Tron: Legacy, and What Is Wrong with Movies Today (Part 2)
Today’s the day we actually start the analysis on Tron. Tron: Legacy. Not just Tron. That would be weird, analyzing a film from almost thirty years ago. That would be like analyzing a film from the 40s or something. Fucked up, right?
Anyway, I’ll be analyzing Tron: Legacy today. I was going to italicize Legacy to show that it was to be inflected, but, it was already italicized. So I’m just telling you after the fact, because then when you read it later you’d know the correct way to say it. Those last two had no meaning whatsoever. I just felt I got robbed out of using italics when I wanted to use it. Then I used it the second time to show you what it was supposed to look like even though it wasn’t supposed to have the inflection on it. I’m all about the equilibrium.
Yesterday was like that first day of classes where the professor is like, “Well, we can’t really do anything, so let’s just state core concepts and go over the syllabus. Then we’ll start the work next time.” It’s my favorite class of all (next to the last one). I think I did a good job getting the points across (hopefully I repeated myself just enough to make you feel like I was beating you over the head with my points. Because that’s what it feels like to me when I watch these films). Now, let’s get into the film itself.
Just for clarification, it’s still not the old Tron. It’s the new Tron. That picture is of the old Tron, though, you’re not seeing it wrong. It’s just, I’m talking about the new Tron. Though now I am actually talking about the old Tron but it’s in relation to the new Tron. It’ll make sense when I start talking about the movie. The new version. Not the old one. Get it? Got it? Gravy.
The original Tron was a 4-star movie in a 3-star environment. This movie is a 3-star movie packed into 4-star visuals. I feel as though the best Tron movie might have came in the 90s. Or maybe it did. It was called The Matrix.
I want to let you know where I stand on the film as a whole. Just so there’s no confusion. Later on when I’m saying bad things, you can always refer back to this: I like the film. A lot. I was entertained by it. But if the visuals weren’t as good, believe me, I’d have forgotten about the film real quick and said, “What a shame.” The story itself is pretty generic, though it does work most of the time. It’s a few unnecessary detours that show it for what it is (3-star in 4-star visuals). But we’ll get to that later. Ultimately, for me, the film works. It’s not as great as I would have liked but, hey, if everything went as I’d liked this article wouldn’t exist. I call this Tron an above-average film that rates somewhere between 3.5 and 4. It’s definitely not a 4, and definitely not a 3.5. It’s somewhere in between. Just a bit more strength in the story and it would be a solid 4 stars. So that’s where I stand on that.
Also I’m not going to rail on the film as a whole too much, because I do understand why it is the way it is. Which is — the film was ultimately meant as a placeholder. It was meant as a film to bridge (pun ridiculously intended) the gap between the original Tron film and the Tron film they’re going to make in the next three years.
Why, you may ask? Well, in the 80s, when the first movie came out – the visuals weren’t nearly up to par for what they needed (or wanted) to do. Not by a longshot. And by the time they were advanced enough to where a Tron film could be made the way it was envisioned, Jeff Bridges was too old to be Kevin Flynn again. And without Flynn, you can’t have a Tron movie. So, you needed a film that ultimately got rid of Flynn. (Spoiler alert – Jesus dies.) That’s the only reason this film exists. The Passion of the Flynn.
The film exists so they could show you what a Tron movie is supposed to look like, while also transitioning you from the Tron story you know, to Tron as it will continue from here. Bridges had to die, because now the franchise can go into new territory, visually. Story-wise, I hope they don’t fuck it up. You know, like with armies and shit. Kind of the way they fucked up Terminator.
This whole transition film idea is supported by the title of the film itself. Well, the two titles of the film. (Just to point out, because I can’t let things be simple, this is me smoothly transitioning from my opening section into the actual analysis of the film without actually mentioning it. Smooth, right?)
This tiny section, I will call “The Two Trons.” This section will only last like, a paragraph. The best ideas always end up taking up the smallest space.
The title of the film (Note: Tron: Legacy. Just checking.), is their way of being like, “Look, we’re upholding the legacy of the first film. Taste the italics. Now — watch us take this shit into the future.” It’s kind of like what Star Trek did in their reboot. Except here they didn’t have Flynn get killed by rocks. (Note: That movie was subtitled Generations. Get it? Generations? Legacy? Yeah, I don’t really get it either. It sounded good, though.) They’re pushing it off to the “younger” generation while paying respect to what came before it. And they brought back the token old man too.
The reason I know this film is meant as a placeholder and not as an actual sequel to Tron is because – right at the top of the film, we have Bridges’ voice explaining what is essentially the conceit of Tron – the grid. He basically explains, for everyone who hadn’t seen the original Tron (which is about 90% of the population of Earth), what the grid is. And we see it get built before our eyes, kinda like this:
And when he’s done, we pan up to the side to buildings as the title of the film comes up. And what does it say? Just “Tron.”
This is basically just a redo of Tron. That’s all. It’s “Oh, we were planning on doing this twenty years ago, but couldn’t, so, we’ll just redo that, but taking into account the passage of time and the fact that we did the first one, but really this will sort of be its own thing, and we can have the best of both worlds.” That’s how you’re supposed to watch this film. If you know about the earlier version, great, but if not, just go by this, because everything that happened in the first one is explained here. And this one looks nicer. So let’s just start from here and move forward. So, really, even though the next one will be called Tr3n, it’ll really just be #2. I hate to invite this comparison, but it’s really like The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. One is a continuation of the other and not so much a sequel. And then part three will be entirely separate, even though it will kinda be related to 1 and 2. And there are light cycles.
It’s actually a genius conceit, because this allows them to treat the first Tron as a prologue, while basically starting everyone who is new to the franchise from here. And then they can go back to the first one as like, “Hmm, so this is interesting backstory.” Kinda like how The Silence of the Lambs is actually the second book in the trilogy. And then you go back to Red Dragon and there’s all this, “So this is how we got to here,” revelation.
Also this allows them to, for the next one, do whatever the fuck they want. They are not required to use anything from the existing mythology except for the grid itself. Though obviously Sam and Quorra will be back. And they’ll probably need to bring back Tron. You know, since it’s his name on the fucking thing. But, still, now they can run wild. Which means, this could go really right, or really wrong. Because they need to get them back in the grid. But what would be their motivation to do so? See where it can go really wrong?
Personally, I’m hoping what they do is, at the beginning of the next one, have Christopher Lloyd show up out of nowhere, speeding up in the DeLorean as Doc Brown, and be like, “Marty, you have to come with me, Marty!” Even though the character is named Sam, he still calls him Marty, because he doesn’t know what movie he’s in. And Sam is like, “This dude keeps calling me Marty. What’s wrong with him? Is he high? Does he have dementia?” And then Doc Brown is like, “Marty, Jennifer, you have to come with me! The grid becomes assholes! We have to go back inside Tron! Hurry, Marty!” Then — boom – opening credits. And Doc Brown is never seen or mentioned again. At that point the film can do whatever it wants and I’ll still be with it.
Okay, so now we’ve gotten to why the title is the way it is. We’re only at the title. You should have known by now that I was going to do this. I’d be really good at using the filibuster. Let’s get into the actual film. This is great. An article and a half and I’ve only gotten to the title. I chuckle.
The first five minutes of the film are actually pretty okay. I mean, it’s all exposition, but that’s fine. It’s very nice of the film, actually, to lay all the exposition on us right at the top and get it out of the way. Plus they’re summing up the first film at the same time, which, is actually kind of brilliantly done. You realize just how simple the first film is just by listening to “Bridges” go over it in the span of like a minute and a half.
I put quotations around Bridges because, well, it’s not Jeff Bridges. It’s creepy, Digi-Bridges. It’s a stunt double with Bridges’ face digitally de-aged to make him look like he did in the original film. It’s fucking creepy-looking. The face is so emotionless it’s frightening. It’s some creepy, Bob Zemeckis shit. Which is strange, because this is the same year where you had a film in which an actor played twins (The Winklevii in The Social Network) and they had a second actor stand in for the second character and digitally layered the first actor’s face on top of him and no one fucking noticed. How is it possible that Bridges came out looking so creepy? Did they take his facial expressions from Starman?
Note: It’s the cheek bones. If you watch the computerized faces talk, the lack of emotion comes from the fact that the muscles in the cheek bones don’t move. That’s where the expression isn’t. If they can get the cheek bones to move in tune with the mouth and eyes, they can make it so you could barely tell the difference with the right lighting.
So, this scene is essentially Digi-Bridges telling his son about Tron as he puts him to bed. This taking place not long after the events of the first film. Simple, efficient. Never mind the creepy Digi-Dad for the moment. And he presumably leaves to go back inside, but not before telling the kid he’ll take him to the arcade the next day and they’ll play as a team. Then after this they transition to this film with the televisions detailing what happened between that moment and what we’re about to see. But we’ll get to the TVs in a moment. Right now, I want to focus on just this little scene. All two minutes of it.
There’s one shot in this scene though that really annoys me. And, fitting thematically with this entire article as a whole, it’s pretty much a throwaway shot that most people would pay little mind to. But not me.
While Digi-Bridges is talking to Wonder-Son, we get a random cutaway to, presumably, Digi-Bridges’ parents (or those of his strangely absent wife, who we’ll find out about later. And oh, trust me, I will be talking about it), sitting in the living room, reading the paper and/or listening to the conversation. It’s unclear what Granny is doing in this moment. (I mean Granny the character. I know what the actress is doing — looking into the camera so we can register her face. Why? I have no fucking idea. She also smiles to code her as a grandmother. Amazing how simple you can use visuals to convey things. Now imagine how much better they could be when they’re used for a purpose.)
It’s a brief shot, and most people have learned to just ignore it, because the point of the scene is the exposition of the first film and for us to get to know the characters. These will be 75% percent of the characters that matter in the film (assuming C.L.U. counts as another computerized version of Bridges), so, they’re clearly the main focus of the scene. But why bother showing Granny at all? I’ll let you know now, she doesn’t show up except for once more. After that, we never see her again. (And worse, we find out she’s dead, which I will also be mentioning later on.) So, why introduce her at all in this scene? Well, I’ll tell you why. But you already knew that, didn’t you? You sly dog.
The reason they have this insert shot of Granny is because they assume at minimum borderline retardation in their audience, and believe that, in the next scene, which, I’ll ruin it for you now, when Granny comes over to Sam to console him about his missing and presumed-dead father, the audience will see her and go, “Wait, who the fuck is that?” and be taken out of the film because they’d not understand who this random woman came from who is suddenly there with the kid whose father suddenly went missing. Can you think of a better reason? The only other one that exists is this: they show Granny because they don’t want the audience to think that Digi-Bridges is leaving the kid alone in the house while he goes off on his motorcycle and does god knows what (because it’s not actually explained what he’s leaving to do). So now they’re not assuming stupidity in their audience, they’re assuming a set of morals. Which is it, then? Morals or stupidity? Or is it a bit of both? Ladies and gentlemen, once again, I give you, a film made for Middle America — where stupidity and morals reign supreme.
Also, in regards to whichever the answer is — say that shot of Granny weren’t there, at all, and the entire scene was just Bridges and his son. And first, say Bridges said good night to his kid and left. Would you then get all up in arms over the fact that he’s leaving his son alone for the night? Would that thought ever cross your brain? I know it would cross mine, but mine would literally just be pointing out loud as a joke, and then I’d totally forget about it and move on. At most, you go, “Is he leaving his son all alone?” and then move on. Because it’s not relevant. Because logic in your brain dictates, “Well, his wife must be there, someone else must be in the house.” Wouldn’t that be your thought if there was any doubt of whether or not he was leaving the kid alone? (Which, could be solved, very simply, by showing another light on in the house in a wide shot, if it’s really that big a deal.) Would you actually spend time — enough time so as to take you out of the film — thinking about this to the point where you’d miss vital pieces of information? Or would your first thought here be, “Why the fuck is the kid’s bedroom right next to the front door? All you need is one drunken driver and that kid is dead!”
Now, second, I ask you — say in the next scene, after they say Flynn is missing, Sam is sitting at the window, all upset, as the news story says all that stuff. And some older lady, who clearly looks like a grandmother and is clearly at least twenty years older than the boy’s father (and isn’t created by a computer), comes and puts her hand on his shoulder so as to comfort him.
Would you, never having seen this woman before, jump up and go, “Wait, who the fuck is that?”, and flip the fuck out because you’ve never seen that woman before? Would you for a second not think she’s his grandmother? Especially after the shot they show you of the grandfather picking up the phone and shaking his head sadly, like, “Still no sign of him. He’s still dead.”
At worst, they’re neighbors or close friends of the family. I don’t think anyone — no matter how brain-cellularly-challenged — would for a second wonder who these people are. Which brings me back to my original point — why bother putting the shot of Granny and Grampy there in the first place? If you take it out, is the film changed at all? Is anything different? I rest my case.
Now, you can try to give me that bullshit about, “Well, the casual viewer…” Well, to that I say, bullshit. I bet you the casual viewer has already forgotten what C.L.U. stands for. Only intelligent people are ever going to question the shit you’re trying to patch-up, and intelligent people are smart enough that they’ll figure out a logical solution, or ignore it entirely, because it’s a non-issue. It starts at the core, people. You eliminate shots like this and the films get more intelligent.
Anyway, one more note on this scene — as Digi-Bridges is explaining what he did with the grid, he explains how he created C.L.U. (in his own image, who will later die for his sins to save mankind. But you know, that’s all coincidental. Isn’t it, Disney?) because he couldn’t be there all the time. In doing so he says, “I created a program in my own image that could think. Like you. And me.” “Like you” — boy is that accurate foreshadowing. What a tool his kid ended up being. That’s it. Just wanted to point out the humor in that line delivery. Watch it again, you’ll see what I mean.
Okay, so, this scene is over with. Digi-Bridges leaves, apparently to hitch a ride on the Polar Express or something, telling his kid that one day, he’ll be on the grid (he promises) and reminding him, “We’re always on the same team.” And the very next scene is the aftermath of that. We’re left with a series of television monitors, all covering the disappearance of Flynn. Which, actually, I found very refreshing. Normally, what you’d get is the slow fade out as he smiles and then the cut to, “Kevin Flynn disappeared today…” Instead, we get this:
Reminds me a little bit of the News on the March sequence in Citizen Kane. It’s a nice bit of newsreel exposition, bridging the gap from the opening scene, which is pretty much detached from our main story, time-wise, and allows us to bridge the gap from one time period to another. Let’s all just note that I compared Tron: Legacy to Citizen Kane. Didn’t think I could do it, did ya?
This shot of the TVs is actually a very intelligent way of doing things. Just show the exposition, but do it cleverly. That shot of the TVs is really good. (Which, actually makes me think they lifted it from something else. But whatever it is, I haven’t seen it.) The only problem I have is with what’s said over the televisions. Which, I blame on the writing more so on the director.
Now, before we go over the next physical scene, I want to write down the entire monologue of the newsreel and then go over it. Those of you familiar with my writing will immediately recognize my method of doing this. Those unfamiliar will just have to figure it out on the fly. Trust me, it’s not complicated.
(Note: To make it easier, I’m going to post the untouched dialogue first, then do my thing with it.)
“Good evening. Our lead story — Encom CEO and video game icon Kevin Flynn has disappeared. He was best known for designing Tron, and Space Paranoids, the two best selling video games in history. Flynn took ownership of Encom in 1982, as the company skyrocketed to the top of the tech industry. But things changed in 1985, with the untimely death of Flynn’s wife, the mother of his young son, Sam. Recently, Encom board members have been troubled by the reports of Flynn’s erratic, even obsessive behavior. With Flynn missing, the company is now in chaos. This afternoon, Encom’s board moved to seize control from Flynn’s partner Alan Bradley, vowing to return the company to profitability. Loyal to the end, Bradley maintains his belief that Flynn is not missing, and is instead pursuing his dream of quote, “a digital frontier to reshape the human condition.”
Now we cut to footage of Bridges at a press conference, saying: “In there is a new world. In there is our future. In there, is our destiny.” Back to the news guy.
“Even Flynn’s most ardent supporters are now acknowledging a difficult truth — Kevin Flynn may have simply run away. And while Flynn’s loyalists hope for his imminent return, there is perhaps no one who wishes it to happen more, than young Sam Flynn, now in the care of his grandparents, and heir to an empire in turmoil.”
The rest is inaudible, because the scene’s action plays over it. Sam sits at the window, while Granny and Grampy talk on the phone (that picture up there). He says: “He’s coming. He promised.” Then Granny comes over and puts her hand on his shoulder (picture also up there), and says, “Sam, you have to eat.” And then Sam says, “Let go of me!” and runs out of the house and rides away on his bike. As he rides away, the newsreel finishes:
“What will become of Flynn’s legacy and the future of Encom will most likely depend on what becomes of this now orphaned little boy.”
Oh, and Granny runs out after Sam and shouts: “
Shane! Sam! Come back!”
And — scene. Now, for my analysis. Just the dialogue. I will say, before I begin, as a whole, this does a good job of conveying everything we need to know. However, the way they do it, if you can’t see for yourself, is not very good. I know that sounds like doubletalk, but my point here is ultimately going to be, you can get out all this necessary information in such a way that’s, I don’t know — realistic. Let’s begin:
“Good evening. Our lead story” — First of all, no mention whatsoever of what program this is, who the newscaster is, any of that. Just, “good evening.” Is Hitchcock doing the news? Plus, “lead story”? This sounds like the work of a writer who knows nothing of the news. I believe it’s called a “top story.” Lead story is what you call it in the meetings before you go on the air. Now, I’m not that upset at that, it’s making everything simpler and getting to the heart of the matter. I’m just breaking balls. The only thing I’d do differently there is exchange lead for top — “Encom CEO and video game icon Kevin Flynn has disappeared. He was best known for designing Tron, and Space Paranoids, the two best selling video games in history.” — see how easy that was? All useful information. Information that would be conveyed in a news story. Because, you have to keep in mind. This is set up as a news story. Not movie exposition. So, we must take it on the terms of a news story. This will become important very soon — “Flynn took ownership of Encom in 1982, as the company skyrocketed to the top of the tech industry.” — Also, very nice. Very simple. The first movie ends with him taking control of the company. And the movie came out in 1982. Very smart way of sticking to the timeline. It’s A+ so far — “But things changed in 1985, with the untimely death of Flynn’s wife, the mother of his young son, Sam.” — now’s where I start having problems. It’s the last part of that sentence I have the problems with. The first part is great. However — this is a news story. Wouldn’t you think to mention the wife’s name, maybe? Just a first name? Okay, say the news story doesn’t find her interesting and doesn’t mention the name, that’s okay. I can buy that. Maybe. It’s minor enough to let it go. The reason I’m making a big deal about it now is because — in the first movie, there’s no mention of Flynn having a wife. That’s because, in this timeline, Flynn got married after taking over Encom, and Sam, who is mentioned as being 27 (in 2010, thereby making him born in 1983), was two year’s old at the time of his mother’s death. So, since Flynn’s wife is not in the canon, so to speak, they don’t want to make one up, so, they cleverly omit the naming of a wife in the news story. Which, could happen. They just mention his wife died. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is the fact that they end it with, “the mother of his young son, Sam.” Now that’s a crock of horse shit. You would not, in a news story, omit the mother’s name and put in the son’s name. The movie is only doing that so you know the kid’s name is Sam, which you already fucking know from the first goddamn scene! There’s no reason for it to be in there other than to tell the mongoloids, “Yes, the woman who was his wife was also the mother to his son, Sam. This is who she was in relation to our main characters.” Also, Middle America move. They don’t want it to appear for a second that he may have had this child with someone who wasn’t the woman to whom he was wed til death parted them. See why I have a problem with it? It’s hypocritical. Don’t not mention the mother and then say, “the mother of his young son, Sam.” That’s such horse shit. That last sentence doesn’t need to be there, at all. It would change nothing. Watch — “Recently, Encom board members have been troubled by the reports of Flynn’s erratic, even obsessive behavior.” — wouldn’t you say, that in a news story in which a powerful CEO has gone missing, they’d lead with, “Kevin Flynn has gone missing. He was last seen at this time, and has been missing since presumably this time. Board members have been concerned about his erratic behavior lately”? Wouldn’t that be the optimal thing to lead in with, in your “lead story?” The fact that he’s been behaving erratically lately? The facts of the case? And then you go into the history of who he is? And then the fact that his wife died and that his son is named Sam? Because then, they all add to the story. He’s been behaving erratically. Oh yeah, and his wife died recently, and he’s been under pressure from the board to make the company more profitable (which is hinted at later on).” Doesn’t that sound like maybe it gives reasons as to why he disappeared? Fuck, I don’t even like newscasters and I just wrote a better story than they did. Point being, that part up there about mother of Sam (does that mean Sam and Quorra’s offspring — because you know they’ll be fucking — will be the Son of Sam? Like Sam is the Son of Flynn? Just a thought), sucks. And is unnecessary. Back to the news — “With Flynn missing, the company is now in chaos.” — Well I’d fucking think so, wouldn’t you? — “This afternoon, Encom’s board, moved to seize control from Flynn’s partner Alan Bradley, vowing to return the company to profitability.” — So, did this all happen in the span of a day? I don’t get it. They’re reporting him missing, which presumably would be like, a day, two days after it happened, right? Because otherwise the story is, “Kevin Flynn is missing, and Encom is saying he isn’t, but we know that he is.” That’s not the story. The story is that he’s missing, which means this is very recently after the disappearance. So, how did the board immediately run to take control from Bradley? Wouldn’t they wait for like a week or two after he’s been gone so as to make sure he isn’t coming back? Even like a month would seem like standard operating procedure. Methinks they just rolled like four news stories into one to get it all out of the way. Which is admirable. But, wouldn’t you, just for logical purposes, then do a quick transition to another TV screen, or, you know, cut to a different broadcast to show that time has passed? Makes you wonder where the priorities are with this whole logic thing — “Loyal to the end, Bradley maintains his belief that Flynn is not missing, and is instead pursuing his dream of quote, “a digital frontier to reshape the human condition.” — why do you need to mention that Bradley is “loyal to the end”? This sounds like it was lifted straight from the character description in the screenplay. No news story would ever describe someone as “loyal to the end.” Because then it’s not objective reporting. (Not that news is, but you know what I’m talking about.) You’d say that whole second part, about how Bradley says Flynn isn’t missing, and maybe throw in like a half a line about how Bradley and Flynn share similar beliefs. Oh wait — you did, in the last sentence, when you mentioned they were partners. Seriously, did anyone even read this? I know it plays okay when you watch it, but, when you break it down, you see just how shallow it all is. Just a little bit more effort in the writing could save all that mess.
Then we get the Bridges speech, which, is the exact same speech C.L.U. will give later (spoiler spoiler), just to let you know now, the film is trying to set up that Flynn and C.L.U. are really the same person, even though C.L.U. is a total dick. Actually, this moment seems terribly manufactured, because the Flynn character in every other moment of the film (and the last film) paint him as someone who wants to give shit out for free and doesn’t care so much about the spotlight. The only spotlight he wants is in his arcade as everyone cheers him on for getting high score. He is absolutely not they guy to give speeches like this. I just found another thing to bitch about that I wasn’t even planning on. It’s like an onion. Each layer is making me cry just a little more.
“Even Flynn’s most ardent supporters are now acknowledging a difficult truth — Kevin Flynn may have simply run away.” — yeah, I don’t think that would be the truth they’d acknowledge. Kevin Flynn got murdered by someone, that’s the truth. Also, one big — giant — hole in logic throughout this whole thing is that, in the opening scene, is Digi-Flynn not clearly explaining to his son that he went inside the grid? Or am I just imagining that? Isn’t he saying, “I went inside, and it was beautiful, but I couldn’t be there all the time, so, I have this guy in there to do things for me.” Is the kid not taking this seriously? Does he think it’s just embellishment, like, “Oh, Dad, you’re just drunk again”? What is it? Does he think he’s just making the games? Wouldn’t the kid be like, “He said he went into the computer, don’t you think we should check there”? Also — I’m gonna spoil it now, because, it’s worth mentioning. The kid finds the hidden office behind the Tron game in the arcade. All he does is slide it to the side. Don’t you think that if a major CEO went missing, there would be some sort of FBI investigation? Don’t you think they’d check up and down that arcade, looking for clues and shit? Wouldn’t someone find the office behind the machine and figure out what was going on? Say, Alan Bradley, maybe? Just saying. I really have no answer to that. Just pointing out that if the film wants us to go with magical behind-the-back three-pointers, they should at least make the layups look easy — “And while Flynn’s loyalists hope for his imminent return, there is perhaps no one who wishes it to happen more, than young Sam Flynn, now in the care of his grandparents, and heir to an empire in turmoil.” — Shall I mention it, or have you got it by now? I’ll mention it anyway, because that’s what this is like for me watching this. “Now in the care of his grandparents.” Are you fucking kidding me? We know he’s in the care of his grandparents! You painstakingly made us aware of that already! Because, you know, without three confirmations that they are, in fact his grandparents, we’d all just assume they were serial rapists. Plus, no newscast will ever tell you the whereabouts of the child. And if they do, it will be simply the line that ends the newscast. They aren’t going to tell you where he is and who he’s with. “He’s with his grandparents, Mary and Joseph, on 35 Sycamore. They’re gonna do they best they can, but since Joseph has a bad back and Mary can’t work anymore, they’re really hoping for a settlement from the company in order to make ends meet for Sam, otherwise they’ll need to cash in the pension checks. In other news, AIDS still exists…” Jesus christ, that line is so unnecessary. Is Middle America really that concerned? “But what happened to Sam?” Motherfucker, you can see him! Don’t you want to find out about the son of a bitch who went missing? Do you really need it explained again that these are his grandparents? Are you really that suspicious that these people might not be who they are, and might in fact be T-1000’s disguised as his grandparents? Is this why airports are the way they are?
Okay, now — the next bit. The actual scene in all this. I’m ambivalent as to how I feel about it. Granny comes over, right as he says, “He’ll be back,” and says, “Sam, you have to eat,” then Sam runs away. I’m ambivalent because, on the one hand, it’s about a ten second scene that very quickly conveys all the emotions that a kid goes through once his father is missing (and now has no parents). He hopes that he’s coming back (and strangely says this out loud, without any prompting. That’s kind of strange), then gets despondent that he isn’t, feels betrayed, won’t eat. Then he starts acting out and riding away on his bike to be alone. It’s all there. Only problem is, it all happens in the span of about ten seconds. I still don’t know if this is happening the day after he went missing or not. The news story clearly sounds like it takes place over more than one period of time, but the film hasn’t made it clear to me. (Once again, where are the priorities in continuity here?) Hence the ambivalence. I’m not going to decide how I really feel on this, I’m just putting it out there. To each his and her own how they feel about it.
Oh, yeah, we should mention the very last dagger to the heart — “Et tu, Cliché?” — “What will become of Flynn’s legacy and the future of Encom will most likely depend on what becomes of this now orphaned little boy.” — I’m going to surprise you and say that I’m okay with this. You do need to state this. The point of the film is Sam’s journey to accepting what happened to his father and reclaiming the company to finish his father’s dream. I just want to point out that it’s as on the nose as a fucking blackhead. I feel like every time the newscaster says the word “legacy,” everyone should get up and scream like he just said the secret word on Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
And now, for the most shameful shot in the movie. Surprising, isn’t it? Only six minutes in? But trust me, this shot is everything that’s wrong in the world. In fact, this shot is like the Disneyland of shots. Which makes it sadly appropriate.
It’s the shot of Sam getting on his bike and riding away. This one, in fact:
Just seeing this shot alone might make you wonder why it’s even there. Why are they showing the name of the bike? Well I’ll tell you why. It’s they way of innocently setting up the most disgusting visual motif I have seen in a movie since Schindler’s List. (Note: The visual motif there was all the jews dying.) This simple shot is getting the audience to buy into (pun ridiculously intended … you’ll see why in a minute) the most shameful product placement I have ever seen in a film. And I watch Michael Bay movies.
As you can see, this shit — sorry, meant to write shot. But I bet if I didn’t point it out you wouldn’t have noticed — wow, themes are amazing — is pretty memorable. You rarely get the close up on that part of the bike. It sticks in your memory. Which is just what they want. Because, as Sam rides away, into the future — that’s right kids, you’re gonna see some serious shit — we now very quickly flash to, oh, say, twenty years later. Right? Assume he’s like seven in that first scene? (Note: The credits say he was.)
This is actually a transition I like a lot. And it gets lost in the hate speech I throw at this movie every time this scene comes on. (Note: Even when I’m alone.) It transitions twenty years without having a title show up on screen. We just — are. I appreciate that. But, one out of many does not reparations make. White people learned that one that hard way.
Now, I’m not gonna spoil the payoff until the movie does. I’ll talk about what happens until that point. First, Sam rides along the highway. We know it’s Sam intrinsically because he rode a bike at age seven, and now we see him on a motorcycle. Plus, Granny’s voice is layered with the Shane line over him riding, clearly coding him as Sam. It’s actually a brilliant way to transition over twenty years. You instantly know that’s Sam. Trouble is, they had to go and fuck it up. But, we’ll get to that in a second too.
Here’s where the film takes its first misstep into blockbuster territory. The mini-chase. I call it mini-case, because, you know it’s not going to lead anywhere. It’s the pointless action scene thrown in there for no reason other than to give the audience something “exciting” to look at. Problem is, this isn’t all that exciting. It makes no sense whatsoever.
Sam gets clocked by a cop doing 103. I’ll save you the close-up, that’s what he was doing. And now the cop starts to chase him. Which, before he does, we get this shot:
In case you didn’t know who he was by the radar gun. Also, that’s two. Remember now, one more and it’s a visual motif. We’re inching closer and closer to the end of the world, folks. Because, in almost the very next shot, after the policeman starts chasing Sam, we get this shot:
…and there’s the whale. Son of a bitch. See this, folks? This is about as subtle as a dick in the ass. This is the single most nauseating shot I may have ever seen on my television screen. The film has just used a child’s bicycle, and a policeman’s motorcycle, in order to lure in the viewer into the most shameless product placement I think has ever existed in the history of Hollywood.
Let us pause to reflect this — you took an innocent child, and the fucking police (who don’t even have stickers that just say “police” on them, unless it’s a fucking plastic Mattel big wheel “police” bike), and used them in order to sell a product. The subconscious statement here is, “Remember your first bike? And how much you loved riding it? Now, you know the police? The ones that enforce the law? Well, we think you should buy a Ducati, because the hero of this movie you liked rides one, and it reminds you of your childhood bike, and “the law” says you should.” All of that is contained within that neat set of three little shots. Which, would not be so bad if it were a commercial, you know, for the fucking product! But this is a goddamn movie. You’re supposed to be telling us a story, not selling us a toy. Are we really supposed to take the big advertising dick up our asses that easily? That’s not even trying to be subtle. You’re clearly setting up product placement. At least, if you’re going to be shameless, just show the name on screen once. And then we know, “Yes, it’s a Ducati. Just like James Bond uses a Vaio computer, Optimus Prime and Bumblebee are GM, and Will Smith wears Converse.” This is literally one step below having someone pass by him as he’s riding and go, “Nice bike — Ducati?”, and Sam goes, “Only bike I’ll ever ride!” and then they laugh and high-five each other. And if you think the film wouldn’t ever approach that territory, just wait until you see what they do later. It’s enough to make a NASCAR driver blush.
But back to the mini-chase. Remember, this is a pointless chase scene whose only point for existing seems to be to add an action beat (because, fuck, we’re six minutes in and there hasn’t been one yet), and under the guise (I assume, because otherwise, what is their logic, narratively, for putting it in?) of it being a “character” moment. Which brings me to a pet peeve of mine…
Movie pet peeve: Why are all modern action heroes adrenaline junkies? Why must every single one of them get their jollies by starting high speed chases with police that they know they can easily get out of and base jump off of tall buildings? This notion will return later. Multiple times.
Clearly this chase is to show that Sam likes shit like this. He speeds, he gets a cop to follow him, then he gets out of it. And then, to make the point now, he breaks into a building, hacks into their system, steals their software, puts it online for free, leaves them with a dog video instead, and then base jumps off the building. And everything they show us tells us that he enjoys this kind of behavior. (Which, back to the pet peeve, why? Remember when action heroes didn’t want to be action heroes? They just were?) Which kind of obscures the fact that what he should be enjoying is his “annual prank on the company.” But enough about that, we’ll get to that in a bit.
Now that I got my pet peeve out of the way — because even though I’m about to discredit that entire line of thinking up there, you still can’t deny that the thread still exists in the material. They give you many more examples of this later on — I’ll tell you the real reason why this is here. It’s here because it’s foreshadowing the light cycles later on. But still, they are establishing him as someone who likes the “rush” and does stupid and reckless things. And that’s what pisses me off.
What also pisses me off is this other little movie moment they throw in for no fucking reason at all. Sam, hearing the police siren, turns around to look at the cop. And as he does, he flips up the visor on his helmet.
Why does he do this? So the audience can see his face, just in case they weren’t sure that this man on the bike was, in fact, Sam Flynn. Why do I know this is the reason? Because any idiot wearing a motorcycle helmet isn’t going to lift up the visor to increase visibility! You are literally turning back into blinding fucking headlights, and flashing police sirens! Wouldn’t you think a visor, designed to block out shit like that, would help you better see what you’re looking at? Also, if you can hear the siren, wouldn’t you just turn around to check for the presence of lights in order to be sure they’re for you? Why do you need to flip it up to make that confirmation? It’s clearly to point out to the idiots that this is Sam all grown up. Personally, I’d have found it much more badass if he just turned around, saw the cop, and was like, “Yeah, right,” then turned around and sped forward without flipping anything (not even his middle finger). This is why The Matrix was awesome. Trinity never flipped up her helmet, did she? Then when he got away, he could take the helmet off all dramatic-like (which he fucking does anyway), and reveal himself as Sam. Plus, he flips it back down again when he turns forward. What the fuck?
So now the mini-chase is on. Vroom vroom, vroom vroom. This chase lasts about, oh, thirty seconds. Maybe. Sam turns his lights off and speeds up in front of a semi that was in front of him, and then jumps the rail down onto the exit ramp about three feet past where the exit begins. The cop, obscured by the truck, as he went to follow Sam as he made his move, does not see this and rides past the exit, on the highway, as Sam rides down onto the street below. End of mini-chase. If it weren’t for the light cycles, I would have been a lot harsher on this fucking thing. And even so, I still got on it a little bit. Next annoying shot…
This shot isn’t so much annoying in an unnecessary way, but more so in a “Are you really lifting this from another movie?” way. Take a look at this next shot, of Sam coming up from the lower half of the streets onto the main avenue. Remind you of any other movie that’s come out in the past three years?
Yeah, me neither.
Now Sam passes by the control tower at the base of a giant building. We know its big because the guard has about fifteen surveillance screens he’s got to watch while he eats that donut and drinks that coffee. And Sam, unnoticed by the world, parks his bike right across the street from this building. (Hindsight note: You’d think a company that knows this kid likes to fuck with them once a year would hava extra security on such an important night like this. You know, maybe.)
Of course the shot of Sam parking his bike has to include this dainty little close-up. If we’re counting, that’s two direct close-ups of the word Ducati. By the end of this article, it will be a drinking game.
After that horrible, horrible moment — it happens. The big reveal. We get the shot every action movie wet dreams of. The big jizzer. The close-up of the star, preferably as they take off a helmet or do something that can be considered badass. The only thing missing from this shot is a sound effect.
That’s right kids, it’s Garrett Hedlund. “Who’s Garrett Hedlund?” “It’s Sam Flynn, shut the fuck up!”
Sorry about that. Fucking five year olds…
They had him look away from the camera and then look toward it, too. He even smiles. That’s just disgusting. The only thing missing was if they panned down from the floor up to him as he poses with his arms across his chest in a badass pose. I bet the only reason they didn’t do that was because they had to include this — our third Ducati close-up (oh, don’t you worry, I’m gonna show you all of them):
And then Sam runs up the street. Why he runs, I have no idea. If you succeed in understanding this, tell me how.
Sam then runs up the loading dock of the building and breaks in. He uses some computer shit that we don’t understand, and it at least looks like it’s complex enough to get the job done. However, as he goes inside (passing the very large door meant to keep people like him out), he says, “Now that is a big door.” Which, I’m not sure how much of my problem with this line has to do with the fact that it exists, or the fact that it was so clearly ADR it’s sickening. Another movie pet peeve I’m just gonna throw out – ADR’d lines. They’re really obvious. You have a scene, then cut to a wide shot at the tail end before transitioning to something else, and right then someone says another line – clearly ADR. It’s very obvious, doesn’t even sound the same, and usually isn’t even worth the trouble of adding it.
So, now, we’re in Encom. How do we know?
Just intuition, I guess. So now we have our boardroom scene. My major problem with boardroom scenes (the same works with debriefing scenes) is, they all have very clunky introductions to characters. Like, they have to introduce the character to the audience, but they do it in such a way that makes no sense within the universe. It’s like if, your were talking to your brother, and you said, “Well, you know, Sara, my wife…”, like he wasn’t going to know who Sara was. You’ve only been married to her for ten years. Like that.
My famous example of this (not really sure why, it just is) is Transformers. There’s one scene where the computer techs are all being debriefed about the attack on the military base and are gathered in a room. And they’re told they’re about to talk to the Secretary of Defense (played by Jon Voight). And this lady gets up in front of the room and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary of Defense.” And then Jon Voight steps forward and goes, “Hello everyone, I’m John Keller.” Now, I ask you, if you worked for the Pentagon, don’t you think you’d know who your Secretary of Defense was? Don’t you think you’d recognize him and know who he was without him having to introduce himself? And from the other end, as the writer of this scene, don’t you think it would make far more sense to have the woman introducing him just go, “Ladies and gentlemen, Secretary of Defense Keller”? Wouldn’t that take care of all your exposition needs in one fell swoop? Instead of splitting it up and compounding the offense? That’s why I don’t like boardroom scenes. They always fall into this same trap, every time.
This scene is no different. As the board members are gathered (I bet board is spelled b-o-r-e-d), this woman stands up and says, essentially, “I know it’s late, I won’t waste your time. Let me introduce to you our chairman, Richard Mackey.” And he stands up and they applaud.
Now, I assume that these people that work for this company have done so for more than, oh, eight seconds. And even so, going to work for a company, you’d probably be at least somewhat informed as to who your chairman is. It’s also assumed that these people are at least somewhat higher up within the company to be sitting in on a board meeting like this in the first place. Plus, if you had to be called in so late for a meeting like this, wouldn’t only the top ranking members of the company be the ones to actually be there? Anyone called in to meet with the chairman at midnight is clearly someone with some power. So, my question is – why the fuck would you tell them the dude’s name? Shouldn’t they all know it by now? At least try to hide the fact that you’re layering in exposition. And what’s worse — who the fuck cares what his name is? The dude is irrelevant. He shows up for one scene and then he’s gone for good. We don’t need to know his name. We know he’s the CEO, that’s good enough. He’ll take care of the rest with what he does. Do you really think people are going to come out of the movie, going, “I love when Sam played the prank on Encom and Chairman Richard Mackey got mad!”? No! People will forget about Chairman Richard Mackey before we get out of the police station in the next scene.
So, we’re back at Encom, where “Chairman Richard Mackey” has just been introduced. And Chairman Richard Mackey stands up and starts addressing his board. And as Chairman Richard Mackey stands up (I’m gonna call him by his full name as we are told it until I can’t stand it anymore. After that he’ll just be known as The Mack), he is met by applause. Why? Because, I guess, that’s just what you do. (I’m going to start applauding my boss every time I see him at work. I’m sure that’ll go swimmingly.) He’s called everyone in at midnight to go over the numbers from the last fiscal year. Because that’s normal. They’re also ringing the opening bell of the Japanese stock market, but that’s specious. Though I actually kind of like that this entire film takes place at night. I’ll sacrifice some logic to keep that illusion going.
Also, during this, Sam is breaking into the building to do something nefarious. Naturally. (Sam’s a real shifty motherfucker.) But we’ll get back to Sam later. I just want to focus on the board and Chairman Richard Mackey at the moment.
So Chairman Richard Mackey gets up and says that “at midnight tonight, the 12th version of our flagship operating system will hit the shelves, around the world.” Let us pause and break down this statement. Much the way he pauses between “shelves” and “around” — “At midnight tonight” – not midnight tomorrow, or 5am mountain time. Midnight tonight. I feel the “tonight” part is a wee bit redundant. Also, “around the world” – is this, everyone’s midnight? Or just midnight our time and just whatever time it is in other places? Does that mean Tokyo is getting the program at 1pm and not earlier? Why would it only go on the shelves at 1 in the afternoon? I just want some logic here, that’s all. I just want to know that someone is paying some sort of attention to what’s being said. That way I can know if it’s sheer incompetence or if they really don’t give a shit. (Note: It’s probably both.) With just a little more effort (or maybe less effort, since I bet this script went through at least seven writers just to get this dialogue), all of this would make a whole lot more sense and still be what it needs to be.
Now, the next part — “the 12th version of our flagship operating system” – which is, what? How can you blatantly state the names of everything else but leave out the name of the damned operating system? Also, if you’re the CEO of the company, and are addressing a room full of people who know the inner workings of said company, do you really need a bunch of adjectives to describe the product? Wouldn’t they know what it is intrinsically by working there? Do they need the whole speech you give the public? I’m pretty sure he could just say, “Windows, Version 12,” and they’d all understand. (Which, they should already know, because why else are they fucking there in the room at midnight?). Also, you know this is a Microsoft parable. And if you don’t think it is, they’ll pretty much spell it out blatantly in just a few minutes.
Now is also when we have our introduction, or rather, reintroduction, of Bruce Boxleitner. If you really don’t know the first movie, (which, they spelled it out for you in the introduction), he was Flynn’s partner (and the basis for Tron, the character), and clearly isn’t happy about the way things are going. Which — if you’re performing a coup, would you still keep the dude on staff after all these years? Wouldn’t he be the first one to go? In Mutiny on the Bounty, Captain Bligh was cast asea along with those who were loyal to him. Plus, it was the 80s when this happened. Back then they could just fire him and cut off his hand and there wouldn’t be any kind of inquiry into it. It’s really strange they’d keep him on after all these years. Though maybe it’s one of those things where, they have to, because the kid could come and take over the company at any point in time, so they do it as sort of a peace offering. (Also, isn’t this exactly what Batman Begins was about? Just sayin’.)
Anyway, now’s where we get the whole referencing back to the first movie, with the little nudge, “The son of the bad dude from the first movie is now the lead software designer! Huh? Huh?” Meanwhile all I’m concerned with is, “Hey, that’s Cillian Murphy.”
Though I don’t think anyone who isn’t familiar with the first movie would ever get that connection. Therefore the only response most people would have to this is actually, “Hey, it’s Cillian Murphy.” (And maybe, “Hey, wasn’t he also in Batman Begins?”) The desired response is, “Hey, the son of the evil dude is now head software designer, and it’s supposed to be Sam instead.” But, you know, hey, it’s Cillian Murphy.
Hey, wasn’t he also in Batman Begins?
Anyway, back to Boxleitner. Boxleitner raises his hand (seriously? Is this the fourth grade?) as Chairman Richard Mackey is talking and asks:
“Given the price we charge students, and schools to use Flynn – I mean, Encom OS 12 — what sort of improvements have been made to the program?”
To which Chairman Richard Mackey responds: “OS 12 has a 12 on the box.”
Remember what I said about the Microsoft parable? Yeah, it’s not subtle.
Anyway, back to Boxleitner. Again. His statement I like a lot. It’s a very not subtle way of saying, “We all know you haven’t updated shit, but I want to hear you say it.” He also gets audience sympathy by mentioning how they’re ripping off schools and students. Then he makes the big move of calling it “Flynn” instead of “Encom.” Which is basically a slap in the face to Chairman Richard Mackey. He’s basically saying, “We all know who is really supposed to be running this company, and if he were here, this wouldn’t be happening.” Shows you where his loyalties lie, and within the span of one line gets the audience on his side. At least, I hope that’s what he was doing with that line. Because otherwise it’s like, “You mean to tell me that after all these years this motherfucker still doesn’t know the name of his own company?”
Cillian Murphy (hey, look!) tells him it’s “the most secure operating system ever released. The idea of sharing our software, or, giving it away for free, disappeared with Kevin Flynn.” Which, has nothing to do with what the dude asked, and everything to do with the subtext to what was said. Boxleitner was like, “What improvements have we made to justify charging these people all that the money for a new operating system?” And Cillian Murphy is like, “We’re not motherfucking Gandhi! We don’t give our shit away for free! Go back and suck the dead man’s dick on your own time!” Which, admittedly, is the shrewder answer. And given that Murphy is also the one to swiftly and intelligently deal with Flynn’s prank, methinks they’re setting him up to be the villain in the next movie. You heard it here first. (Or it was really obvious.)
So that’s the board meeting. We met Alan. We met Chairman Richard Mackey. And we saw (hey, look!) Cillian Murphy. Now we’ll get back to Sam.
Sam, as it’s going on, passes by the board meeting — I guess because he can — onto the room with all the servers, which, coincidentally is on the same floor. Either that or they just wanted you to be sure he’s in the same building as everyone else. I wonder how else everyone could have figured it out without that shot…
The world may never know.
So, Sam goes and foils the security system, only to get tripped up by an unseen trip wire (so that’s what they’re for…), which alerts the guard down below (the one guard in the entire building). And just in case you didn’t know he was a security guard, we get this dandy little shot:
Subtlety in action. Look at that fucking hat.
So Sam goes into the servers and is uploading — something — we don’t exactly know what he’s doing yet, but since he’s our main character, we’re to assume it’s important. And naturally, any time a character uploads or downloads anything into a computer it has to take an obscenely long amount of time, to which they look at it impatiently and go, “come on…”
Looks like you should have upgraded to OS 12, Sam.
I will stop to point out that these shots are very nice. I love the look of all the servers and how it’s set up. I also like their use of 3D here. They’re not throwing shit at you, but are clearly setting up their shots so as to have stuff pop out in the third dimension. Like this shot:
I’m a fan. Though, one question — how would Sam know which one of the dozens of identical mainframe processors he’s looking for? Is it written in flashing light Braille or something? Or did he just go for the furthest one back, giving him the most room to maneuver an exit?
So Sam goes and uploads his thing (which we later discover is a video of his dog barking) onto their computers, while also stealing the new operating system and uploading it online for free. All this while narrowly avoiding the guard, who, having seen the intrusion, came up to investigate. This is all okay. We establish Sam likes to play a prank on the company (though he really doesn’t seem to be having fun with it. Wouldn’t you take some joy in the fact that you just fucked over these people for a lot of money?), which will get explained in the next scene, and we see that the company are assholes and that Alan is the only one with Flynn’s real interests at heart. All fine. Then, we cut to this:
Once again, not blatantly stealing from any other film at all.
Nope. Not a one.
So Sam’s on the roof, and the security guy comes out to confront him. Because, you know, that’s part of his job description.
Notice the other guy standing below with the flashlight. Yeah, he’s the only smart one on this roof. The exchange goes as follows:
Guard: “Where you gonna run to now?”
Sam: “You don’t wanna do that.”
Guard: “Didn’t anyone ever tell you stealing is wrong?”
Sam: “It’s not stealing if it’s something designed to be free.”
Guard: “Now I got you.”
Sam: “Hey, don’t sweat it, your boss is okay with it.”
Guard: “The hell he is.”
Sam: “Your boss works for the CEO, and the CEO works for the shareholders. Now do you know who biggest shareholder is?”
Guard: “I don’t know, some kid.”
And Sam stretches his arms, like this:
Guard: “You’re Mr. Flynn? …. Why? This is your father’s company.”
Sam: “Not anymore.”
Let us pause to talk about this exchange. First — why does the guard chase him so diligently? (Dillinger-ently! …oh, right, you haven’t seen this movie over a dozen times. Dillinger is the name of Cillian Murphy’s character.) What’s this dude getting paid that he’s gonna go up onto the roof and then up onto a beam to chase after some kid who was stealing from them. Also, if Sam does this once a year, wouldn’t the guard know by now that the kid does this (and who he is)? Wouldn’t your first instinct be, “Maybe this is the son of the former owner who likes to pull stuff like this once a year?” Maybe the guard is new. Maybe he’s not up on the list of people who like to break into the building. It still doesn’t explain what he’s doing up on that roof. And even if we let that go — doesn’t this exchange sound like someone writing bad dialogue and paring down a scene into what felt like just the essential words and phrases? Some of them don’t even make sense. Just look at the beginning of the exchange. The guard, out of nowhere, three lines in, is like, “Now I got you.” Why would he say that? Especially after asking him why he would be stealing? It makes no sense. And then on top of it making like he doesn’t know who the biggest shareholder is and then mentioning him by name? What’s up with that?
Dialogue like this can only take place in a situation like this, because the fact that they’re standing 100 floors above the ground makes you forget the fact that what they’re saying doesn’t even make any fucking sense! There’s only one line in the scene that’s more than a sentence long. There are only two words in the exchange that are more than two syllables. And those words are “anyone” and “shareholder(s).” This is the problem with blockbusters nowadays. All the dialogue is used as filler to get to the next action scene, and then all the dialogue in the action scenes is monosyllabic phrases like, “Let’s go,” “Come on,” “move, now,” and “get to the chopper.”
So now, Sam jumps off. Remember that picture I had at the top of yesterday’s article? Yeah, well, that’s him jumping off. Why doesn’t he just walk out the front door? Why doesn’t he just let himself get arrested and say, “But it’s my company. I wasn’t doing anything illegal.” (Which is what he ends up doing anyway.) No, he has to base jump off the side of the building because — well I don’t fucking know. That’s just what the movie dictates. It wouldn’t be so bad if he ended up not getting arrested, but he does, therefore it is a completely unnecessary moment.
But even if it were okay, the one part about it that pisses me off the most is what happens while he’s in the air.
When Sam base jumps off the building, he screams like he’s riding a roller coaster. That whole, “Whoooooo, woo hoo hoo hoo, yeah!” This is my big problem with the scene. (“That?!” That.)
Tell me — why? Why do you need to put that in? Everyone does it in movies. Someone shouting and saying “Yeah!!” while parachuting or base jumping is the equivalent of, at the beginning of every conversation, if both people said “hello” to one another. You don’t need it. Let the act speak for itself. Why must he scream? Why must they all scream? (Note: In Fast Five, as Vin Diesel and Paul Walker drive a car of a bridge and into a river without any parachutes, they don’t scream. I ask you, which moment is more badass?)
Also, if Sam is someone who clearly enjoys shit like this (it’s obvious he’s jumped off something tall before), wouldn’t he not be screaming like that? I’m pretty sure that if you do stuff like this all the time, you lose the whole, “Woo hoo hoo!” part after jump 50. After that it’s just feeling the rush. Wouldn’t you get zen about it after a while? Let it wash over you? Rather than fucking scream. Spider-Man didn’t go “Woo hoo!” in movie three when he was swinging around the city, did he?
Think of it this way. You’re a baseball player. You’re a rookie. You hit your first home run. You run around the bases real fast, pumping your fist. It’s a big moment. By the time you get to home run number 278, you’re bound to stop giving as much of a shit about it. You trot around the bases, pump your fist in a controlled manner (if at all), more akin to someone who just helped their team go up a run rather than if you just hit the go-ahead home run in Game 7 of the World Series. The fact that this kid is doing this after this jump tells me that he’s nothing more than a studio creation, designed to not be a person, but be a cinematic representation of the moviegoing audience. If this is the case then he has no personality, and he merely exists as a computer program. He does what he is programmed to do and nothing more. So why should I watch the fucking movie? Not to mention, going back to the baseball analogy, the only instances where one would show emotion are if the home run he hit, despite being number 300, was a big game-winner that sent his team into the playoffs. In which case, it’s okay to show some emotion because it’s a bigger deal than the others. However, it’s going to be explained in the next three minutes that this kid pulls this same stunt every year! He goes back to the building this same time every year and pulls a prank on them in the form of an inane stunt. Kind of defeats the purpose of a woo hoo, now, doesn’t it?
Also notice that, if the “woo hoo” weren’t there, the scene wouldn’t be any different, would it?
So now we need another mini-chase. After all, it’s been six minutes.
Junior’s parachute gets stuck on a lamp post. That always ruins the moment in my house. And right when Sam looks for a way down from this temporary obstruction, anonymous guards with flashlights appear on the street corner.
What exactly is their purpose? Where were they before when the kid broke into the building? No more than five minutes ago, we saw this kid park his motorcycle outside the building, walk onto the loading dock, break into the back door, go into the mainframe, steal from the company, but not before passing by the only room being occupied in the entire building, containing all of the important members of the company, then make his way all the way up to the roof, and the only direct opposition he’s faced was one lowly guard (and the other guard’s flashlight, from about forty feet away).
What kind of Mickey Mouse security system is this company running? One guard watches all the monitors of the entire building, then, when he sees there’s been a disturbance, he immediately gets up and runs to check it out himself (conveniently dropping his cup of coffee … so many cups of coffee are lost at times like these). He runs all the way up there to confront the kid himself, and then, after the kid eludes him in the control room, follows him all the way up to the roof. Not once does he radio this other team of guards that seems to be working in the building to go, “Hey, I think there might be a break in.” Not once does he think to himself, “Isn’t tonight when they’re going to unveil the new operating system? Wouldn’t this be an optimal time for someone to break in and try to steal it? Maybe I should do more than just go check it out myself.” (Also the fact that he knew to go up on the roof and not the front door.) You’d think someone with the pay rate and lack of benefits this guy has would immediately outsource the responsibility to someone else. “O’Henry’s up on 12. Have him check it out.”
Where were these other guards during the break in? Seems to me like they’d do a lot more than just show up on the corner after the fact during a break-in. Also, why would they even know to be on the corner? It’s not like the other guard would radio them after the kid jumped to be like, “Attention, man with parachute who broke into the building will soon be landing on the street.” Why would these guards be venturing out onto the street? Isn’t it their duty to secure the inside of the building? What purpose is chasing someone outside gonna do when they couldn’t even tell he was inside the building to begin with? Where does their jurisdiction end?
My favorite part of their appearance is the fact that they’re in the film for only one shot, and within those few seconds, all we see of them are flashlights and arms outstretched like, “There he is!” We don’t ever see them venture past the street corner that their building is on. So through this logic, we must assume that their jurisdiction ends at the corner of their building, which begs the question of what were these men guarding in the first place? The cars of the people inside? Are they unable to venture past the corner of Plot and Device for fear they might disintegrate into dust?
The guards are only there for the film to incorporate what’s known as “stakes.” Thick, juicy, artery-clogging, stakes. Their presence only exists so the chase can continue a little longer before we add the next element that makes the stakes go even higher — the cops. But we’re not there yet. First we need to deal with one more issue.
Now that the “stakes” have been raised — though not really, since as we’re about to find out, this stunt has zero consequences, other than a presumed ticket for illegal base jumping — Sam has to get down from the lamp post before he’s caught. Fine. What does he do? Cuts himself down. Where does he land? On a car. Because, you always land on a car. What kind of car does he land on? A taxi cab. Who is the driver of the taxi cab? An Arab man.
Now I ask you — does Disney try to be racist or does it just come naturally?
The man is clearly coded as Arab. And Sam laughs at him. Or rather, at the situation, which now includes him. I have two questions to this. First, if you were driving down a street, and saw a dude hanging from a lamppost on a parachute, wouldn’t you slow down to check it out? Why would you keep driving underneath him? (Note: He’s not the only car who does this. Several just keep going.) Second, after the man lands on top of your car, wouldn’t your first instinct be to stop so he can get off? Why would he — because this is what this cabbie does — start banging on the sunroof (do cabs have sunroofs often?), and then swerving violently all over the road (because that’s safe) in order to throw the man off the roof of his cab, all the while yelling at him in Arabic?
And he keeps swerving violently until the police arrive. Once he sees the police cars he stops very suddenly, getting a panicked look on his face. Methinks the film is trying to tell us he’s not in this country legally. Either that or, he’s like, “Oh fuck, I’m going to hit them.” But, safety doesn’t appear to be this cabbie’s concern, as he drove under a dude hanging by a parachute from a lamp post, took his eyes off the road to bang on the sunroof to get the man off, and swerved violently across three lanes to throw the man off of his cab onto the street in the way of other moving cars. I’ll leave you to decide what the reaction really means.
So now the cops stop the cab. Sam, unperturbed, slides off the roof, onto the street, then slides across the hoods of the cop cars and runs over toward his bike, which you can clearly see here, with the Ducati logo as the main focal point of the shot:
Why is Sam running from the police? I guess because, as we’ve established with his first run-in with an officer of the law, he likes to get himself into, and then out of, situations. Not once here does he think the cops may shoot him, and the only time he stops is when a police helicopter shows up out of nowhere. End of mini-chase. Why were the anonymous guards necessary in the first place? Couldn’t you have just had him get to his bike and then have the cars surround him? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to not bring in a giant hole in logic by introducing people who make no sense to be there? Shouldn’t you have just cut this scene altogether?
The answer we’re looking for is “yes.”
This mini-chase has no stakes whatsoever (and any “stakes” the film introduces are nonfactors), the hero is in no imminent danger whatsoever, and the situation never amounts to anything. Once again, we’re left with an “action” scene in the place of character development.
Think of every single great action movie you’ve ever seen. Isn’t the reason they’re great because the characters have some sort of motivation and character to build upon as the movie progresses? John McClane. Jason Bourne, Batman. The action scenes don’t just happen naturally (unless we’re dealing with a bad sequel), they occur organically within the development of the plot. They make sense. They aren’t just there for the sake of being there because there’s been more than a few seconds without some sort of action scene taking place.
It’s not that everything that’s happened thus far is uninteresting, it’s that — all you need to do is do it slightly differently, and nothing would get changed from the overall product, and it wouldn’t be so — contrived.
And if my point isn’t made on its own, the fim makes it for me. In the very next scene we find out the whole fucking thing didn’t matter! Sam leaves a police station with nothing more than a ticket (which still might be the receipt to pick up his bike at the impound lot). He got a slap on the wrist for all of that. Which means the only part of that entire sequence that mattered was the fact that he sabotaged the company’s big release.
But it was “awesome,” right?
Bullshit. You could still make it awesome without making it so fucking trite.
CONTINUED TOMORROW, IN PART III