One of my biggest Pet peeves is terrible movie that could have been good, movies that were sunk by simple, easy to fix problems; movies that could have been classics instead of bombs. Movies that seem to exist only to infuriate the fans.
Let’s fix Tron Legacy!
First of all, Tron Legacy had a lot going for it:
- No one can deny is is gorgeous. You could snip any shot out of the film and frame it as art.
- It has a solid fan base. While the original Tron was never a blockbuster, over the years it had built up a rabid following.
- It straddles the onslaught of superhero/comic movies, but it is a wholly original Disney property.
There are a lot of reasons, outside of the movie itself, that Tron Legacy probably fell apart: rumors of budget issues, multiple re-writes, death by committees; all of which were probably lethally real. What we saw in the theaters was probably cobbled together from different visions, hastily patched at the 11th hour together to sell seats.
I am not going to guess about the Tron they were trying to make and just work with what I saw.
Problem 1: No One Cares About Things in a Dream
When Tron came out in 1982, the idea that there was a “virtual” world inside of your computer was radical; but in the 28 years between Tron and Tron Legacy, a generation grew up with The Matrix, Jonny Mnumonic, and Hackers (Yes, just because it is a guilty pleasure). A computer world is just a new costume on the old trope, “it was all just a dream” — just another Oz, a magical place where the actions and consequences are not real.
Problem 2: The Real World Has No Point
This is probably one o the most baffling things about Tron Legacy. You spend the first 23 minutes of the movie in the real world — a world that is never impacted by the rest of the movie! You spend 23 minutes meeting a cast of characters that you will never see again.
28 years ago, my dad had to escape Tron, and now, so do I! It reads like the synopsis of Taken 2: Here We Go Again!
Problem 3: Weird Buddhist Overtones
Jeff Bridges, I am looking at you. I loved The Big Lewboski. I loved Tron. I don’t love them together. The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance dialog takes an already abstract movie and makes it both boring and obtuse. It belongs in a another movie. Maybe Lewboski Legacy.
Problem 4: The Isos
Why do I care about the Isos? I get it, they evolved and were not written. They are some kind of life, but a bunch of weird talks about “manifesting” and “god, spirits, aliens” makes it even less clear. “Biodigital Jazz, man!” That line is probably the single point where the movie falls apart the most.
Solution 1: Edward Dillinger Jr.
The uncredited character of Edward Dillinger Jr. makes the real world matter. Cillian Murphy has one scene and makes you want to punch the guy. He is the super villain we have been waiting for.
Solution 2: Tron Is Inside Encom
Q: Why did things go so badly?
A: Edward Dillinger Jr. (See, I said we needed more of him)
Tron is a virtual world, presumably running in FlynnOS, aka the new EncomOS overseen by Dillinger Jr. Since daddy has been away, and Sam has been off pouting, Dillinger Jr. has risen in the ranks, proving he knows how to turn a profit.
EncomOS has gone from Flynn’s original OS, written by a few idealistic friends, to EncomOS 12, buggy bloatware written and re-written by cheap developers to hit deadlines. The focus has been on monetization, app stores, and after market modules that used to be included for free. (See, I told you he was a villain!)
The problem is, Tron keeps running autoupdate. As Encom looses it’s way, so does the world Flynn is trapped in — and he has no way out to fix it. Imagine if you were trapped in a virtual world, and you knew it was just a matter of time until it forced upgraded to Windows 10!
Solution 3: Fix the Isos
Okay, so let’s fix the Isos.
Real things can be scanned into Tron, but virtual things cannot leave to become real. This becomes the McGuffin. Real things can work in both worlds, because they have the “resolution” needed for the real world and the virtual world can contain them. However, pure virtual items and people, things native to the world of Tron, don’t have the required “resolution” to be made real. They fall apart in the real world.
But some freak accident happens. While trapped in Tron, Flynn has been trying to patch FlynnOS from the inside. Bugs and crashes have derezzed whole sectors. The whole system continues to grow more complex and unstable, and he is loosing the battle. In this chaos, with all these external developers and himself all touching bits and pieces of the system, the Iso evolve.
He doesn’t know how, but they have the ability to generate enough “resolution.” They can be real. Flynn knows this, and so does Clu. That is why he hunts them, and why Flynn must hide them.
Solution 4: No Such Thing as Virtual
Tron’s virtual world was supposed to be a utopia, not an OS. The sick or disabled could upload to Tron and live free. You don’t need money in the virtual world, all property is just a copy and paste. Age is something you reset. Learning is something you download.
The only problem with Eden, you cannot leave. Whatever health, property, or skills you acquire in Tron couldn’t download to the real world — until the Isos.
Now, Flynn has the key to copy and past from Tron to the real world. Money, health, food, even people could be downloaded into reality. But in the wrong hands, this kind of power would destroy the world, and the whole secret is in the OS. Encom12 has the secret to saving or destroying the world hidden in the code and it is available to anyone who knows where to look.
Realizing his idealist dream was possible, he stopped to realize it was too dangerous. If he left, the programs would learn how and follow him. So he stayed, self-exiled in Tron; not believing that humanity nor his programs were ready for this kind of power nor for each other.
Then Sam shows up. Does he trust Sam to take this power and make the right decisions for everyone. He would have the power of a Tron User in both the Tron world, and the real world. If Sam goes back, there will just be one world — as the door would now go both ways.