[WARNING: THIS ARGUMENT CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS]
“You’re going to be nitpicky,” 10 year old me said, “I’m really not interested in nitpicky. I like movies based on where they take me, not how they take me there.”
It was just before the opening 9:30am showing this morning of Tron: Legacy. I’ve loved Tron since the first time I saw it in the theaters. But in my jaded adulthood I’ve distanced myself from its bold visions based on growing older, and in that growing older gradually shoving my 10 year old self further and further back from my now atrophied sense of wonder.
“It’s preposterous!” I said, more than a little bit justified in my adult non-wondrous anger, “I mean even in the original Tron it’s silly. How could such primitive processors create a world and AI of such complexity? Sure it’s pretty, sure I love it for nostalgic reasons, but the entire premise is unrealistic! And in this new movie the computer is 1989 technology and isn’t even connected to the Internet? It’s probably just a late term Matrix copycat.”
10 year old me paused, “Matrix?”
“It’s like Star Wars with computers, if Jedi had ended with the Emperor and Vader signing a non aggression pact with the Rebel Alliance.”
10 year old me looked really confused.
Crap, I thought, Jedi came out when I was 11.
“Never mind, I’m just saying I know more now. Plus, how in the world does a spontaneously appearing algorithm cross back physically in our world huh? Tell me that Einstein.”
10 year old me sighed a sigh my mother was probably quite familiar with.
“You were fine in the first Tron with Flynn being digitized?” he asked. 10 year old me was speaking casually.
“Well of course it’s fiction, but it was based on the fundamental concept of sampling which we accept today.” I replied. That was a good response. I felt safe there in pointing out it was bullshit, but fundamentally sound bullshit.
“Hrmm and you are ok with Flynn’s son being sampled in the same way?” 10 year old me replied.
I was sensing a trap, but logic forced me to answer: “Well I guess since Flynn perfected the sampling technology such an act would make sense in the universe.”
“Universe ah. Interesting.” 10 year old me replied. Now he was walking alongside me like Morpheus in The Matrix, hands clasped behind his back. “So in a world where the deconstruction of physical matter into a digital environment is plausible if obviously fictional, wouldn’t that same principle apply both ways given enough study on the other side of the equation, as CLU has clearly done?”
I cursed knowing too much of the plot ahead of seeing the movie. 10 year old me is wily, and well versed in realms of amazing stories as opposed to worlds that were merely plausible. That is why he is 10 year old me, and I am 38 year old me.
“Let’s imagine,” 10 year old me continued, “That in the original Tron, a fictional universe was created where Encom designed a supercomputer capable of manifesting The Grid. And that ancillary technologies like laser sampling linked it to our world. Let us further suppose that Flynn found a way to reliably and repeatedly meld the two. Let us finally suppose that these developments are unique to Encom’s technology, therefore the advancements have nothing to do with the Internet or other processor or computing advancements. In other words today’s advancements are there, but not important to the story being told.”
I fell silent.
“Let us realize,” 10 year old me said, “that maybe like most things Disney is good at, they have created a world just slightly alongside our own where you can overcome your knowledge of what is possible in our world, and enjoy a world where that knowledge is transcended merely with good story telling. Oh, by the way, did you like Cars?”
I bowed my head. I did indeed enjoy Pixar’s Cars. It’s the lower of the Pixar films, which is like saying this amazing Scorecese film is good, but not his best. IT’S BETTER THAN 99% IN ITS CLASS.
“So you can be less nitpicky then. But for this, you’re are nitpicky,” 10 year old me said, “I’m really not interested in nitpicky. I like movies based on where they take me, not how they take me there.”
10 year old me was fading for some reason, and I didn’t want him to disappear, but he had one last point to make.
“Just shut the hell up and enjoy the story being laid out for you.”
38 year old me turned off my smart phone, with more processing power than that would be required to create the world envisioned in this film. I relaxed in a stupidly luxurious reclining leather chair and put on a pair of Roy Orbison 3d glasses. And for the next 2 hours fell in love with a mental space I have not been in for far too long.
I loved Tron: Legacy, every second of it. And I have a young version of me, and a well designed original vision to thank for it.