So when did Recognizers need jet-engines? (Contains TRON : Legacy Spoilers)

by Stephen Hobley on December 20, 2010

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I was 12 when the first TRON movie came out – which as far as I can tell was the intended demographic for the movie.

I was so impressed with the then-unbelievable graphics (“Hey, how come you can’t see the pixels?”) that I ran out of the cinema and back around the front to buy another ticket for the following day.

So I was kinda-excited to see that Disney were going to reactivate the franchise with a new movie this year.

Spoilers Ahead


I got a ticket to the IMAX 3D version, which as a format is always impressive – but after about 30 minutes I began to get the sinking feeling that something was wrong with this movie. When I think about all the things they could have done – Facebook, Twitter, Spam Email… The list goes on and on.

I thought we were being set up for this with the introductory sequence about ENCOM 12’s potential worldwide market, but alas it was not to be. As far as I can tell all the action took place in a dusty old “mainframe” in the back of a video arcade.

The plot seemed to be incomprehensible – mixing religion and first person shooters – but then so was the first movie, so no real problem with that.

Maybe we’ve all become way too savvy about the inner workings of computers, but the world of TRON : Legacy no longer seemed representative of a “computer” environment. The video game TRON 2.0 did a great job of this – moving from different devices, setting “jumpers” and overclocking a CPU all added to create the illusion that this world was somehow inside the machine.

Anyway back to Legacy, my top 10 list of personal gripes:

  1. Grid world too real – would have preferred a completely rendered world – including all the programs, save maybe Flynn 1 + 2. (Could have saved some money with Clu2, and hired more writers…)
  2. Token British villain – check. utterly pointless “cameo” by Martin Sheen
  3. Recognizers don’t need engines, the first ones came from a game – hence the funky noise, but these didn’t (AFAIK) so the only engines they need are these : y=y+n;
  4. Ditto Light Cycles.
  5. What was the point of building the fastest cycle on the grid, just to mosey-on-downtown in it, then forget about it?
  6. And while we’re on it – if you make lightcycles operate in 3D, and curve and bank gently, it weakens the challenge of the game.
  7. if (Cycle.TurnRight && y_vel = 0) { y_vel = x_vel; x_vel = 0;} // DO NOT REMOVE
  8. No David Warner (my British villain of choice) – just his Cillian Murphy look-a-like of a son.
  9. The shameless TRON 3.0 setup.
  10. What the *flip* do ISOs actually do? OK so this thing kind of worked in Pulp Fiction / Ronin – but a little more work on the plot, please.

I postulate (like Walter Bishop does) that the ISO’s were the first glimpse of true AI, and so would probably accelerate technological development towards a “singularity” [Until they decide they don’t need us any more – but that’s a whole different franchise – Ed]

To provide some balance, here are my 5 favourite bits:

  1. The big door – ok the first references to the original movie were cool, but they soon got old.
  2. The slo-mo, jump-in-the-air, breaking-the-rod, lightcycle-res-up thingy.
  3. The Wardrobe Fembots – nice bit of coordinated walking in insanely high heels
  4. WarGames reference
  5. Daft Punk

For me, this updated computer world was just too tangible and real. What made the original TRON fun was that its world could be affected and controlled with abstract computer operations. This is what gave the ‘users’ their power – they knew about the wiring under the board.

The world of TRON : Legacy was just too close to our own.

All things considered, I think South Park did it better…



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

David December 21, 2010 at 7:14 am

The digital world of “the grid” looks so different to the the world of tron in the first film, because Flynn himself designed it. It’s not the same system so he took elements of the real world and placed them into this new grid before CLU went mental and took completely over.

This is why things like jet engines, or realistic looking pavements etc would be in this grid. The Grid was initially designed to be a real world, digital world, hybrid.

The Real question should be why would CLU leave these things in the design, after he came to conclusions that user control was imperfect? I’m willing to over look that though as the new grid design reinforces that this is a different system that is much more advanced than the last one, even if it’s running on 1987 hardware. If we can bring ourself to believe the first system could look like that on the “inside” running on 1982 hardware, the 1987 look of the the grid in Tron Legacy isn’t that far fetched at all.

Wedge W. January 14, 2011 at 9:06 pm

As one who was a kid when TRON came out and loved it, I can relate to wishing the electronic world in TRON Legacy looked more….otherworldly and less like a futuristic real world.

But I think David is correct. I mean, the original ENCOM system was just your average corporate computer system (with the non-average MCP). It would have been designed (BIOS, OS, etc.) to do normal computer stuff. On the other hand, Flynn created his system for the explicit purpose of figuring out how to create utopia (by world building in the electronic world). So, it seems to me, he would have designed it (BIOS, OS, etc.) to give some real world touches to the electronic world.

In short, the computing environment of the Grid was designed to alter normal reality for programs…to simulate the real world. The original system was not. Thus, what we saw in the first film is normal reality for programs. What we saw in the second film was not.

That’s my theory (and seems to be David’s as well). I hope something akin to that is what the writers had in mind. Because if there is a third film, and it doesn’t take place on The Grid, I’m hoping the electronic world looks a little more like it did in the original film (if in no other way than the notion of looking otherworldly and digital).

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