TRON: Legacy was released in 2010 as a sequel to the original and revolutionary 1982 cult classic TRON. TRON, directed by Steve Lisberger, was one of the first films to use vast amounts of computer graphics to generate its unique aesthetics. TRON: Legacy, which sees Lisberger return to produce, improves upon the strides that TRON made, with upgraded visuals and stunning cinematography that utilizes the film’s stylistic choices to its advantage. TRON: Legacy, while not new, is one of Disney’s few attractive films as it was before the oversaturation and overworking of CGI and VFX artists. The film was not received with average reviews but it was a success at the box office, grossing over $400 million on a $170 million budget.
The highlights of this film are no doubt the aesthetics, computer graphics, and Daft Punk’s score. The visual team utilized chroma keying which relies on green screens to generate the stunning graphics seen within the film. Chroma keying is the process of selecting specific colors in different images and then compositing the images over one another to create a final shot. This is what leads to the stunning juxtaposition of colors within The Grid, the virtual reality world where the story takes place. The graphics create a stylish setting of dark shadows and breathtaking neons. Another stride taken in the visual effects department for its time revolves around the character of Clu as he was created using similar techniques to the Avatar movies. With a modern perspective, it is easier to point out the flaws in Clu’s graphics, but the character’s design is still monumental because he is one of the first characters to be digitally rendered.
A notable achievement for the film was its Best Sound Editing Oscar nomination in 2011. The film seamlessly blends the score, dialogue, and sound effects, but unfortunately lost to Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Most notable and well-known is the fantastic score by Daft Punk featuring more than 30 songs and even a cameo from the duo in the film. Daft Punk’s album was so successful it even hit number six on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. Songs like “Son of Flynn,” “Derezzed,” and “End of the Line” are some of the most popular from the album.
The story of TRON: Legacy follows a classic Wizard of Oz model. The main character, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is transported into his missing father’s (Jeff Bridges) last project titled The Grid- a virtual reality composed of “programs” and, before the disappearance of Sam’s father, “users” (humans). Sam Flynn enters The Grid and is captured as a “program with no disc,” leading to Sam’s initiation into a series of deadly contests titled “The Games.” During one of the matches, Sam is revealed to be a user which creates an upset within The Grid. He is brought before The Grid’s leader, a “program” Clu, a digital replicant of Sam’s father who believes in ultimate perfection, destroying anything that gets in his way, including Kevin Flynn (Bridges), the creator of the game, the star of TRON (1982), and father of Sam Flynn, as well as a species of isomorphic algorithms called the ISOs. When Sam eventually escapes The Games, he is rescued by Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Kevin Flynn’s apprentice. Quorra is responsible for reuniting Sam with his father, who had been trapped in the VR when Clu betrayed him and closed the portal to the real world. This initiates a mission to destroy Clu and get back to the real world that Sam, Quorra, and Kevin Flynn all partake in.
The film touches on several themes that cover wide arrays of meaning. With nicely developed characters, the themes are well-communicated and powerful, especially considering the subject of technology in an increasingly media-filled world. The director, Joseph Kosinski describes the main theme as being “finding a human connection in a digital world” which is tackled through the reunion between Sam and his father as well as the blossoming relationship between Sam and Quorra. The trio is the humanity in the story (literally in regards to Sam and Kevin Flynn) and they find a way to overcome the obstacles that Clu throws at them throughout the film. Another theme reflected in the film is the idea of one’s younger self-being a villain to the present self. This notion is quite on the nose as Clu is a digital replicant of Kevin Flynn’s younger self and is obviously the antagonist. The film also has clear biblical implications as Kevin Flynn is meant to represent God, the creator, and Sam Flynn, the savior, is meant to represent Jesus. Quorra represents humanity as a part of the ISO species who died for their imperfection which is meant to represent sin. Clu would obviously be the devil as he corrupts The Grid and betrays God (Kevin Flynn).
While this film is extremely fun to watch, it does have major flaws that are hard to miss. One of the most apparent is the lack of female characters. The female characters that are included are done so in a troubling way with either no dialogue or they are a fantasy of male desire. Quorra (Wilde) is a character that falls into the “born sexy yesterday” trope where she is described as “profoundly naive,” and “unimaginably wise.” This trope is a pattern in films that clearly exhibits the male gaze. They focus on the female character’s power, sexualized looks, and intelligence while simultaneously belittling her with the attitude and naivety of a toddler. She is meant to be unaware of her sex appeal and therefore is left vulnerable to the male gaze and must be “educated” by a male character within the movie. While Quorra is described as androgynous by Olivia Wilde, this trait is assigned solely because of the character's short hair. Quorra still is hyper-sexualized in a tight outfit and she fights in heels throughout the movie. While Quorra is still an exciting character to watch, the gender politics of her character cannot go unnoticed.
The script is another area of criticism. The film feels overstuffed making it lack some of the powerful punches a movie about a father and son reuniting might pack. The script falls flat in some of the most important points which is not helped by the just-okay acting performances involved. The film is occupied with the spectacle of the amazing visuals, distracting many viewers from the lacking script and story.
While the film’s flaws are apparent, it does not completely take away from the excitement audiences get from watching. Tron: Legacy’s aesthetics combined with creative fight scenes that utilize slow motion and an absolutely banging soundtrack, this movie is an incredible watch that must be seen at least once.
Written by Marli Dorn