Academic Research / Computer Culture

Tron: Legacy, The Legacy Experience

My experience with Tron: Legacy last night has changed the way I see movies (and games) in the following ways (there’s just one small spoiler at the very end):

  1. I will never see the “snake game” the same way ever again.
  2. The Matrix seems a lot less impressive. What this tells me is that any good movie I see from now on should be researched for originality.
  3. It was the first movie I saw in 3-D, since Disney World when I was in High School. I know I know, I’m usually behind in these things. I found myself doing the ongoing Turing test of “is this 3-D? or is this just detailed animation?”
  4. The other (more appropriately deemed) Turing test was a result of seeing a movie where there was a mix of CG human character(s) and actual human actors. At any point, they could just switch it up on you, and you’ll be fooled into believing that some motion-captured being was human. So, I didn’t see Avatar, but it sounds like Avatar was a mix of mo-cap (motion-capture), CG, and humans. I’m at no authority to say either way, but the novelty of Tron: Legacy was that they were clearly trying to get the most human-like visual behavior in some instances. Avatar could explain away uncanny valley’s by simply rationalizing that these were aliens. That’s why there are so many First Person Shooter Games that feature zombies and aliens. The human animation was good, but still noticeably unhuman-like, while human characters were trying to be more machine-like.
  5. I went with my lab-mates and professors, most of which had an appreciation of Tron that I didn’t understand. As I went with them, I feel like the meaning, inspiration, and creativity of Tron’s “legacy” was imparted on me.

Also, it was pointed out that many of us know two of the people who worked on the original movie. This means that people who we can potentially work with now have been working on cool technology since before we were even born. A professor explains:

28 years ago, when many of you were in diapers – er, not born – whatever
–  an impressionistic and, dare we say, somewhat geeky, young high
school student, having recently learned to program on a TRS-80 Model 1
(with a capacious 4K of RAM, though the damn OS hogged 800 bytes), saw
Tron. Released the same year William Gibson coined the term cyberspace,
and featuring a video game developer as a hero, Tron tapped the now
common place zeitgeist of games and virtual worlds at its infancy. This
was one of the memorable influences that put me on the path to what I’m
doing today.

A number of years ago, when my mom was cleaning out her garage, I
came across an old high school essay where we had to imagine our future
careers. I said I would work on a unification of relativity and quantum
mechanics in order to develop a faster-than-light drive (fail – though I
did get as far as earning a degree in physics), and that I would develop
a new kind of computer based on multi-valued logic on which I would
develop mind-blowing games (partial fail – silly, a hardware
implementation of multi-valued logic would be no more expressive than a
traditional binary computer).

The story was ok, but more than anything, I was enchanted by what it meant to so many people. Much like the Star Trek movie in 2009, Tron: Legacy passes on a far more audacious attempt to make technology relevant to the average movie goer. I sometimes cry technology tears when I see such discrepancy, I mean, I wasn’t even born the the orignal came out. I don’t want this awe to ever stop, just like how deeply I was moved when I first saw Mario Galaxy’s Trailer a few years back at GDC or heard Final Fantasy music in a concert hall.

My computer movie over the years is “Sneakers.” My AP Comp Sci teacher in High School said it was awesome, and what an impression it left on me. I was quite void of technological influence most of my life, and these movies captured the “why we should care” feelings.

Tron is even more relevant, as it is about games and what simple mechanics can translate into human experiences. I need more inspiration like that, because I do want to build some of the things that movies take for granted.

SMALL SPOILER: The final test of believability that I was engaged was within the believability of the “romance scenes.” I couldn’t help but laugh at anthropomorphized computer programs making out in the orignal. Tron: Legacy, on the other hand, does things appropriately subtle. The worst uncanny valley’s are the ones of forced love scenes.

6 thoughts on “Tron: Legacy, The Legacy Experience

  1. The movie rests on the premise that programs contain signatures/attributes/characteristics/whathaveyou of their programer. Because human programmers love, I guess the screenplaywrights felt their programs would love… (or sex sells)

  2. Nice post. Yeah, Tron is one of those films that evokes more than just a surface story. The memories are powerful for a whole lot of people like myself. What I find especially interesting is that the memories it evokes, however, are not really of the movie (the original) at all, but just that time in my life and all that was going on then. I was at least something like your teacher – I was just being exposed to something that totally captivated my imagination – computer animation – and it was only last year that I realized that the long road of my life had actually circled back to that adolescent dream and here I am making video games…it’s pretty darn inspiring!

  3. @Chris, you too?!

    I’m doing what I do b/c I wanted to make video games too! My statement of purpose for grad school started off about how i had a crush on super mario when i was 5 😛

  4. It’s about capturing the essence of a time and place. It’s the triggered emotions that music, tastes, scents, games, and even movies conjure up. It’s about us having ownership to a specific generation or tribe. It’s about how we all play a part in society at some point in time. It’s about really “knowing” what _______ was about and taking pride in it. And the execution is just the frosting on the cake that makes it look good but the concept is what makes it taste good.

    But in the end…shall i dare ask… does any of this matter? After all it’s just “feelings”. And in the end do we take any of it with us?

    • @Geppetto,

      “And the execution is just the frosting on the cake that makes it look good but the concept is what makes it taste good.”

      Hmm, beautifully put. Let me digest that for a moment.. haha (no pun intended). It’s relevant to the things that I’m working on for my PHD (lol): the study of discourse, rhetoric, and plot. Such analysis I’ve read about for music. What does a song in the 15th century mean compared to someone accidentally creating the same song in the 21st century? In it’s constitution, it could be indistinguishable, but, in its context, the “feelings” could be exclusive.

      Do we take it with us? As a digital storyteller, I’d believe that our stories are an inseparable part of us. So, perhaps, in this life, we carry, more, the feelings, and, less, the details. Regardless of what I remember, I’d still like to think that the actions from my life contribute towards a beautiful painting of creation’s journey.

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