Reviewing the Legacy

 

Tron: Legacy is a fast paced special effects ride through a literal computer generated landscape.  The plot picks up about 27 years after the original Tron ended.  Kevin Flynn disappeared 7 years after his original adventure leaving his son Sam Flynn as an orphan.  Sam, now an adult, doesn’t have much that he cares about in his life and is little more than a rich prankster.  Out of the blue he is called to his father’s old video arcade by a mysterious page and is quickly trapped inside the computerized world that his father created.  There he participates in deadly games and must help to free his father from his runaway creation, Clu, who has become a virtual dictator on the grid.

The strongest points of Tron: Legacy are without a doubt the special effects and the music, which are consistent throughout the film.  The special effects sell themselves and are worth the price of admission alone.  While some may feel that they are too flashy and that it’s hard to see what’s going on I thought that they were crisp and clean and worked very well.  The soundtrack, performed by Daft Punk, also helps to set the scene and develops a transcendent atmosphere.

The character devleopment and the acting are also fairly strong.  Jeff Bridges’ rendition of Kevin Flynn and his alter ego Clu are distinct and create depth and emotion in the characters.  The dichotomy between Flynn and his created program Clu is the single best plot point of the movie and it is acted very well.  Clu was originally created by Flynn to help him create a perfect world, but the search for perfection eventually consumed him and he rebelled against his creator.  Flynn’s search for redemption for his sin of pride is a major theme of the movie.  The other main characters, the independent program Quorra and Flynn’s son Sam, are also both portrayed fairly well especially when you consider that the majority of their acting was done surrounded by green screens.

Where Tron: Legacy fails the most is in realizing its potential for a great plot.  Alan, Flynn’s friend and the creator of Tron, tells Sam: “He (Flynn) said he was about to change everything…science, medicene, religion.  He wouldn’t have left all that.”  The implication is that the digital world that Flynn created somehow has real world implications that will literally change how we see and live in the world.  This sounds very compelling, but it is not really supported throughout the movie.  There are occasional lines that point to religious or spiritual ideas, but they are not really followed up.  For instance, Flynn talks to his son Sam about the importance of doing nothing and waiting, and while he is not a complete hypocrite as his hand is forced, shortly after he says this he proceeds to do quite a lot.  The other big religious implication is the development of the Isos.  The Isos are independent programs that emerged or evolved inside Flynn’s world without Flynn’s direct guidance.  They are literally a new form of life.   This is truly an amazing idea, but unfortunately it is not explored and is little more than a throw away line to provide a back story.  What made the Isos so unique?  Where did they come from?  Unfortunately these questions are not answered, but the good thing about Tron: Legacy is that the action is quick and engaging and the audience doesn’t dwell on these questions for too long.

Despite its lack of a solid plot or any 3 dimensional ideas it is a fun movie and worth watching, especially in 3D.
2.5 out of 4 stars!

– Kevin

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One Small Step…

To begin the first of many posts on the development of technology we will travel back in time to the very first days of humanity.  In fact, we might just go a little bit further.  In 1968, the year before the moon landing, Stanley Kubrick and Arther C. Clarke created the iconic film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The beginning of the film features over 3 minutes of a black screen with atmospheric music that eventually overwhelms the viewer (quite an experience in a movie theater as I always just fast-forwarded at home without realizing the movie had started.)  Suddenly the image cuts to the moon, earth, and sun in perfect alignment.  It’s quite a moment of creation suddenly switching from a screen devoid of light to our entire local universe of earth, moon, and sun.  Coincidentally as I write these words we are having a solar eclipse, which unfortunately is not visible from the northern hemisphere, but is still very exciting.

The Ultimate Tool

Next we watch a tribe of apes, who seem strangely human, forage for food.  They are beset upon by a leopard and then an aggressive neighboring tribe and seem on the verge of being wiped out when suddenly the Monolith appears the next morning.  After spending time with the Monolith one member realizes his ability to use an old discarded thigh bone as a club…using a tool to manipulate his environment.  Soon afterwards he teaches this new skill to his tribe and they come to dominate the area using their new technology of bone tools.

Let me show you this new tool

While this depiction of the first tool use among humanity’s ancestors is purely fictionalized, and the myth of man as tool maker has been debunked with numerous examples of animal tool use, I do think that it shows an important connection.  It was not simply having a hand that allowed the ape to use the tool.  A cognitive development in his mind allowed him to realize the potential he had in manipulating his environment.  Two previously unlinked parts of his brain connected and concept consciously became reality.  When our ancestors picked up their first tools of bone, stone, and wood, and perhaps other materials that did not survive the ages, it truly was a revolution of the mind and a defining moment in history.  These first technologies allowed our ancestors to gather and hunt more food, to protect themselves, and eventually to build ever more complex tools taking more and more control of their environments.

In the biblical story of creation I think it is worth mentioning that tools were first indirectly mentioned just after the Fall.  In the Garden of Eden there was no need for tools, but soon after eating the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil Adam and Eve: “knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves” and after the LORD God had discovered them He “sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. (GEN 3:7, 23).

Why did we eat the fruit?

While this is pretty advanced technology compared to the bone club of 2001 I think it highlights a potential link between fallen humanity and the need/use of technology.  The world we live in is far from perfect and the vast majority of us depend on multiple technologies for our survival and comfort.  However, I would also argue that many of us in the modern world, in addition to using technology to survive, in some way see technological development as an effort to return to paradise.  This is paradoxical because the Garden of Eden was a place devoid of technology, and yet we are trying to recreate it by using technology.  I am not saying that technology is evil by any means, but I think this begs many interesting questions.

To further highlight that link lets go back to 2001. After the apes devastate the neighboring tribe using their new bone weapons their leader, Moon-Watcher, tosses his bone club into the air and the film cuts to an image of an orbiting nuclear weapons platform matching it to the movement of the bone.  This perfectly juxtaposes the strong link between tools and weapons, and technological advances and war.  Most technological developments, even if meant to aid humanity as a whole, are used to instead bolster a specific group’s interests.  Of course technology is also hard to keep secret and the use of bone clubs, clothing, fire and other developments would have spread quickly among prehistoric man.

Once we began using tools, for good or bad we could no longer view ourselves as simply a part of nature; instead we began slowly at first and ever faster to manipulate and control our environment.  From the first bone tools to the most advanced rockets and computers humanity began its long journey with, as always, one small step…

One Small Step...

-Kevin

Technology

What is the most common element in all of science fiction?  Is it being set in the future or in space?  Perhaps it’s innovative plots or mind bending aliens?  While all of these are important to science fiction I would argue that the most consistent element in the genre of science fiction is technology, especially technology that pushes what is currently possible or believed.

To highlight technology in science fiction and science fact I will be authoring a series of posts on the development of technology throughout history, into the present day, and into the foreseeable and perhaps not so foreseeable future.

The etymology of the word technology comes from the greek and means the study of an art, craft, or skill.  One definition of technology is that it is a developed and refined technique or tool that increases what we can produce through an art, craft, or skill.

I would argue that while this definition is certainly true technology is also something more than that.  Especially in the modern day technology has become a set of tools that define us and not only change what we can do, but alter the very way that we live our lives and form our communities.

Some view technology as a Pandora’s box that dehumanizes our relationships and society.  From that perspective technology is artificial and against our human nature.  It can only corrupt even under the best of intentions.  Others argue that technology, like any tool or construct, is not inherently bad or good, but rather can be used by anyone for both good and bad purposes depending on their perspective and culture.  Of course there are many other views and distinctions concerning technology some of which I hope to explore as I write these posts.  I will try to post about two a week throughout the rest of the summer beginning with stone age technologies and moving through history to the modern day.

– Kevin

A Storm is Coming

Sun Idol

In the past the sun has been revered as a god and an idol.  During the middle ages and into the renaissance it moved from orbiting our plant to being the center of the Earth’s orbit.  For many Christians the sun is still seen as divine, or rather, as a sign or symbol of God’s grace and power.  From a scientific perspective the sun is the source of nearly all of the energy that flows within the life on Earth and it is the origin of our weather patterns and the seasons.  The sun is central to our solar system, our existence, and our future.

Scientists have shown that solar storm activity peaks every 11 years and we should enter the next high point sometime around 2012.  Past solar storms have had devastating effects on the Earth and society.  It is believed that an 1859 solar storm disrupted telegraph lines and caused fires throughout Europe and North America.  In 1989 the power grid was knocked out in Quebec, Canada, and in 2003 2 satellites and a Martian probe’s systems were affected by solar activity.

Solar Flare

Now our modern technology is more sensitive, far more wide spread, and central to our every day life and a severe solar storm could cause cataclysmic destruction across the world.  One powerful storm could affect water, communication, refrigeration, and refueling systems just to name a few essentials to our way of life.  While I am not a believer in a prophesied Armageddon in 2012 I do believe that we should be cautious and aware of the dangers that accompany our modern society.  It will take money and research to begin to understand and eventually predict space weather patterns, but this is something we must be more aware of.

In the end we would not be here without the sun.  It is essential to so many parts of our world and our existence, but as with many parts of the natural world we must treat it with the respect and awe that it deserves.  In order for our balanced world to exist we must often weather extremes in our environment.  We have survived these trials in the past and we will weather them in the future, but we must be prepared for them.  Part of being prepared for these storms is limiting our dependence on our technology, and reaffirming local human connections in our communities.  These connections are essential to our future as they were to our past and in the end they are more dependable and reliant than all the technology in the world

-KEM