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Nostalgiamovies: Don’t Bore Us, Get to the Chorus

Watching the opening of Tron: Legacy again on Netflix Instant the other day — what can I say, I’m clearly a masochist — something occurred to me: Why do filmmakers think that what we want from the return of childhood favorites is a lesson in business?

For those who haven’t seen Tron: Legacy, and who still can’t be tempted to sit through it even on Netflix … well done. No, wait, what I meant to say was, the opening of the movie centers around the release of the latest operating system from the company founded by the hero of the original movie, which has been taken over in his absence by Evil Corporate Interests who don’t care about Open Source Technology and, oh, God, I can’t even pretend to be interested enough to finish this sentence. The strangest thing may be that this sequence really doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the film. I mean, potentially, it’s there to set up the idea that the lead of the new film is “badass” and that the people running the company that he has the controlling interest in are Soulless Evil Corporate Drones, but there are far, far better ways to do that which don’t take up so much screen time.

It reminded me of The Phantom Menace, also known as Star Wars Episode 1 and The Movie That Dare Not Speak Its Name And, No, 3D Will Not Make It Better. That film, you may have forgotten, centers around — as Wikipedia calls it — “finding a peaceful end to a large-scale interplanetary trade dispute.” Yes, a trade dispute. Because, you know, that’s what people really wanted to see in the first new Star Wars movie in almost 20 years — a story about a trade dispute.

I have a theory as to why both Tron and Star Wars made the same questionable decision to include business matters in their long-awaited follow-ups: They wanted to reassure the kids who’d seen the original movies decades earlier that it was alright that they’d grown up and gone into business instead of becoming warriors in some exotic science fiction world. Looked at from that point of view, it’s almost an admirable decision to weigh the movies down with such clunky, dull expositionary scenes instead of just cutting straight to the attempts to revisit the past but with special effects that everyone is actually paying for. Almost.

But here’s the thing: No one really cares about the story of these films. No-one really cares about anything in this kind of film, the revival of a childhood favorite, other than somehow magically experiencing the exact same feelings that the original movies gave you way back when. If you asked the people excited about these movies, ahead of time, whether they could either have a good movie or a movie that made them feel like they were a kid again, they more than likely wouldn’t choose quality over nostalgia. And so, the idea of adding things like trade disputes or open source software arguments to add … I don’t know, some “real world” touches, or details to ground the stories, or whatever, just seems completely unnecessary — and, worse still, it slows down the movie from reaching the nostalgia button that much earlier.

It’s not like I’m arguing that taking the first twenty or so minutes out of Tron: Legacy would make it a good film, because — well, it’d take so much more in order to do that — but it would make it a better one … both in terms of quality, and doing what you want a movie like this to do. People in charge of the Micronauts, Black Hole and Logan’s Run movies: Learn from others’ mistakes, please?


  • Fillerbunny

    Wow…. That seems a rather shallow, lowest-common-denominator take on things… It’s almost equal to saying Michael Bay was the right choice for Transformers (or, you know, directing, really). I agree there were problems with Tron: Legacy, least of which was that Tron itself wasn’t truly that good in the first place, but considering Legacy was done with the goal of franchise building in mind, setting up possible over-arching conflicts in the first movie doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable. Same goes for Phantom Menace, where the trade embargo was set-up for Palpatine’s rise to power and the establishment of the Empire (because these things don’t “just happen”).

  • Alex

    Politics (business and political) belong mostly in the background with limited explanation. That’s what we learned from Episode One. Look how limited the political dialogue is in Star Wars (episode 4). Just a few lines about the Emporer disolving the senate and that’s it. A few lines from Princess Leia about the consequences of Lord Vader’s actions attacking their ship. Great stuff and brief. It’s not distracting.

  • Jimbo

    I for one found that the whole trade dispute angle and Palpatine’s rise from senator to chancellor (and emperor) in later films to be the most interesting aspects of the prequel trilogy. I think it went a long way to flesh out the Star Wars universe. If the action scenes could have matched the political aspects of the plot (felt the action was strangely sterile, with lucas too impressed by CGI to be bothered to construct a competent action scene) and there was no jar jar binks, I probably would have preferred the prequels…

  •!/ David R. Schmitt

    Even amidst the ham dialogue, unconvincing love story and lazy set construction? No sir, it would need a a heck of a lot more for me to consider it even a good film, let alone a good Star Wars film.

    For the record I’d watch Tron:Legacy over in a heart beat, for some of it’s flaws in the beginning it was still fun in the end. Certainly had better dialogue then the Prequels.