Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tron Legacy: Isomorphic Algorithms and the Escape into the Machine

After a nearly 20 year hiatus from release of the original science fiction hit Tron in 1982, Disney released Tron Legacy in 2010 under Director Joseph Kosinski starrring Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn with a pumping electronic soundtrack provided by Daft Punk. Building on the original theme from the 1982 film, we are first taken through the chronology of events of the life main characer Flynn beginning with the end of the previous movie Tron. The basic premise of the first film (which I strongly encourage watching first) involved Flynn being "transported" into the realm of a hidden cyberworld that essentially existed on a high performance computer. Initially there is a narrative between the original and current film plot that culminates in the birth and raising of his son Samuel Flynn and scenes of a loving and kind father trying to describe to his son the nature of his work and why he disappears for long periods at a time. Eventually, we are told, Flynn Senior disappears completely right at the time his company ENCON begins to corner its market. A few years later when Sam is fully grown, we are taken to the beginning of the main plot of Tron Legacy where Flynn Junior himself will soon discover just were his father disappeared to.

Early in the film we taken to a boardroom meeting where ENCOM is discussing taking the next leap in their software but only as a paid service - not an open source system as had been envisioned by founder and visionary Flynn Sr. This violation conflicts with Sam's values and he, now the largest shareholder in ENCOM, breaks into the mainframe computer to play a practical joke during the moment the software is meant to be released - the board room is none too pleased with Sam's antics. Later, Sam is visited by his father's friend, ENCOM executive Alan Bradley who tells Sam that he received a message from his fathers pager, an old system by which he used to be on call for Flynn Sr. back in the day - apparently he hadn't gotten a pager message from that location in over twenty years. The location is Flynn's personal arcade - and inevitably Sam finds it and discovers an old warehouse full of arcade games and jukeboxes. He then activates the Warehouse's power and we are treated to Journey's "Separate Ways" blasting on the jukebox as Sam wanders around the labrynth/arcade. Eventually Sam stumbles upon the Tron video game and pops a quarter into it. The coin activates a hidden doorway which then leads Sam into his fathers old office/computer lab where he is instantly drawn to an old keyboard and computer screen. Having known his father's likely passwords he is quickly able to hack into the mainframe which instantly leads to his being transported into "The Grid" i.e. the parallel cyber-universe created by his father in the original Tron movie. Before moving on to describing the rest of the film, a few things should be noted about this parallel world.

-First, once you are "scanned" into this world you no longer exist in the present. Our world and "The Grid" are mutually exclusive and there is no trace left of you until you are "un-scanned".

-Second, The Grid consists of a hierarchy of entities with "Users" being at the lowest level or bottom rung. "Users" must participate in unusual gladiatorial games involving flying discs and light-cycles at the behest of powerful cyber-tyrants like "Master Control" in the original film or CLU in the follow-up. The losers of these games become recycled bits - essentially they die where as the winners can advance on to higher levels of combat and games with perhaps some hint of freedom once enough wins are tallied and they are deemed worthy of life.

-Third, The Grid is a complete parallel world with its own laws of physics and sense of time. When you exist in this dimension it is not clear where you are or indeed if you exist at all - time in that dimension seems to be non-linear with our own space-time.

- Lastly it should be noted that "The Grid" was completely envisioned and designed by Flynn, known within the grid as "The Creator". The rules have been programmed by him though this does not mean in any way that he has control over what goes on there...