Thursday, January 13, 2011

Overthinking for the User

Upon watching Tron: Legacy for the third time today (different days with different people) it dawned on me again that I wanted to blog about it, so now I am.

I was talking with Jason about the the movie the first time I watched it and I said, “You know what this is right? It’s freeware, open-source. Like with wikipedia, Google Chrome, torrents and the like.” “They’ve been doing that for years, it was called Linux.” “You realize we’re watching a movie about communists, right?”

Kevin Flynn is essentially a Jimmy Wales that somehow ran a giant profitable corporation that was worth millions of dollars and yet at the same time wanted all information to be open and free. Right.

While talking about the movie with Gwen she brought up that there were a lot of plot holes that she hopes they address in the third installment of the series. Though we never got around to discussing what those plot holes she had qualms with exactly, I think that most of those holes are mostly things that could be explained away with slight assumptions. Although nagging questions did pursue me throughout the film. Dinner time? Did they really have to eat? Are there cleanly lit and streamlined toilets? What is that blue stuff they’re drinking? Why can’t CLU just design light-bikes that can go off-grid, Flynn’s sure can. And was it really so hard to find Flynn’s little Zen hideaway? He has a goddamn balcony and lights there are clearly visible from a bird’s eye view which the Tron Recognizers (the big Torii shaped things) can fly up to which was shown in the movie! And as Tycho of Penny Arcade addressed in his one-panel rant on the film, the portal, which is supposed to be difficult to get to has a goddamn train that goes straight to it! Why did CLU have to kill Zeus? Is he insane? I think that whole business was really just an attempt to make him seem more “evil.” Where does the power come from in the world? Do they have power plants? Is there infinite power? How old was Quorra when he found her? How many cycles ago was that? How many cycles in a year? Do isos age?

I liked the film a good bit. I think of it as a visceral experience. Many of the complaints that other reviewers had regarding the movie involved the simplistic nature of the characters and plotline. I didn’t mind it so much since I wasn’t exactly expecting my mind to be blown. Where I think it functions well is as your basic popcorn action-adventure film although I would agree that there was much more potential for exploration of a deeper plot and characters with struggles greater than an overarching escape plot. Sam Flynn’s character is about as deep as tidepool. Although he played the dumb-struck everyman fairly well, but his seemingly permanent forehead wrinkle was definitely distracting. Olivia Wilde was gorgeous as usual, her asymmetrical bangs and skin-tight outfit definitely made her more mouthwateringly-noticable than as 13 in House.

The CG world crafted is exceptionally beautiful and the highly digitized soundtrack that was done by Daft Punk is extremely fitting for the film with Derezzed, End of Line, and Closing Credits being my favorite tracks.

A definite caveat I have about the film is that the entire conflict hinged upon one thing. Bad design. If Kevin Flynn was such a genius computer software designer and amazing corporate mogul than you would think he would have the sense to design things so that they were “idiot proof.” A real Kevin Flynn would probably consider Moore’s Law every step of the way. So think about it. I’m going to enter/create this digital world. The portal into this digital world is only open for a limited time. Why? Apparently it costs a lot of power to keep open. ::SHAWOMP:: (That’s the sound of plot-holes closing). Notice that he is extremely vague about where all this power comes from. Is it from the “real world”? Is it from the Grid? If it costs so much power it probably wouldn’t make sense to leave it on at all. It should be run on as needed basis. Maybe you would have enough power if you didn’t redundantly light up EVERYTHING (although it is very cool and futurist.) Furthermore it can only be opened from the outside, like a safe. ::SHAWOMP:: This is the single biggest design flaw I’ve ever heard. That’s like making it so that someone were to sign into World of Warcraft, but they can only play for a limited time, and if they go over that limit they are stuck in there FOREVER (which would be a genius ploy by Blizzard if they were paying by a credit card although I suppose they would probably default on their credit card bill because they’re stuck in the Grid, I mean Azeroth.) In addition to these side-stepped issues, why didn’t Kevin Flynn tell Alan Bradley what he was doing in the Grid so he would have someone to get him out of the Grid in case he was, I dunno, STUCK IN THERE FOREVER BECAUSE THE PORTAL CLOSED ON HIM.

Despite all this. There is one thing about the film that really does make me upset. Everything else can be explained away by not having enough time to address it or making some base assumptions about the world. However this one was simply a bad choice by the creators, writers, director, etc. a huge missed-opportunity. Kevin Flynn’s Lightcycle. It had all the makings for an epic action-adventure and chase sequence. Nerds (which are the only ones to really sink their teeth into this film, like myself) fucking love Lightcycles. Quorra literally says the words “. . .still the fastest thing on the Grid.” So as the audience you must be thinking, “Oh I guess we’re going to find out how fast.” AND on top of that there is implied danger upon getting back to the Grid that he’ll face resistance “if you can get to Zeus he can get you anywhere” or something like that. And then what happens after all this expectation is placed on Kevin Flynn’s Lightcycle? Sam leisurely rides it into town with NO RESISTENCE AT ALL, not even a damn toll booth! Then he gives THE FASTEST THING ON THE GRID to some bum. WHAT?! Most wasted opportunity for epic race/chase/battle that I can remember.

I still recommend people to see the movie. Although it doesn’t lend itself well to plot-interpretation or “logic” at all times it’s still a fun movie. And I know, I know while people are reading this they’re going to, at some point think, “It’s just a movie.” And I would agree, yes, movies, that is of the fictional variety do require a suspension of disbelief. However I think a good film manages to earn the respect of the viewer. I feel like I shouldn’t have to suspend my own disbelief that a proper film should lend itself to that feeling naturally (unless the whole point of the film is the unbelievable or the nonsensical).

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