Being a fan of the original 1982 Tron seems to be the only requirement for liking the new sequel 28 years in the making. So, if you didn’t appreciate the original, you won’t like the sequel. If you haven’t seen the original, you may want to get your hands on it before going to see the new sequel because odds have it that you’ll waste your money otherwise. Mixed reviews and a confused audience are the true legacy of Tron, so don’t be disappointed if the sequel is rated as a big flop—it’s bound to become a cult classic just like its predecessor.
Make sure you also listen to our Tron (1982) episode.
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Spoiler-free Tron: Legacy review
Don’t forget to listen to the review of the original Tron that inspired the Are You Just Watching?™ podcast. Because of the history we have with this movie, seeing and reviewing Tron: Legacy is a big deal for us. We both highly enjoyed the movie and hope that you do too.
Tron: Legacy did have violence, but very little blood. There were no sex scenes, no kissing, and only a couple sexually provocative characters, so Tron: Legacy will rate well on a family friendly scale. Don’t forget to check out the Focus on the Family review on PluggedIn.com.
What they did right
The original Tron was so original both in its concept and its production that to this day it stands alone among a slew of classic films—even if most audiences of its era were left scratching their heads in bewilderment. What Tron: Legacy did right was that it preserved the general character of the original while at the same time updating it to provide the type of eye candy that today’s audiences expect, and at the same time continuing the story rather than remaking it. The single “original” effect in the sequel, however, was the CGI character of Clu—the program doppelganger of Jeff Bridges character Kevin Flynn, which while done well definitely had room for improvement.
Tron: Legacy appeals to a very narrow audience, and those loyal to the original—definitely a specific generation—are going to appreciate a stroll down memory lane. From the music playing in the derelict arcade to the exclamations that come out of Kevin Flynn at moments of awe, the whole movie is a roller coaster ride through a generation’s fond memories of the ‘80s without actually going there. While I was hoping that a Tron sequel would deal with the expansion of computer technology in the digital age, the fact that it remained trapped in a grid that was created in the ‘80s made sense in the storyline as presented. Perhaps if the movie does well enough, there will be another sequel that carries the grid into the digital age. I still want to see that.
Warning: the remainder of these shownotes and podcast contain spoilers. If you don’t want Tron:Legacy to be spoiled, stop now and please come back later.
The story and philosophy of Tron: Legacy
Like the original, Tron: Legacy blatantly works in a great deal of philosophical commentary. Most of it will go over the heads of the audiences who are coming to be wowed by special effects and are not prepared to see, let alone deal with, deep meaning. The “user myth” that was so prominent in the original movie has taken side stage to more modern religious perceptions—such as evolution, false deity, and the idea that “perfection is unknowable.” As they said, “every idea man ever had in the universe is up for grabs.”
Much like the new Star Trek, the plot of Tron: Legacy presents a reckless young man who has lost his father who learns to shoulder responsibility.
Rebellion against the creator
Flynn created Clu (“in my own image”) in the original Tron and even called him “the best program ever written,” which was reiterated in Tron: Legacy. Clu was made to build perfection, and he believed himself to be perfect, but he felt second-place to the newly discovered ISOs and thus sought to destroy them. He pursued his own power because he said Flynn was “flawed.” This reminds of us Isaiah [14:12]–21.
The other side: our hope, our destiny
It’s a classic proverb that “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” In Tron: Legacy, it’s not the grass that’s greener, it’s the destiny that is brighter. Kevin Flynn claims at the beginning, that “in there [the Grid] is our destiny.” Of Flynn, Alan said, “He was talking about genetic algorithms, quantum teleportation. He said was about to change everything: science, medicine, religion.”
At the end of the movie, Clu (Flynn’s program doppelganger) proclaims that their destiny is “out there” in the real world. The portal that separates the two worlds is the fence. Amazing, isn’t it, that satisfaction is always somewhere else?
Flynn saw the Grid as his means to eternal life, but Clu saw the real world as his means of greater power.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6, NASB)
In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (John 1:4, NASB)
The “ISOs”—isometric organisms—are described as a new life form that simply manifested with no clear origin—a type of digital evolution. They are described as being “profoundly naïve and manifestly wise.” Flynn—who is the creator in the Tron: Legacy grid—says regarding ISO code “I wrote some of it—the rest is beyond me.” The code itself appears in a double helix much like DNA.
Flynn even called Quorra “a digital frontier to reshape the human condition.”
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him.” (Genesis [1:27]a, NASB)
Eastern philosophy/Zen Buddhism
The “religion” of Tron: Legacy is Zen Buddhism. Flynn comes across as a type of Zen Buddhist monk. Many of the quotes from him exude Zen philosophy and his search for the perfect life form that can attain for humanity a type of perfect enlightenment is heavily Buddhist is origin.
“The Art of the Selfless—to remove oneself from the equation.”
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John [15:13], NASB)
“Sometimes life has a way of moving you past wants and hopes.”
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians [4:19], NASB)
“Knocking on the sky and listening to the sound.”
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, (Ephesians [6:18], NASB)
“You’re ruining my zen.”
Does Tron: Legacy illustrate salvation?
Yes and no. First look at The Grid as a mirror of our world. Flynn is the creator (even called “father”) who transcended and stepped into The Grid so that he could live among his creation. Clu is embodiment of evil and seeks to undermine everything Flynn does and, himself, transcend beyond the confines of the world of which he is “prince.” But ISOs are like the chosen race who enamor Flynn and become his focus and even love while Clu seeks to destroy the ISOs. Ultimately, Flynn sacrifices himself for both his creation: both digital and physical.
But don’t start your sermon engines yet! Flynn did not directly create nor even fully understand the ISOs. In many ways, he saw the ISOs as greater and wiser than himself, which is contrary to Psalm 8’s description of man as “a little lower than the angels” (some believe this should be “a little lower than God”). Flynn is also trapped and must be rescued by his son, although he sacrifices himself rather than sending his son as a sacrifice for his creation, as God did for us (John [3:16]). Clu seeks order and perfection, Flynn calls chaos “good news.”
The search for perfection
In Tron: Legacy, the search for perfection is the mechanism of destruction. Flynn has grown up during his 20 years trapped on the Grid and has realized that he has “screwed up chasing after perfection.” Unfortunately, he programed Clu when he was younger and more naïve, and Clue has continued his destructive quest for perfection—even to the point of wanting to carry it into the real world—because after all: “What’s more imperfect than our world?”
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned– (Romans [5:12], NASB)
But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter [3:13], NASB)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1, NASB)
Contrary “Perfection is unknowable.”
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew [5:48], NASB)
The creator and his fallen right hand man
Flynn is described as the creator of the Grid. At one point, Quorra says “The creator, your father, saved me.” Clu was the created being that stood at the side of the creator but then fell from that position—much like Lucifer is described in Isaiah [14:12]-21. Another parallel between Clu and Satan is that Clu is not a creator. As said in the movie: “[Clu] can’t create programs, only destroy or repurpose them”
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John [10:10], NASB)
What they did wrong
Audiences that are primed to love Tron: Legacy will see the piracy of whole scenes from other movies as the producers’ open attempt to credit all of the revolutionary films that like the original Tron have had huge impacts on the evolution of special effects through the years—Star Wars, The Matrix, etc.—but unfortunately, stealing whole scenes from other movies is bound to garner negative comment from critics prepared to be disappointed. Tipping the hat to other classics should be done more subtly so that educated audiences can congratulate themselves on finding the references. Unfortunately, many audiences are going to walk out of Tron: Legacy asking themselves why so much of the movie seemed familiar, and not because it was a sequel.
The lack of an interesting storyline and audience affinity for any of the characters is not surprising, since the original had the same problem. Unfortunately, this will also bring the movie lackluster, if not fully negative, reactions from holiday movie goers. The movie might have been a better release for spring or fall when its targeted appeal might have netted a better reaction.
Room for a sequel?
The character Tron is repurposed by Clu and goes by a different name in the movie. You see him at the end of the movie recovering his purpose to “fight for the users” and his ultimate end is left hanging. Sam saves the Grid onto a storage device and hangs it around, and Quorra makes it into the real world with him. Enough loose ends for a sequel? Maybe, but it’s highly unlikely.
What did you think?
What did you think of Tron: Legacy? Comment on the shownotes, email feedback@AreYouJustWatching.com (audio feedback welcome), or call (903) 231-2221. You can also follow Daniel and Eve on Twitter. Please join our Facebook Page and don’t forget to leave us some five-star reviews in iTunes! Are You Just Watching?™ is produced and sponsored by D.Joseph Design. The opening vocal talent is thanks to Mariah. Our theme song is used courtesy of Answers in Genesis, from their exciting vacation Bible school curriculum, Operation Space.