Videogum

The Videogum Movie Club: TRON: Legacy

Remember Y2K, you guys? That was the best. So scary! Haha. Y2K. What was THAT all about? I’m not sure I ever even understood it completely, but the basic idea, if I remember it correctly, was that the Eastern Seaboard’s power grid was going to shut down, all of the banks were going to go to zero, and the world was going to collapse into the ocean because the clock in the upper right hand corner of your desktop thought it was midnight on January 1st, 1603, or whatever. Sure. Let’s all build bomb shelters, JIC. (Obviously, I make jokes, but I’m still pretty nervous about Y2K because as far as I’m concerned, the threat is still real and it is still out there. In case you have not noticed, computers STILL HAVE CLOCKS on them, as if we REFUSE TO LEARN OUR LESSON.) Anyway, there is something about Lawnmower Man 2 Tron: Legacy that speaks very deeply to our communal (and persistent and vivid and serious and real) Y2K fears. In a world that is self-destructing in actual, calculable ways, with genuine and persistent threats of annihilation all around us, the idea that a VIDEOGAME is going to TAKE OVER is fun and hilarious. Because no it’s not. CGI Jeff Bridges face terrifies me for lots of reasons, but that is not one of them.

TRON: Legacy was so fucking stupid that it almost didn’t matter how stupid it was. Fun trick!

As soon as you start actually THINKING about this movie, it falls apart so quickly that it’s laughable. Even the “real” world makes no sense. I’m sorry, but there is no such thing as an abandoned arcade where they just threw tarps over all the games and locked the door for 25 years, but still pay the electric bill every month. And are you really going to tell me that an internationally famous videogame designer (ha) is going to hide his secret laboratory in some kind of child’s dungeon behind the Pac Man machine? No. But the real trouble, of course, comes on The Grid. WHAT’S UP WITH THE GRID, YOU GUYS? For ne thing, if you are going to create a world entirely of your imagination, maybe you should create it better. Because that place is terrifying and also shitty. Oh, and here’s a question: WHY DOES A COMPUTER NEED A BEDROOM?

Why does a computer need anything, really? Like, why does a computer need a motorcycle? Why does a computer need a fancy rooftop cocktail lounge with celebrity DJs? Why does a computer need an executive assistant? When a computer goes to watch computer prisoners compete in computer games to the computer death in a computer stadium, do they need to buy computer tickets? Why is a computer embarrassed when it knocks over a vase? Why does a computer jet that is imagined by a computer and flying through the computer sky in a computer world STALL OUT SOMETIMES? These are the types of questions you might ask yourself while watching Tron: Legacy, but you should be careful, because they’ll make your head fall right off.

The analogous world would probably be that of The Matrix, but there is an explanation of The Matrix’s simulation, which is that it was designed by the machines to trick HUMAN BEINGS so that they would not realize they were being turned into ROBOT JUICE. Here, there are no human beings. So the computer is just…tricking itself? Speaking of the computer…

Have you ever heard that apocryphal story about how when native Americans first encountered European explorers, they thought that they had just magically appeared on the beach even though there was a giant anchored ship in the water because a giant anchored ship was so unlike anything the native Americans had ever encountered that they didn’t have the neural-networking to process the visual information? (The extension of this idea suggests that were aliens to land in Central Park right now, we might not be able to see their spaceship not because it was invisible but because it would be so unlike anything we were used to processing visually that it wouldn’t register in our brains. I’m not making this up, I read it somewhere. Someone else might have been making it up, but it was not me. Anyway!) That is how I feel about the Jeff Bridges CGI face. Like, I don’t even have the emotional intelligence to describe the many existential horrors I feel when I look at it.

Oh, and speaking of the computer…

If you are so emotionally ravaged by the disappearance of your father and consumed by social dysfunction to the point that you’ve never had a human girlfriend, something tells me you’re not going to fare much better with a COMPUTER GIRLFRIEND. Like, having a COMPUTER GIRLFRIEND is the definition of a DIFFICULT RELATIONSHIP. I just don’t think Sam even has the tools necessary to make that one work. You need a lot of very deep knowledge of your own needs and expectations in an intimate, romantic couple to even begin to approach that thing. And what is going to happen to his computer girlfriend if they break up? Yikes. I guess, J-Date?

The movie had other problems, too, of course. Like all the dialogue in the first half of the movie being so weird and clunky (“I have a dog, Marvyn. He’s a rescue.” HUH?) just so that they could make a call-back to it in the second half of the movie so that DUMB DUMBS would think that was so impressive and, like, “fate” or “the circle of life” or something when really it is just the very laziest possible writing. The very worst instance of this being when Sam is meeting with Alan in his admittedly AMAZING AND WONDERFUL APARTMENT at the beginning of the movie and is like “Come on, Alan, do you really think I’m ready to run a Fortune 500 company?” and you know immediately that at the end of the movie he will definitely be ready to run a Fortune 500 company, but so, ultimately, the real DRAMATIC STAKES of the movie are that we are supposed to be excited and hopeful to see whether this brat decides he’s ready to be a CEO? Cool stakes. HOPE THAT PORTAL CLOSES SOON.

Also on the matter of dialogue, hey, Jeff Bridges, you haven’t seen your son in 20 years because you’ve been trapped in a computer nightmare. How about SPRUCING UP YOUR RHETORIC, BUDDY? If I hadn’t seen my dad in 20 years and he kept calling me “man,” I would punch him right in his dadface

And yet, despite ALL OF THIS, I still had a fun enough time. Don’t ask me to explain it. I’m sure it is some kind of BIOINTERNETJAZZ, MAN, but the fact that it was so dumb kind of let it off the hook. You know what I mean? Like, fair enough. We can’t all be smart. We can’t all even make any sense whatsover, apparently. But 3D laser-beam motorcycle chases? Why not! 3D laser-beam sword fights? Sure! 3D laser-beam Daft Punk soundtracks? Yes, please! But ultimately, why this movie that was so bad in so many ways was entirely enjoyable is just one more unanswerable mystery to throw onto this movie’s giant unanswerable mystery pile. Maybe it’s that sometimes you just want to unplug and have fun. Get it? Unplug? COMPUTERS USE PLUGS! Tronnnnnnnn.