REVIEW: TRON LEGACY QUORRA AND JARVIS FIGURES
Almost thirty years ago, Disney came out with an amazing film called TRON. To call this motion picture "cutting edge" for the time period would be understatement. It postulated a computerized world, inhabited by sentient, humanoid programs. The movie used what was then state of the art computer animation to make the world in which the actors perform appear that much more computerized. Light cycles, fantastic computer generated ships, the whole works.
In the early 1980's, it was jaw-droppingly, mind-blowingly brand new. Nothing like it had ever been seen or even attempted before in cinematic history. Today -- however cool the premise of a computer world might be, however cool the story is, let's be honest, the kindest word that can be used for the special effects would probably be "quaint", or maybe "retro".
The original Tron involved the story of a young computer expert and hacker by the name of Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges. Recently fired by a large computer corporation called Encom, he was running a video arcade, and trying to hack his way back into the system to prove that the creep who had taken credit for his video games -- and gotten promoted way up the corporate ladder as a result -- a fellow by the name of Ed Dillinger, played by David Warner, had in fact stolen the programs.
Along for the ride were a couple of former colleagues of Flynn's. One of them was an assistant on a project that could "digitize", or computerize, actual objects, turning them into computer programs. It had, to date, been tested on an orange. The other had written a security program, called "Tron", to monitor Encom's Master Control Program, much to the nervousness of Dillinger, and for that matter, the MCP.
Suspecting something was up, and in a sideways way wanting to help Flynn, the two assisted Flynn in getting direct access to Encom's computers, including the MCP, who unbeknown to any of them had become self-aware, and was manipulating Dillinger in the real world to basically help him take over the world -- electronically.
Once the MCP realized that Flynn was hacking into his system, he used the digitizing machine to drag Flynn into the computer world, with the intent of killing him there. Flynn was what was considered a "user", perceived as near-deities by the programs. The MCP had taken over much of the computer world, with the electronic counterpart of Dillinger, named Sark. But the program named Tron proved to be a considerable nuisance, as did Flynn. Flynn escaped from the game grid, and with help from Tron and others, was ultimately able to defeat the MCP, and return to the real world, where he was appointed the head of Encom. Happy endings all around, and an amazing, like-nothing-ever-seen-before adventure in the midst of it all.
The movie was popular, but no sequel was ever put forth. And yet, Tron lived on in the minds of pop-culture fans. The original toy line, which had consisted of four translucent plastic action figures (I have the originals) and a light cycle or two were remade. There was a short-lived comic book. There was a video game, Tron 2.0, which had an action figure line of its own. But there was never a sequel movie.
And, of course, the computer animation world only continued to progress. Toy Story. Transformers Beast Wars. Shrek. The Star Wars Prequels. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Tron seemed to have set the stage, given an inkling as to what was possible, and then stepped aside, and let those possibilities take over from there, which they did with great leaps and bounds of visual dynamics.
Which leads us into TRON LEGACY, the official sequel to TRON, nearly thirty years later, a movie with a storyline that, ultimately, actually needed that much time to pass in order for it to happen.
The storyline is basically as follows: In 1989, Kevin Flynn, the CEO of Encom, tells his eight-year-old son about a "digital frontier" he has created called The Grid, a virtual domain existing inside the game system. Kevin tells Sam of the two programs helping him, Tron and Clu. Tron keeps The Grid secure, while Clu is tasked with creating the perfect system. Flynn spends time in the digital world when he can, but also must deal with his life in the real world -- until one day, he disappears, and speculation abounds as to where he has gone.
Twenty years later, Sam is haunted by his father's mysterious disappearance, and investigates a page that originated from a supposedly disconnected number at Flynn's long-shuttered arcade. Exploring the arcade, Sam discovers a concealed door leading to a computer laboratory in the basement. Attempting to discover what his father was doing by calling up the command logs and reissuing the last command entered, Sam activates a digitizing laser which transports him to The Grid.
Sam is captured and taken to the game arena where he receives combat armor and an identity disc. When Sam attempts to escape he is pitted against Rinzler, a master of the games, who discovers that Sam is not a program, but a user. Sam is taken to Clu, who Sam initially believes is his father. Clu brings Sam into a Light Cycle match with several other programs, and Sam is nearly killed before Quorra, another program, rescues him, taking him to a distant hideout in the Off-Grid Outlands. There, he is reunited with his father Kevin.
It is revealed that during The Grid's development, the so-called "isomorphic algorithms" (ISOs) manifested out with the potential to unlock mysteries in almost every field of science, medicine, and even religion. Clu saw the ISO's as imperfect beings and, taking his programming to an extreme, betrayed both Kevin and Tron and seized control over The Grid. He then systematically eliminated all ISOs. Clu also has designs on conquering the real world, but the portal takes massive amounts of energy to sustain, and cannot be open indefinitely. Sam's arrival in the Grid has opened it -- for a brief time.
Quorra reveals that Kevin can "re-integrate" with Clu at any time, but that the process would destroy them both. Revealing much more than that would ruin significant plots of the storyline, so I don't intend to do that.
For me, one of the more remarkable parts of the movie, visually, aside from the stunning computer world, was Jeff Bridges portrayal of himself, now thirty years older than he was in the first movie, and playing Clu, who hasn't aged a day. There's something that computer animation certainly wasn't capable of in the 1980's.
TRON: LEGACY is an amazing movie, with absolutely astounding, mind-blowing, incredible designs and visuals, bringing the electronic world to life in a way that would've been unimaginable thirty years ago, and putting the CGI world in general on notice that the computerized world can still step up to the plate that has been run across by a host of movies since the original, and still blow people away with what it can do.
Speaking of merchandising, there's a substantial toy line, certainly more than just four action figures and a couple of light cycles. There are figures in several different sizes (the larger ones with the moving faces border on the creepy), and a very decent line of smaller action figures, and other assorted items.
Interestingly, the license for the Tron: Legacy toys went to a company called Spin Master. I'll readily admit, this isn't a company that I know much about. That's not a name that you think of right off the bat when you think of action figures. Mattel, Hasbro, yes. Bandai, McFarlane, even Playmates, sure. Spin Master!?
But, what's in a name, as long as the toys are cool. And they certainly are that. The most extensive cast can be found, not surprisingly, in the 4" line of action figures, which included six figures at the outset, followed by an additional two later on. This review will take a look at those two, by the name of QUORRA and JARVIS.
Let's start with QUORRA. There is still a certain stigma in the action figure world concerning female action figures. I am extremely pleased that Spin Master decided to proceed with this particular female figure, as the character is certainly a major part of the movie. She's not the lone female in the film, but she's easily the most prominent.
We first encounter Quorra when she literally breaks into the game arena during a Light Cycle match with her extremely cool four-wheeled vehicle, and rescues Sam Flynn. Subsequently breaking out of the arena, she transports Sam to where his father, Kevin Flynn, is residing in the mysterious outlands beyond the main city of the cyberspace world ruled by Clu.
Quorra is revealed to be a very attractive young female -- program -- who has become something of an adopted daughter to Kevin Flynn since his self-imposed exile in the computer world, and certainly a grateful student. She has absorbed all sorts of knowledge from him, but still lacks experience, at one point asking Sam Flynn what a sunset looks like.
Quorra goes on to assist the Flynns in their plan to escape the computer world, and bring down Clu's plan to invade the real world in the process. Along the way, she is revealed to be one of the aforementioned ISO's -- one of the inexplicable isomorphic programs that somehow developed independently of Kevin Flynn's influence. In point of fact, she is the last surviving ISO, kept hidden and safe by Kevin Flynn all these years.
At the end of the movie -- SPOILER WARNING -- IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN TRON LEGACY (and you really should) THEN SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH -- she successfully escapes the computer world, and returns to the real world with Sam Flynn, the first computer program ever to do so -- and gets to see the sun for the first time. Precisely HOW she managed this I'm not even going to speculate. It was a cool ending. I'm not going to ruin it by thinking too hard about it.
The Quorra figure is extremely cool. If I have one complaint, and it's not that serious a one, it's that the figure is wearing the helmet that Quorra wore when she first turned up to assist Sam Flynn. It's molded as the figure's head, and it's not something that Quorra wore all that often in the movie. Conversely, most of the figures in the Tron Legacy 4" line are wearing helmets, and some collectors have been rather critical of those with sculpted human faces, such as the Kevin Flynn figure, saying that it's not much of an effective likeness. Granted, I think we tend to get a little bit spoiled these days by some of the astonishing sculpting that is produced in "higher-end" action figure lines, but I won't say that the criticism is entirely invalid, either. So I can live with Quorra wearing her helmet.
The only criticism I have there is that the helmet has a number of visible mold creases in it, that aren't part of the sculpting job, which is otherwise very well done. This IS a problem which can be avoided, even if it's turned up in toys from just about every toy company in existence. However, it's not too serious. Just a little annoying.
Quorra has some flesh-tone areas showing, at the neck and shoulders. She is wearing high gloves, and a uniform that seems to end in a skirt and then carries on with leggings and boots. All of her clothing is black, highlighted with "circuitry" lines in a pale blue-white, signifying the fact that she's one of the good guys.
The painted details, although relatively minimal, are also rather delicate, since they're all thin lines and circles. That can't be much fun for the factory painters, or for that matter whomever has to create the stencils to paint the figures. I have to say that Quorra is one of the neatest painted figures I have yet seen in the line. The precision is excellent. There's even paint details on the tips of her boots.
Quorra, like most of the 4" Tron figures (Kevin Flynn being the only exception), has a built-in light-up feature. Here's something else that probably would not have been possible in the original toys (which nevertheless looked cool thanks to translucent bodies and glow in the dark accessories), since I don't think the means to incorporate a timed LED and tiny little batteries was possible back then.
Quorra is wearing an "Identity Disc" on her back, with a button in the center of it. Press the button, and the lines on her torso light up for about seven seconds, in a surprisingly bright blue-white light. I am of the opinion that Quorra probably pushed the limit of how far they could go with this, toy-wise. She is obviously more slender than any of the male figures in this line, and even so, is just a little -- chunkier in the abdominal region than the actress herself was, especially when viewed from the side. One gets the impression that someone at Spin Master was probably saying, "Thank goodness there weren't any really prominent little kids in the computer world in that movie..!"
Quorra is very impressively articulated, and is poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), wrists, legs (including a rotation), knees (including a swivel) and ankles. I will advise the following -- the skirt does impede the leg movement, and this figure has notably slender limbs. I've discovered that these figures can be a bit on the fragile side, and I would definitely recommend handling Quorra with extreme care.
Now, let's consider JARVIS. The package describes Jarvis as Clu's "Intelligence Officer". Personally, I call that "padding the resume". Charitably, I'd be more inclined to call Jarvis Clu's "administrative assistant".
But really -- you know, in the original Tron, it was pretty well established that the programs inhabiting the computer world had been written by Users -- human beings, whom the computer programs considered equivalent to gods. Although this wasn't as strongly emphasized in the sequel movie, except as it applied to Kevin and Sam Flynn, one sort of wonders where Jarvis came from. One gets the impression that somewhere along the way, some User wrote a program for the ultimate conniving, underhanded, bootlicking lackey, and Jarvis was the result, and probably jumped on board the Clu train as soon as he saw which way the winds of power were blowing in cyberspace.
The character is played for moderate humorous effect in the movie from time to time, such as when Clu and his people invade the abandoned home of Kevin Flynn, in which he has created as many counterparts to real world objects as he thinks appropriate. Jarvis discovered Kevin Flynn's library, and picks up a book as if it is something distasteful if not downright unsanitary.
Ultimately, Jarvis is what every good solitary world-conquering megalomaniac who appears in a movie needs -- a sounding board, someone to "discuss" his plans with, since he's certainly not going to directly address the audience and since the rank-and-file of his troops are not worthy of such dissertation. He handles all the menial work, listens to his master rant and rave, comes up with occasional alternatives, and generally puts up with a considerable amount of abuse in order to show just how bad the bad guy really is.
In Jarvis' case, he probably puts up with a little too much abuse, since towards the end of the movie when the good guys start to get the upper hand, Clu lashes out at Jarvis in frustration and de-rezzes the poor sap with one solid punch.
So, how's the figure? Really very nicely done. Although Jarvis doesn't wear a helmet and in essence has a "human" head, it's not a terribly difficult one to match (no disrespect towards the actor), since Jarvis was shown to be bald and fairly nondescript of features, except for a translucent blue shield that came down in front of part of his face. Spin Master has done a good job matching this look.
Jarvis is clearly not dressed for battle. He is, like most members of the world of Tron, dressed in black. He has some slight shoulder pads, and some angular flares descending from his waist, which honestly make him look like a computer-world's cross between a butler and a doorman.
Since he's one of the bad guys, his circuitry pattern color is a dark orange, and it's somewhat more limited than on other characters, and is primarily around the shoulders wrists, and waist. He wears an identity disc on his back, which has the button for the light-up feature, which causes several lines of circuitry on the left front side of his torso to glow orange for about seven seconds.
Most of the painted circuitry on his uniform is well done, but there were a couple of spots that could've been a little neater. Even so, given the fine lines that needed to be painted, I find it hard to complain overly much. The trim is especially nicely done on the wrists and boots. His eyes are also very neatly painted.
Jarvis has excellent articulation, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including swivel), wrists, legs, knees, and ankles. The coat-like details below the waist are some hindrance to the leg articulation, but this isn't a character that's going to be inclined to be seated in some vehicle, anyway.
Both Quorra and Jarvis come with separate identity discs, despite the fact that they're also wearing discs on their back. These attached discs are to allow the needed space for the activation button for the light-up feature, and keep it from too blatant in the figure design. The separate discs -- well, I often recommend Ziploc bags for small accessory storage, and I certainly do here -- these things aren't a whole lot bigger than Cheerios. If you're collecting these figures, just get a small bag, mark it "Tron Discs", and keep the whole lot in it.
Additionally, Quorra comes with a sword, with a blue-white blade, that looks a whole lot like a curve-bladed lightsaber. Clu also came with one, colored yellow, and I find this interesting as I do not recall any swordplay in the movie. I'm not sure what happened here, if there's something in "deleted scenes" on the DVD that I should be looking for, if LucasFilm had a problem with somebody else using laser swords, or if these are something that were considered for the movie, but written out even though Spin Master already had the toys in production. This sort of thing has happened before. Still, it's a cool accessory.
Jarvis, amusingly, comes with what looks like a clipboard, although it's probably the Tron world equivalent of an iPad or something. In either case, not inappropriate. The sword isn't likely to be readily lost, but I'd put the clipboard or whatever it is into the same Ziploc bag as the discs.
Each figure also comes with a larger identity disc that can be used as a display base for the figure.
So, what's my final word here? TRON LEGACY was an awesome movie, just absolutely incredible, and Spin Master has done a really great job with the action figures. Now that the movie is out of the theaters, I'm not sure how much longer the line will endure, but I still see it (as of this writing) at some retailers with decent toy departments, so it's not impossible to find. And if it's vanished by the time you read this, as I often say about such matters, there's always the secondary market.
In any case, the TRON LEGACY 4" action figures of QUORRA and JARVIS definitely have my very enthusiastic recommendation, and the movie has my highest!