit and then decides to head off and investigate.
He gets to Flynn’s old arcade. It’s dusty and musty and in what looks like a bad part of town. Why Sam isn’t mugged and bike-jacked within moments is beyond me. Anyhow, the place clearly hasn’t been used in years. Despite that the electricity is still on and all the video games and jukebox power up like normal. Ah, the 1980s. That great decade when things were Built to Last.
Sam noses around a bit and eventually finds the Tron video game. It’s the same one we all played back in the day. I mean exactly the same, which apparently indicates there was a movie of Tron in this universe. Sam decides to drop a quarter in, which then falls out and lands on the floor. He notices groves in the wood of the floor and figures this must be a secret door. It is and he walks through.
Now, spoilers here. It’s revealed later in the film that the page to Bradley was sent by Clu who is evily masterminding everything. He sent the page as a way of luring Sam onto the Grid. This plan is stupid and makes no sense. First, he assumed that sending the page to Bradley would mean that Bradley would relay it to Sam. Then he assumed Sam would go to the arcade and somehow interact with the Tron cabinet in such a fashion as to find out it was a secret door. Then he assumed that upon finding out it was a secret door, Sam would go inside and position himself in front of the laser beam that would send him to the Grid. There’s about a billion ways this plan could have gone very wrong and clearly the only reason it really worked was because the script needed it to. It also shows that Clu knows far more about human psychology than he seems to later in the movie.
Anyhow, so yeah, Sam goes through the magic wardro-er… secret door… -and gets laser-blasted into the Game Grid. He’s only there a few seconds before an admittedly cool-looking version of a Recognizer arrives. Sam, to his credit, quickly picks up on what’s going on. He protests that he’s a user, is told to shut up, and put on the Recognizer near Duane Dibbley.
The Recognizer lands and everyone gets sorted. Duane Dibbley is told he’s going to the games. Well, he doesn’t want to die on the gaming field, so instead he commits suicide. Yes, that makes sense. For his part, Sam is muscled over to an elevator and dropped a few stories downward into a room full of women who wear shoes Lady Gaga would envy.
The women strip off Sam’s clothing, and in keeping with the nature of the film, we don’t get to see anything good. They put him into a black bodysuit and then load him up with armor and a disc before punting him into the game area.
A word now about the outfits the programs wear. In the original version they were white with quite a lot of red, blue or occasionally yellow light running through them. In this case they are generally black, occasionally white, and have very few lights, all of which are white. They look frankly less interesting than the costumes from 1982, and that’s not saying anything good. I think that the problem is that in the 1982 version there was more light and it looked like it was coming from inside the armor. Here, there’s surprisingly little light and it’s clearly on the surface.
Sam steps into an elevator which lifts him up into the game grid and to a disc fighting arena.
Sam quickly finds himself fighting in something called “Disc Wars”. We know that’s what it is called, because the audience keeps chanting “Disc Wars!”
As the fight begins, he starts getting it handed to him. He manages to barely dodge the first couple throws of the enemy’s disc (which looks more like a doughnut than a disc), and basically through sheer luck manages to defeat him. Well, that seems reasonable. I mean, he’s not a trained combatant and we’ve not had any indication that he does martial arts or anything like that, so he should win basically through luck and guile and not anything like skill.
His luck and guile continue to serve him well as he gets through another fight very easily. Meantime we see an orange-lined program watching it all from a large ship while a lackey kisses his ass. This bad guy is Clu, but we aren’t told that yet, and even though we’ve seen from the trailer that he’s a villain, it’s still handled as a “surprise” when we do find out. Meantime he’s wearing a full-face mask for no reason other than to hide his secret identity.
Sam runs around like a twit on the top of the game grid as the computers controlling everything (which presumably are programs themselves), start to notice that he’s an unknown program. They send in the Sti- Rinzler- to sort him out.
Now previously Sam, who had no obvious martial arts training, had survived through luck and guile. He has no known combat skills. Yes, he’s clearly in good shape, can ride a motorcycle with some skill, BASE jump and be a dick, but we haven’t seen that he can handle himself well in a fight against a highly-skilled, well-trained opponent who is using weapons Sam has no experience with. Well, unless he was on the Seacouver University Firsbee Golf Team. Logically he should get his ass handed to him.
This is indeed what happens. Rinzler in fact has several chances to easily kill Sam and so clearly he’s just toying with him. This means there’s programs out there who have sadism.exe installed into them. I always knew there was something wrong with Windows Vista.
Up in the ship Clu has been watching the fight while playing with his balls. Yes.
Rinzler finishes beating the tar out of Sam and is about to kill him when he notices some blood. He says, “User!” in a voice that’s very obviously (spoiler), Tron. Yeah. The fact that, like Clu, he’s wearing a full face mask is something of a giveaway. Anyhow, this alerts Clu that something is up. Apparently he didn’t know beforehand. Take that, Mister High and Mighty Master Control Program!
Sam gets brought to Clu and we finally see Clu’s face. I’ll give Jeff Bridges great credit for his acting here. He does a wonderful job of acting like a slightly “off” version of Kevin Flynn. He really sells this role quite well in a lot of ways.
Anyhow, it isn’t long before Sam is Clu’d (ha!), into the fact that this isn’t his dad. Clu postures a bit and then sends Sam off back to the Games to play around on the light-cycles. When Sam gets to the light-cycle arena he’s introduced, as is his competition, which, surprise, turns to be Clu, and is handed a stick. He’s not sure what to do with it, so he holds it like a lightsaber and asks how it’s used. Jarvis, Clu’s suck-up sidekick, smirks and says, “I’ll give you a hint. Not like that.”
Meantime yet another mysterious masked figure is watching things from above the arena. This is Samus Arn-… er… Quorra, but that’s a stupid name and a pain in the ass to type, so I’m going to call her 13. 13 watches most of the introduction and slinks off, but you can be sure she’ll be back.
And so begins the light-cycle fight. I’ll say this for it; it’s quite lovely to look at. Very bright and well-animated and also as boring as a particularly boring stone that’s recently been found on a damp Tuesday in Borington, Wales, and then profiled in The Boring Stone Monthly. The original light-cycle duels, as pointed out by Spoony, were all about claustrophobia. The walls never disappeared and so as the riders went, they navigated a more confined and narrow space with each second.
In this case, it’s been set to 11 and then end result is that the players have a huge arena with several levels and not much use for the light trails, which are even turned off for large parts of the race. The sense of claustrophobia is gone and we never get a good “feel” for how everything is laid out. What we end up with is ok, but like with so much of the film it’s a flashier, yet more pale, copy of what was done in 1982.
As the race goes on, Clu’s side really starts handing it to the blue team. Soon there’s only Sam and one other racer. Sam shouts to him that they need to work together, the guy nods, and with no other communication than that they somehow coordinate all their actions and moves. No practice needed, no actual strategy. I agree that, yes, they’d do much better as a team, but there does need to be a bit more to teamwork than just saying, “Hey, gang, let’s team up!”
In the end, Sam is about to get totally destroyed when the Batmobile comes out of nowhere to rescue him.
In the process it generates a wall that knocks Clu head over teakettle, but doesn’t kill him. Clu, apparently, uses cheat-codes. This also explains a line from earlier in the movie where it’s mentioned his bikes are faster than those of the blue team. Apparently Konami’s codes really are everywhere.
The driver of the Batmobile, 13, tells Sam to get in. She has to tell him this twice, because he is very stupid. It then drives off with a squeal of tires (?), and smoke (?!). As it does, the Stig sets off in chase and Clu says, “Game on, bitch,” or something to that effect.
The Batmobile drops a couple explosives to slow down pursuit and then blows a hole in the wall to escape. Hmmm… blowing a hole in the wall to escape a light-cycle arena… now where have I seen that trick before?
As the car drives along, 13 removes her mask and introduces herself, then explains that the enemy vehicles can’t follow them because they aren’t designed for the terrain they now find themselves on. Ok, that makes sense. Well, it’s a good thing Clu’s forces don’t have planes like the ones Clu’s forces have later.
Sam asks 13 where they are going. She says, “Patience, Sam Flynn,” because as a sexy computer babe she has to call him by his first and last names. At least it’s better than calling him Sam Unit, I suppose, though not nearly as wonderful as if he was called “The late Flynnsamflynn.”
The Batmobile rolls and goes up along a steep and narrow road, looking for all the world like a miniature remote controlled car, before driving through a tunnel and coming to a stop.
With the Batmobile safely stowed away in the Batcave, Sam and 13 are able to get out and take an elevator up to a small house where a man sits meditating. No points for guessing who this is. Yes, Kevin Flynn himself. He and Sam have a fairly awkward, but somewhat touching, reunion and it’s a testament to the acting skills of Bridges that he does a great job selling the scene.
Flynn then goes to look out a window while 13 shows Sam around the house. This includes showing him an older prototype light-cycle so that the audience will know it is significant and will likely turn up later. Then she goes over to a game of Go, which I honestly know nothing about, but which has always struck me as somewhat silly.
13 shows Sam some of her book collection, which contains works by Verne, Dostoyevsky and other public domain writers. 13 comments that Flynn is teaching her about “the art of the selfless, about removing oneself from the equation.” I’m sure there’s no way that’s going to be relevant later in the story.
After a brief shot of Clu pouting, we go to dinner. It’s a happy family meal with father, son and 13 all gathered around munching and crunching. From the look of things Flynn apparently has spent much time learning how to properly code good food. I can entirely support that notion.
Ok, I didn’t want to come back to the age issue, but in this scene 13 asks Sam how old he is and we are told he is 27. Like I pointed out before, that means he was 6, not 7, in the scene where a 12 year-old boy is playing a character described as being 7. I really can’t tell you how much this annoys me and-
We also learn a few other things, like that Cal Tech apparently has a campus in Seacouver, and that Sam has no life, really. It’s a reasonably tense conversation and actually fairly well done all things considered. Eventually Sam gets to the main part of the scene, which is giving Flynn a chance to explain what happened all those years ago when he disappeared.
Now stay with me cause this gets a bit puzzling. First, Flynn explains that he brought a copy of Tron from the old system (presumably the one from the first movie), and he, along with Clu, were supposed to help Flynn build a new Utopia, with Clu under orders to make it perfect. Yes, no way that’s going to bite someone on the ass. Flynn apparently never watched any science fiction ever.
Anyhow, Flynn continues to explain, saying that as they worked, something unexpected happened. Something called isomorphic algorithms appeared spontaneously. Flynn says that, like a flame, they weren’t really from anywhere, proving that he also didn’t pay much attention in basic chemistry.
These things, ISOs, he calls them, were apparently a sentient life form that evolved in the computer system. No explanation is provided for why this happened, except to add to the God parallels in the movie. Flynn explains that these beings were an intelligence beyond our own. He also says they were “…profoundly naive. Unimaginably wise.” And now I want to hit my head with a mallet.
Then he really goes off the rails, telling us that somehow the ISO DNA was going to be able to cure diseases and alter science and philosophy, with every idea man has had about the universe “up for grabs”. Biodigital jazz, he then says. I have no clue what he’s babbling about.
We then see that Clu acting like a bitch and rebelling against God- er… Flynn. He leads a little coup that results in Tron being killed off screen. Well, having never seen a movie before I assume he’s dead for good. Right? Right?
I really don’t want to sound dense or anything, but I just don’t “get” the whole ISO concept. First, I fail to see how intelligent life can just spontaneously happen without a long evolutionary run up. Second, I don’t see why Clu would view them as a threat to his perfect order. Even if he did, surely Flynn could have just issued some master override command to get him to knock off what he’s up to?
But most importantly, I really don’t understand what Flynn is babbling about when he’s talking about how the ISOs would revolutionize everything in the real world. So he’s apparently got spontaneously artificial intelligence. Great. How does that cure disease and change everyone’s views on science, philosophy, etc?
The ISOs are apparently a very important concept in this movie and the movie does not do a good job of explaining them or why they matter. That’s a real big problem considering that the whole story revolves around them.
Anyhow, back at Basil Exposition’s place, Sam asks Flynn why he didn’t fight back. Flynn says he did but, for some reason not explained by the story, this only made Clu stronger. I’m sure there’s some Zen thing involved. So all he could do was stay back and hide while Clu wiped out the ISOs. By the time all was said and done, the portal back to the real world had closed and Flynn was trapped. I’m sure GLaDOSwas somehow involved.
Sam begins trying to plot to get Flynn out of Dodge. Flynn says he can’t leave because as soon as he enters the grid, Clu will know where he is and will try to get his disc. He wants the disc so that he can get to the real world and then it’s “game over”. Now I would have thought that to find Flynn, all Clu would have to do is send his army to look for the only damn house outside the grid and… and… wait. Wait. Did he say Clu wants to get into the real world and then it’s “game over”?
Yes. Yes, he did. Apparently Clu’s big master plan is to get the disc and take himself and his little army of programs out to the real world where they will do evil and nasty things because our world isn’t perfect. Perhaps not, but I’m fairly sure we could successfully kick the ass of a bunch of programs, even if they were smack in the middle of Seacouver. The combined might of the Amerocanadian military should be able to squash them pretty easily. So, yes, game over, but only for Clu and the Gang.
I am pretty confused here, though. From what Flynn is saying, Clu lured Sam into the game world to use him as bait to bring Flynn out onto the grid. Ok, fine. But if that’s the case, why does Clu spend several minutes trying to kill Sam? Make no mistake, during the light-cycle battle that’s totally what he’s trying to do. He wasn’t pulling any punches, and if 13 hadn’t showed up in the Batmobile, Sam would be a puddle of cubes. If Sam is dead, Flynn would likely hide even deeper in the outskirts of the system making it less likely that he’d come out and play. So Clu’s actions here are just bizarre.
Meantime, Sam is still pretty gung-ho about the idea of making a run for the portal. Flynn tells him that’s a bad idea and explains that Clu brought him to the game world so that he’d be another piece on the board and they’d be forced to make a run for it, thus making themselves targets for Clu. He even goes so far as to say, “The only way to win is not to play.”
Sam bristles at all this. He has a bit of a dust-up with the old man, who then wanders off. 13 and Sam step to one side and she explains that Flynn could just end it all pretty easily but Flynn would die in the process. Sam gripes and bitches and announces he’s going to make a run for the portal to delete Clu from the other side. He then stomps off to his bedroom. Yes, it’s news to me that he has a bedroom already, but there you are. I suppose it could be a guest room, though who exactly would be visiting is left up for us to wonder.
As he’s pouting, 13 turns up and tells him about Zuse, a program who can possibly help him with his little plans. We then go to a brief, rather oddly placed, flashback of Sam and Flynn down at the beach. Flynn, who apparently is the one having this flashback, then wakes up and goes looking for Sam only to find that, surprise, he’s stolen the prototype light-cycle and is heading to town. Sam drives it through the rain (?), and then finds a homeless program (?!), and tells him it’s his lucky day. Sam trades him the light-cycle for the guy’s cloak and then watches as the guy drives off with security chasing him.
As he walks through the city, Sam comes across one of the Gaga wanna-bes who stripped him down earlier. She of course also calls him by his first and last name, and apparently knew exactly where he would be. Since it’s raining she’s carrying an umbrella. I don’t have the energy at the moment to mock just how stupid this rain concept is to begin with, so just make your own punchlines.
Back up at Clu central his lickspittle is telling him about how they’ve been able to track the light-cycle back to its point of origin. This means the bad guys now know where Flynn is, though given how long they’ve had to find him, this does not speak well of their investigatory prowess. We then have a scene of Flynn telling 13 to bring the car around so they can leave. He’s also now wearing black instead of white, which I’m sure is significant.
Now begins one of the odder bits of the film as Sam arrives at the End of Line Club. There he meets Castor, played by noted actor Michael Sheen, who I am sure took the role just so that he wouldn’t have to play Tony Blair in yet another film.
I also have to point out that in a room full of entirely heterosexual pairings, Castor stands out as someone more flaming than a forest fire. He comes off as really, really gay. He’s constantly flirting with everyone male and refers to Sam as, “prettiness,” while basically licking his lips. He’s clearly supposed to some sort of homage to Ziggy Stardust, but I have a feeling even David Bowie would pull him aside and say, “Dude, tone it down.”
Castor leads Sam up a staircase while telling the club DJs to play something different and entertain the masses. The DJs are Daft Punk, for those who care. Meantime the woman introduces herself as Gem. Well, I wondered what had become of her after the Holograms broke up.
Back at Flynn’s house we see that Clu and the Crunch Bunch have arrived. They wander about and look at things. Clu smashes up some stuff while dealing with his daddy issues. He then picks up a shiny apple and has a flashback to his creation. No doubt the apple has some Eden-esque symbolism that I don’t care about. At the end of the scene, which was really rather pointless, Clu goes stalking off.
Over at the club, Castor gives us the unsurprising news that he is, in fact, Zuse. He and Sam carry on a conversation which is clearly designed to just distract Sam as Flynn’s guys drop down from above (they drop out from one of those planes that clearly Clu doesn’t have or he could have used them to follow the Batmobile earlier). Castor gloats that he no longer believes in the users and a fight starts with 13 appearing out of nowhere as it begins. It’s big and exciting in its own way, I suppose. I note that Sam does a very good job of holding his own against highly trained warrior programs, which makes no sense since, as I mentioned earlier, he doesn’t have any noticeable combat skills.
The fight stops rather abruptly when Flynn turns up. Castor makes a run for it as Flynn grabs Sam and 13 (now missing an arm), and takes them to the elevator. One of the warrior programs fires a grappling hook and steals Flynn’s disc. Then blows up the elevator. Nice to see a bit of competence from the bad guys. His competence doesn’t last long as Castor kills him, takes the disc and begins impersonating Chaplin. I wish that were a lie.
The elevator is now falling out of control. Flynn, being the master user, hacks into it and stops it from falling. Once they’re on the ground, he and Sam have a bit of an argument that ends with Flynn saying, “You’re messin’ with my Zen thing, man.” He then notices that the elevator has conveniently deposited them near a train. He decides that the three of them will hop the train and make a run for the border.
On the train Flynn examines 13 and we get the unsurprising news that she’s an ISO. It seems they have some sort of weird three-strand DNA that he fiddles with while explaining that in the real world she could change everything. Left unexplained is exactly how she’d change everything. He does eventually fix the damaged code which then turns into a moth and flies off. Yes, she had a bug. It’s one of the few clever computer references, so I shall now smile.
Ow. That hurt.
Anyhow, Sam and Flynn are talking with Sam whining about how horrible the real world is. The environment is terrible, the Middle East is a mess, the poor are getting screwed, etc, etc. Of course this ignores the fact that people around the world are healthier and living longer, that poverty is on the decrease, that there’s peace in most countries and that the Cold War has ended, thus stopping the threat of global thermonuclear war.
Anyhow, the world is in fact in far better shape than it’s been at any point in world history, but that goes against the narrative flow of the film, so whatever. I do find it somewhat amusing when Sam mentions wi-fi and Flynn smirks a bit, saying he’d thought of that idea in 1985.
The real purpose of this scene is to establish that Flynn loves his son and that he’d do anything for him. It’s a decent enough scene, I suppose, with some good emotion to it. If the whole film was as well-written we might have really had something good.
We go back to the End of Line Club where Clu and his troops turn up. He and Castor trade some “witty” banter for a bit. This eventually ends with him taking the disc and blowing up the club, killing Gem and Castor in the process. I’m not exactly sure why he kills them, but then again, I’m not entirely sure why he didn’t kill them long ago. Perhaps he’s just tying up loose ends. I’m also surprised Castor didn’t see it coming and didn’t have an escape capsule handy.
One notable thing about the scene is that Castor mentions Clu had been searching for the disc for “about a thousand cycles”. From something Flynn said earlier about the portal, we know that one mili-cycle is about 8 hours. That means eight-thousand hours per cycle. By my math, that’s about 8 million hours or about 365 years. So Clu had 365 years to track down Flynn and get the disc from him and still couldn’t. Oh, yes, he’s a force to be reckoned with, all right.
Back to our three merry fugitives. 13 has woken up and Flynn is meditating. This gives us a chance to have a little heart-to-c:/emotions/love.exe with Sam and 13 as she goes on about wanting to see a sunset. So now we know what the last frame of the movie will be.
Flynn snaps out of his meditation just in time to see they are being followed by a Recognizer that has Rinzler inside. They get off the train at a station where they find several cars full of programs just standing there doing nothing. Flynn explains they are there for Clu to reprogram into being his soldiers, since apparently he can’t create new programs and hasn’t ever heard of copy/paste.
13 sees Rinzler looking for them. She hands her disc off and goes to distract him. A brief fight ensues and she is captured (thus removing herself from the equation, fulfilling the line from earlier), but not before Flynn realizes Rinzler is actually Tron. He and Sam sneak off while 13 is led away.
Now we have Clu’s big moment of exposition where he explains exactly what his plan is and what his motivations are. From what I can tell his plan is to get his army of a few thousand into the real world and completely take over. His motivation is because… I’m not sure? He’s pissed about Flynn, that much is obvious, but clearly he’s not yet completed his task of creating a perfect system, so why is he abandoning that task and going to go take over our world? This just doesn’t make much sense. The speech that he gives is the mirror image of Flynn’s speech from earlier in the movie and that’s kind of clever, I guess. Also at least the scene looks impressive in a vaguely disturbing, Nuremberg kind of way.
While this is going on, Sam sneaks into the area where Clu has placed Flynn’s disc. He has about four guards on this disc. Well, yes, that makes sense. Spend 365 years looking for something and you develop a somewhat casual attitude toward securing it. To be fair, there’s also these other guys who immediately hide behind shielding and who remind me of those goggle-wearing guys from a certain other movie.
Sam, of course, dispenses with the guards very easily, despite him having, as mentioned before, no notable combat training. He gets in, grabs the disc, saves 13 from Rinzler and then grabs a wing-suit to escape to freedom, rendezvousing with Flynn, who has managed to get his hands on an aircraft.
Back up on Clu’s ship, he goes to were the disc was, exchanges a significant look with Rinzler and then, for no obvious reason, kills his lackey before leading his troops to jump out a window. He activates an airborne version of a light-cycle and begins chasing after our heroes.
On the plane, 13 is piloting and Flynn tells her to “head for the light”, a line which doesn’t sound good unless it’s coming from Zelda Rubenstein. 13 then notices the light-jets following them. Flynn sends Sam back to man the rear gun turret and the fight begins!
The fight itself is reasonably well done, though I do find myself confused at one point when 13 flies their plane straight up, another plane follows and then stalls and begins falling. What, there isn’t enough virtual oxygen for his virtual jet engines?
The fight is also reasonably important because it’s when the Stig… Rinzler… Tron… whatever… finally remembers who he is and that he fights for the users! He turns on Clu and they wind up fighting each other. In the end, Clu flies off with Tron’s light-jet while Tron crashes into the water, his lights turning back to blue. So he’s apparently alive, but we’ll never see him again. Meantime, 13 continues to fly the plane, heading toward the portal.
The plane lands and they get out, bee-lining for the portal. Clu, of course, is waiting there to stop them. Clu and Flynn have a bit of a talk, and then Clu kicks Flynn in the crotch so hard he flies backward several feet. I imagine his happy-parts are now in the vicinity of his tonsils. Sam attacks Clu, but since Clu still has his cheat codes enabled, he doesn’t accomplish much.
13 then pops up in time to save Sam from Clu. Clu lets them go and grabs Flynn’s disc, which, unsurprisingly, is actually 13’s disc. He jumps over to the portal to stop Sam and 13 from escaping and it’s that this point that I felt there was something very familiar about the set and the staging, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on what.
Clu charges toward the happy couple as they start to transmit out. Flynn does some weird floor thing that activates a big tractor beam effect and pulls Clu toward him. The two merge and then explode, taking out the portal station, Clu’s carrier ship and lots of things for miles around. Sic Transit Kevin Flynn, at least until we need him for the reported sequel.
Back in the real world, Sam loads the grid onto what appears to be some fancy USB drive that he then wears as a necklace. At least I assume that’s what he’s loading onto it. For all I know he’s vacuumed some Russian porn site.
Out in the arcade we find Alan staring at his pager as Sam appears out of nowhere. How he didn’t hear the sound of Sam’s steps and the opening of the secret passage is beyond me, but there you are. Sam tells Alan he’s making him Chairman and taking back the company. Sam makes some enigmatic comments about Alan being right about everything, and then goes out to his motorcycle where 13 is waiting for him. They then ride off into the sunrise as the movie draws to a close.
So there we go. Twenty-seven years of waiting and we got this. Here’s the thing; it wasn’t a horrible movie. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t hate it as much as… well, basically anything from Michael Bay. The SFX were decent, if not great. At no point was I blown away by them like with the first movie, but they got the job done. The acting was acceptable, especially by Bridges (and I had no problem with the CGI face, unlike many other people), and there was a decent emotional core to parts of the script.
But there were so many, many problems. The ISO concept made no sense to me and wasn’t well explained. We never understood exactly how they were supposed to change everything in the world. Clu’s motivations were also very, very murky. I never got exactly why he was doing what he was doing or what his grand plan was supposed to be. Get out and take over the world, apparently, but that just didn’t make any sense.
Then there’s the other stuff that the first movie did better than this one. The light-cycle race was frankly more interesting in the first movie. The costumes looked better. The MCP and Sark were better villains than Clu. The world that was presented was really unique and interesting, and not like anything we’d seen on screen, where as in this movie it was just reality with a few racing stripes laid over it.
Then there’s the confusing nature of the computer world, which wasn’t exactly clearly explained to begin with. Ok, so you have a universe where programs are out doing things. If someone was a debugging program, you’d see them out hunting viruses and the like. But here you have programs that apparently do nothing but attend games and go to clubs, or are homeless and out on the streets. They don’t appear to have any real function.
But perhaps the most annoying part of the film is that it’s somehow less savvy about computers and cyberspace than a movie that was made back in the early 1980s. In that movie you had a lot more references to computers and how they function than you do in this one.
A lesser complaint is the fact that Tron himself had basically nothing to do with this movie. He had little enough in the first film, but almost nothing happening in this one, and that’s irritating.
Ultimately this was just a wasted opportunity. The producers could have made something really, really great, that could have showed us a really unique, original vision. Instead we got your basic summer sci-fi action film released in December, and that’s just not what we deserved.