Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Adam Rogers' "Tron Legacy" article in Wired Magazine

I just read an article written by Wired Magazine's senior editor Adam Rogers entitled 'Tron’s Triumphant Return to Cyberspace'...and I have to say it seriously ANNOYED ME!!! You can check out the article in it's entirety right here.

I expected more from the senior editor of a magazine that is suppose to speak to the inner and outer geek in all of us. What I found in this article was a number of inaccuracies and some downright disparaging remarks toward the original "Tron" at the time of it's release and people referred to as 'nerds'. So we're going to take this mag-piece apart to see what's wrong with his whole approach.

First is the supposed 'fuzziness' about anyone remembering "Tron". To quote Rogers:

'Tron. The motive force behind this winter’s biggest cinematic event is a weird little sci-fi flop from 1982 that no one really remembers. Seriously: Try. You’ll get bits. Images, mostly. Jeff Bridges in chalk-white armor that ripples blue. Glowing Frisbee fights. Bubble-shaped motorcycles trailing walls of light. But the story? Something about a hacker, maybe? He gets beamed into a computer and fights a giant. Bruce Boxleitner is there. And… the villain is a computer program with a British accent.'

Where has this guy been living?! I'm sorry, I think MANY more people know EXACTLY what this movie is! Even if some of the story elements are perhaps not completely clear to everyone on the planet, the DVD (most notably a 20th anniversary special edition) has been on shelves and the movie on TV enough for more fans than he realizes to have embraced it over the years and decades. Next quote:

'This idea didn’t make much sense at the time, of course. It was utterly new and poorly expressed, and the technology to pull it off didn’t really exist...No wonder it fizzled at the box office.'

Yes, the concept of computers and users was fairly new back in 1982. But it was still knowledge within reach of a fair amount of people's understanding. I think the problem is he just wasn't 'there' when all of this was happening. Sorry to sound like an old guy who doesn't think these kids know what they're talking about, although having been 'there' myself is a much clearer perspective rather than doing online research. BTW, the movie didn't 'fizzle' at the box office as he seems to like to bring up repeatedly. It certainly was not one of the top movies of that year, but it was definitely one of the front runners while "E.T" and "Star Trek II" ruled the box office. Oh, and his mention of "Blade Runner' also ruling that year...another inaccuracy. "Blade Runner" faired moderately well when it came out, but didn't reach the stratosphere of complete appreciation until a few years later. Needless to say, "BR" still garnered marked appreciation from fans even at that time. And for that matter, so did "Tron".

If all of these filmmakers, writers, and actors remember "Tron", then it's not a forgotten movie. Far from it. In fact it's always been rather iconic, even if the initial box office numbers had it doing well but not overwhelmingly so.

'For Tron Legacy to succeed where Tron failed...'

There he goes again with the word 'failed'. This was the point in the article where I was outright vocal about my distaste for what I was reading. If this was a 'forgotten movie' that no one seemed to care about, then why is Disney betting everything including the kitchen sink on the new movie? Because A LOT OF PEOPLE GOT IT!! Apparently everyone except Adam Rogers.

When speaking about the inspirations for Encom, the giant laser which ultimately sends Kevin Flynn into the world of Tron, and the character of Alan Bradley played by Bruce Boxleitner, he has this to say:

'The lab at tech giant Encom, the company at the center of the movie, was based on (computer scientist Alan) Kay’s lab at Xerox PARC and the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab. Bruce Boxleitner’s buttoned-down programmer character, Alan, was based in part on (and named after) Kay.'

Sorry, not completely true. Alan Bradley's name is actually a nod to computer company Allen/Bradley which is owned by Rockwell Automation. They're a major computer organization and were around for some time before the original "Tron" debuted in 1982. I was never aware of the character's first name coming from Alan Kay which may be the case as well. However it was pointed out when the film was released that Allen/Bradley was the influence.

'Arcade and home console games based on "Tron" were successful.'

O.K. finally, something that's very true! The arcade game did much better than the actual movie did in theaters. I myself probably pumped several hundred dollars into that game while living in Boston.

'Tron, however, seemed destined to be forgotten.'

STOP IT!!!! Everywhere you looked in 1982 there were T-shirts, toys, and other accessories touting the movie. They actually sold well. The Gen-Xers who supposedly revived the original movie were not that far away from it's initial release. Therefore it was never really dead and gone as Mr. Rogers would have us believe. "Tron" was even nominated for Best Sound and Best Costumes at the 1983 Academy Awards. Ironically, The Academy refused to accept a nomination for best special effects because they felt the effects team 'cheated by using computers'. HA-HA! In hindsight, THAT was a highway robbery for a film that was the father of everything that came after it where visual effects were involved.

Regarding the producers thoughts about trying to woo Jeff Bridges back to the role of Kevin Flynn:

'And Bridges? He was on his way to winning an Oscar for Crazy Heart. Tron was a B movie from before he was famous.'

SERIOUSLY??!!! "Tron" was a B MOVIE from BEFORE he was famous??!! After my continual outbursts of how annoyed I was at this writing, I finally burst out laughing! L-O-FUCKING-L!!! First of all, "Tron" was NEVER a 'B' movie!! And Bridges career had already hit a major high with his Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for "The Last Picture Show" in 1971!! Not to mention such notable performances in films like "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" "Starman", "The Fabulous Baker Boys" and "The Fisher King". Jesus man, get your research shit together, huh?!

When talking about the teaser trailer for "Tron Legacy" created specifically as a surprise for an audience of fans at Comic-Con 2008 and to gauge whether or not the film was embedded enough in the popular culture for the studio to give it a green light, Mr. Rogers says this:

'It played. Oh, it played—and it deployed every tool (Disney head of production Sean) Bailey said the movie would need. The production design was original but clearly looked like the first Tron. (Jeff) Bridges’ appearance produced paroxysms of cheers from the 6,500 nerds in Hall H. Light cycles banged into each other. Disney gave the movie a green light.'

This is where I have a problem with his use of the term 'nerds'. Obviously a total put down, coming across in this writing like calling gay people 'faggots'. Sure, it's not enough to make me want to march on Washington or the offices of Wired Magazine, but still a minor thorn in the side in this ultra PC world of acceptance when it comes to things like gay rights, etc. Don't get me wrong, I totally support gay rights! That's the point. If we're being tolerant one way, we need to be tolerant ALL ways.

Is the original "Tron" a really good movie? Rogers' overall thoughts are that it was not. I can say that I've thoroughly enjoyed the movie since it's debut in 1982. No, it's not perfect and yes, advances in computer technology and visual effects in movies have far surpassed what was once an incredible achievement in motion picture history...let's not forget that last part especially!! Younger fans perspective on this iconic film may be a little tainted by today's sometimes overblown movie visuals. To some, "Tron" might seem slow and very dated, and sometimes I'm actually quite a bit surprised at how twenty-somethings are super fans of a movie I'd expect they'd find super cheesy. Yes, I am using that word because it describes their sometime views and not my own.

BTW, that 'giant' the computer hacker battles (as he puts it) in the original "Tron" is prominent character actor David Warner. To younger movie fans he's probably best known as Billy Zane's bodyguard in "Titanic". But in fact he's had a full and widely acknowledged film career going back to the 60s and 70s. Did he even ever watch "Tron", or just ask friends about the movie before writing this article? Seems like the latter.

After you've read Adam Rogers' full report, check out the comments. You'll find a lot more people who were equally annoyed at his handling of the legacy of "Tron" and the fans who have adored it from the very beginning. I'm proud to say that I am one of them!


At December 1, 2010 at 9:18 AM, Anonymous Allen Pinney said...

Watta D-bag! Let's go bitch slap him AND toilet paper his house!


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