Here is a synopsis of TRON Legacy for those that did not understand it or perhaps to give those who thought the story too shallow a chance to reconsider. There are spoilers but it might not really matter.
TRON Legacy is a continuation of the original Tron but you really don’t need that story to get what is going on. Suffice it to say, computer user Kevin Flynn rigged a laser to zap himself into a computer and ended up saving the computer world with the help of a security program called Tron who was modeled after his programmer, Alan Bradly.
In the latest movie we find out that Kevin, now a huge computer mogul (ala Bill Gates / Steve Jobs), has had a kid – our new hero Sam Flynn but on Sam’s 12th birthday (or whatever) Kevin disappears.
Sam grows up troubled (his mother had died prior to the disappearance) and only Alan believes that his father would not have run away because “Flynn was on to something big”. The audience at this point would expect Flynn to be in the computer and the question is – what happened to him there that he would not come back out to the son he loved.
Flynn’s company, ENCOM (or whatever), is now being run by “bad” guys and Alan, who is on the board, desperately wishes Sam would show interest in the company – Sam owns most of the shares but to show his disdain, has taken to yearly hacking or pranking the company in fairly exciting ways judging by the endeavor at the start of the movie – pretty exciting.
This all changes when Alan receives a page from Flynn’s old number at the arcade. Sam goes to check it out and gets zapped into the computer world.
Rather than tell the story as it unfolds I am now going to just explain.
Flynn had built a second computer environment (or grid). This time it was more a virtual world rather than a world of computer parts like the first TRON movie. He made a program called CLU to help him create the world and CLU looked just like him. Their goal was to make a perfect world.
As it happened, an unexpected intelligence formed out of their system that was self healing, peaceful and wise – called the ISO (equal). This was the miracle that Flynn had discovered just before he disappeared. This type of emergence will probably happen in artificial intelligences running inside quantum computers as far as I am concerned – I am writing sci-fi stories about it – but also hope to actually partake in making it happen.
CLU got jealous because he thought he was supposed to make the perfect world so he destroyed them, abducted/converted TRON to his side and trapped Flynn in computer world.
A few things to note:
- There is a portal that Flynn comes in and goes out on – an uplink or whatever and it can’t stay open for long due to energy and it can’t be opened from inside the computer.
- Blue neon energy represents the good side and red represents the bad side. The good side is the users or the real people and the bad side is the computer or artificial people. This is a generalization but they follow it in the movie. So when Tron gets converted you see his blue energy turn red.
- Time appears to pass much faster inside the computer – this again is at the heart of my sci-fi stories where eons go by in nano civilizations in seconds of our time.
So… Flynn is stuck in the computer and after many years he has come to the conclusion that doing nothing is how to beat CLU. CLU had been just feeding on any rebellion and Flynn now just meditates and waits for rebellion to come from within or perhaps help to come from outside the system. CLU in the meanwhile has built a huge regime of organized warriors in a watched civilization.
There is a game of cat and mouse that has been going on. CLU wants Flynn’s memory disk. The disks are mounted to the back of all computer people and holds their memories and data. Flynn’s holds information about the uplink and the user’s world which CLU wants because CLU wants to continue his reign by taking over the human world and making it “more perfect”. CLU has been building a secret army for this purpose.
In a move to shake up things, CLU pages Alan in the real world. CLU hopes that Alan will open the portal and indeed the message gets to Sam and Sam opens the portal.
This is the background in which the bulk of the movie takes place. It is an adventure of escaping the evil regime and it is absolutely visually spectacular and elegant. So much so you just keep thinking, wow – how beautiful – I want to be here…
But then the amazing message kicks in as the hero escapes back to our world. The message has been there in all that Flynn has come to realize. Perfection is not being perfect. Perfection is all the freedom and individuality found in our world every day in every ordinary way – with every sunset and emotion that we just take for granted. It is an amazing message – deep and true.
And critics somehow call TRON shallow and I hear people leaving the theatre saying they did not understand it. This on both sides seems crazy to me and I am sure would seem crazy to the creators. It is currently, a very hard world to please. So blasé on one side and so pandered on the other.
I found the story refreshing – it gave the world space. Disney, is first and foremost a story teller. Compare the complexity of Pirates of the Caribbean with the simplicity of TRON and you see the breadth of their artistry.