Sunday, December 26, 2010

TRON: Legacy

The main attraction of the original TRON was the immerse atmosphere. The visuals were just so unique that you didn't really care about the plot. The new version is very similar. The plot is weak but it looks so good that it is worth going to.

The basic premise is similar - a human finds himself inside a computer grid. The specifics have changed with technology.

When the original as made most people accessed a mainframe through terminals. Most people accessing computers were programmers. The characters in the computer were programs. Each program looked like the person who created it. Everything was fine until a new security program called the MCP took over and shut down access between the users and their programs. A program called TRON and a user named Flynn managed to shut down the MCP and open up access to the IO towers allowing programs and users to communicate again.

Nowadays everyone has one or more computers. Today's cell phones have more processing power than a 1982 mainframe and much of the computing has moved onto the "cloud". None of that is reflected in TRON: Legacy. Instead, Flynn worked on building a new, perfect world somewhere - probably in a mainframe or cluster. Flynn created a program named Clu to help him. As in the original movie, Clu looks like Flynn did when he created Clu. Flynn became trapped and, years later, his son goes looking for him and ends up in the digitized world.

TRON was the first movie to make extensive use of Computer Generated Images (CGI). These were limited and very simple. Most CGI shots were not integrated with the live action. Most of the movie was shot in black and white with glowing colors added with back lighting and hand animation. This is not an issue with the new movie. In fact, Clu is one of the biggest effects. Since he is supposed to look like Flynn did in his 30s, the computer animators filmed the modern Jeff Bridges and digitally removed years from his face.

In the original movie, Dillinger, the man who created the MCP also stole some game programs from Flynn. Flynn needed access to the mainframe to prove that he actually wrote the programs. By this point MCP had absorbed hundreds of other programs and was much smarter than Dylan's original creation.

The new movie has a quick appearance by Dillinger's son who was in charge of the company's new operating system. Since the original movie the corporation Encom has gone from producing games to making operating systems. There is a dispute about operating systems being free or proprietary. While this could be aimed at Microsoft, these days Encom is closer to Apple since they are trying to create a walled ecosystem around their computers.

One last note - don't bother paying extra for 3D. The real world parts of the movie were filmed in 2D and it makes very little difference to the parts of the movie taking place in the computer.

A bit of trivia - Flynn wrote a program named Clu in the first movie but it was destroyed early on.

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