Sunday, April 10, 2011

K.I.B.A. Honorary Member #9 - Kevin Flynn (TRON, TRON: Legacy)

Honorary Member #9 – Kevin Flynn (TRON, TRON: Legacy)
*info for this profile is gathered from the two Disney films & the Tron: Evolution video game. **SPOILER ALERT**  - This profile contains spoilers from TRON and TRON: Legacy.  If you haven’t seen either movie, I urge you to not read this profile if you wish to have no knowledge of the events in either film.

“Greetings programs!”

When we first see Kevin Flynn, he appears to be a regular Joe, running an arcade and living in a loft upstairs.  This impression, however is quickly pushed aside as we learn the truth: that Flynn is in fact a brilliant computer programmer who has suffered an unfortunate run of bad luck.  As he tells his friends Alan Bradley and Lora Baines, back when Flynn was employed by ENCOM, he began developing video games in secret, when fellow programmer Ed Dillinger (who Flynn describes as being not too bright, but very, very sneaky) learned of Flynn’s project and stole his ideas.  Three months later, Dillinger revealed ‘his’ games to the company (without even bothering to change the names), thus beginning his rise to Senior Executive VP.  Flynn was fired when he tried to protest, and in 1981, he opened “Flynn’s Arcade”, seeing it as the only way to profit from the games he created.  Between that time and the time of Alan and Lora’s visit, he made several attempts to hack into the ENCOM mainframe and locate information that would prove he was the creator of the games that Dillinger took credit for.

After learning from Lora that Dillinger had cut off everyone with a Group-7 access out of the system, Flynn suggests they break into ENCOM, where he will be able to forge them a Group-6 access and get into the system.  The three return to ENCOM, where Lora sets Flynn up at her terminal in the digitization lab, then joins Alan at his station.

Flynn accesses the terminal and is almost immediately detected by the MCP, who causes the digitization laser to fire at Flynn, transporting him into the digital world.

[Author’s Insight]

I want to take a moment and try to think of what has been going through Kevin Flynn’s mind up to this point.  He put a lot of work into creating a series of video games, which went on to become pretty popular.  Unfortunately, he got screwed over by someone who stole Flynn’s ideas and later presented them as his own.  Flynn protested, and was fired.

I try to imagine myself in Flynn’s position: having a wonderful creation stolen, and losing my job when I try to take back what is rightfully mine.  I would be angry.  While I don’t know what Flynn did in between that time and the time when he opened the arcade, I would imagine that he did everything possible to right the wrong that was done to him.  I know I would do everything I could to reclaim what was rightfully mine.

And if I were presented with a chance, as Flynn was, to finally find what I was looking for – I’d more than likely take it, even if it meant breaking into a place of former employment, as Flynn did.

[End of line.]

When Flynn arrived, the MCP notified Commander Sark of a ‘new recruit’ that he wanted put into the games “until he dies playing.”  As he waited in his cell, Flynn befriended a program named Ram who told him about the Master Control’s rules, and learned that programs captured by the MCP were forced to play in the games.  Flynn, thinking that this was all just a dream, was not aware of the dangerous position he was in until he refused to kill another program in a ring game.  Flynn was then transported to the Game Grid where he met Alan’s program Tron.  Flynn and Tron, along with Ram, were forced to play a light cycle game against three of Sark’s soldiers.  Flynn used his knowledge of the game from the real world and forced one of his opponents to crash into the Game Grid’s wall and open an escape route.

Once out of the Grid, Flynn, Tron and Ram decided to make their way to a nearby I/O tower, where Tron would be able to communicate with his user Alan and acquire the information he needed to destroy the MCP.  En route, they came under fire from Sark’s forces.  Tron escaped, but Flynn and Ram were hit.  Flynn survived the attack, but Ram was not so lucky, and derezzed soon afterwards.

Flynn slowly but surely made his way to the I/O tower and met up with Tron and Yori on a captured solar sailer.  As they traveled to the center of the system, they encountered a power surge that slowed the sailer’s progress, enabling the pursuing Recognizers to gain on them.  Flynn, in a burst of inspiration, used his powers as a User to create a junction for the sailer to move out of the power surge’s path and onto a nearby beam.  Flynn was not unaffected by this, however.  The effort of creating the junction exhausted Flynn, and would have fallen off of the sailer if Tron hadn’t pulled him back at the last second.

“Did we make it?”
“Hooray for our side.”

Their brief enjoyment is short lived, as Sark’s Carrier later collides with the sailer, resulting in the capture of Flynn and Yori.  The carrier reaches the system core, where the MCP is located, at which point Sark departed the ship, causing it to slowly derezz.  Flynn used his powers as a User to save Yori and himself from derezzing along with the ship.  As the remains of the carrier floated over the MCP, Flynn jumped off of the carrier and into the MCP, distracting it long enough for Tron (who was battling MCP/Sark) to throw his disc into the MCP and destroy it.

This returned Flynn to the real world, where he was finally able to access the information (and justice) he sought for so long.  Dillinger was exposed and Flynn was promoted to CEO of ENCOM, which enabled him to promote both Alan and Lora to the board of directors.

[Author’s Insight]

I wonder if Flynn could feel victory/success within his grasp, as he explored his powers as a User.  I wonder if he felt like it was so close, he could taste it.  And then, after a long and difficult road, achieving what he set out to do.  Can you imagine the joy he must have felt as he read that printout for the first time?  I really can’t.  Oh sure, I’ve had similar instances, like finding a lost possession, but for Flynn – this changed everything.  His bad luck changed; his whole life was turned around and things finally started looking better.

I keep thinking about that last part of the battle with the MCP, where Flynn jumps off of Sark’s carrier.  I know there are a lot of people out there who find it easy to do things like B.A.S.E. jumping, sky diving or bungee jumping, but they all had that first jump, and like I wonder with Flynn, I wonder not so much the ‘what’, but the ‘how’.  How does someone muster the courage to take such a huge leap?  (Seriously.  Take a look at [A] how small Flynn is compared to the MCP, and [B] the distance from the carrier where Flynn jumps, to the base/face of the MCP, where he lands.  Go ahead and put the movie in just so you can see for yourself.)  Flynn had no parachute, didn’t know what was going to happen…but he jumped anyway.

Holy crap.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that those last scenes go as thus:

Flynn returns to the real world.  He gets a printout proving that Dillinger stole his ideas.  He leaves the digitization lab.

Dillinger walks into his office and activates his desk/computer.  On the display, he sees the same information that is on Flynn’s printout.  He sinks into his chair.

(This last scene occurs an unknown amount of time later.) Alan and Lora are on the roof of ENCOM.  Flynn arrives in a helicopter, gives instructions to be picked up in an hour, joins his two friends, and they go inside.

Have you ever wondered how much time elapsed between those two final scenes?  I’m more interested in what happened during the first 24 hours after Flynn returned to the real world: how they got rid of Dillinger, what sort of plans they made for ENCOM’s future, etc.  All I can say right now is that Flynn must have been on cloud 9.  And rightly so.

[End of line.]

Sometime after the events of TRON, Kevin Flynn created a digital frontier he called the “Grid,” housed on a private server he kept hidden in the basement of his old arcade.  As he experimented with this new digital world, the Grid slowly got more complex and started to take on a life of its own as it housed programs of all sorts.  Flynn also set up the digitizing laser used to send him into the Grid.  Prior to each visit, Flynn would conduct a sanity check and update his will.

In an effort to help keep the Grid safe, Flynn took the Tron program from ENCOM’s grid and installed it on his own.  However, he soon realized that he couldn’t be in two places at once, so he recreated his old hacking program CLU to serve as system administrator in Flynn’s absence.

With the passing of his wife in 1985, Flynn slowly became distant from things in the real world as he spent more and more time working on the Grid, frequently leaving his young son Sam in the care of his parents.  Flynn started to promote what he called a “digital frontier to reshape the human condition.”  He was obsessed with the connection between the physical and digital worlds, even going so far that he gave away ENCOM software, such as the operating system he named after himself.

“In there is a new world.  In there is the future.  In there is our destiny.”  Flynn’s words from a speech given before a large crowd.  And then, in 1988, something amazing happened.  A new form of life appeared on the Grid, which Flynn named “Isomorphic Algorithms.”  It was his belief that the existence of the ISO’s would drastically change the real world.  Flynn shared this discovery with his close friend Alan Bradley, saying that he was about to change everything – science, medicine, religion.

But some time afterwards, in 1989, Flynn vanished under what was considered mysterious circumstances.  In his absence, Alan Bradley took over as CEO of ENCOM, but was forced to step down when the company’s profits fell.  The new leadership of ENCOM veered away from Flynn’s open source philosophies, which did not sit well with Alan, who firmly believed that Flynn was researching his ideas for the digital world and would return one day.

Alan was partially right.  Flynn had become trapped in the Grid, following a coup d’etat by Clu, who came to believe that the ISO’s were an imperfection within the system and needed to be eradicated.  He seized control of the Grid and began to eliminate the ISO’s.  Tron was able to hold off Clu’s attack long enough for Flynn to escape, but Flynn was not able to make it back to the portal before it closed.  Since the portal could only be opened from the outside, Flynn was trapped in cyberspace.

Now in exile in his own creation, Flynn attempted to lead a rebellion against Clu, but since the two were so connected, his resistance only provided Clu with more power, and it soon became apparent that the only way to defeat Clu was to reintegrate him, an act that would not only destroy Clu, but Flynn as well.

Clu continued his genocide of the ISO’s until only one, named Quorra, remained.  One of Flynn’s last surviving (and loyal) monitor programs sacrificed himself to ensure that Flynn would be able to rescue her.  Accepting that he could not defeat Clu, Flynn remained in exile, training Quorra while simultaneously pursuing inner peace in order to come to terms with what he considered to be his personal failure in allowing Clu to gain control of the Grid and ruin his dream of creating the perfect system.

Twenty years passed.  Flynn was interrupted out of his meditations to find that Quorra had brought him a visitor – his now-adult son, Sam, who had been lured into the system, captured by Clu and rescued by Quorra.  During their reunion, Flynn told Sam the story of Clu’s betrayal, and how Sam’s arrival had opened the portal for a millicycle (approximately 8 hours).  When Sam suggested they make a run for the portal, Flynn disagreed, saying that their best bet was to remain in hiding.

When Flynn awoke the next morning, Sam had gone, heading back to Tron City on Flynn’s old lightcycle.  Flynn had no choice but to follow his son.  By the time he and Quorra caught up with Sam at the End of Line nightclub, Sam was fighting for his life in a pitched battle with Clu’s Black Guards.  Flynn and Quorra intervened, but in the ensuing fight, Quorra was severely injured and Flynn’s identity disc was stolen off his back as they made their escape.

[Author’s Insight]

What would you do, if you were put in a similar situation?  Your child, or spouse/loved one is in danger, and the only way to save them is to put yourself in danger; to throw yourself in front of them and into the path of oncoming harm.  Would you do it?  Would you do everything you can to save them?

I think that Flynn, having missed the last 20 years of his son’s life, was not about to let anything happen to him.  The rescue was not without risk – even though Sam was rescued, it came at the cost of losing Flynn’s identity disc.  While the loss of his disc was unsettling, Flynn probably would rather have lost that, then lose his son.

[End of line.]

Deciding that their best option now was to race for the portal, Flynn and Sam stowed away on a Solar Sailer that was headed in the portal’s direction.  Once they were on board, Flynn set about repairing the damage done to Quorra’s code, while talking about the complexity of the code, explaining Quorra’s status as the last remaining ISO, and exchanged stories of the years he had missed out on with his son.

The journey to the portal was cut short when the Solar Sailer docked with a huge carrier ship that had appeared unexpectedly.  As they hid and watched, hundreds of programs were loaded onto the colossal craft and it soon became apparent that Clu was massing an invasion force.

Before the trio could do anything, they spotted Clu’s right hand man, Rinzler, moving in their direction.  Handing her disc to Flynn, Quorra broke from cover in an attempt to distract Rinzler long enough for Flynn and Sam to move on.  Flynn quickly recognized Rinzler as his old friend Tron, reprogrammed into serving Clu.  Unable to help Quorra, Flynn and Sam formulated a new plan – while Flynn procured a Light Jet fast enough to escape in, Sam would retrieve his father’s identity disc.  When they rendezvoused at the Light Jet, Flynn was pleased to see that not only had Sam retrieved the disc, he had also rescued Quorra along the way.

They were making good progress towards the portal when they found themselves being pursued by Clu, Rinzler and four Black Guards in their own personal Light Jets.  In the ensuing dogfight, the Black Guards were derezzed until only Clu and Rinzler remained.  Flynn and Rinzler caught sight of each other at close range, which ignited a spark of recognition in Rinzler, causing him to remember his previous identity (and mission) as Tron.  Tron soon shook himself free of Clu’s reprogramming and turned his attack on Clu, saying his iconic line “I fight for the users.”  While Sam watched Clu and Rinzler battle, Flynn secretly switched identity discs with Quorra.

They reached the portal, only to find that Clu had survived Tron’s attack and arrived first.  Flynn and Clu argued, with Flynn trying to explain that he had been wrong about creating the perfect system, and Clu still in favor of system-wide perfection.  Clu attacked, sparking a brief battle.  With Sam and Quorra near the portal, and Clu standing in Flynn’s way, Clu turned to retrieve Flynn’s disc (which would unlock the path to the real world), only to realize that Flynn possessed Quorra’s disc.  Clu ran to the portal to stop the pair from escaping.  Though Sam tried to go back and help his father, Flynn insisted that he escape with Quorra, hopeful that her existence would help change the world.

And with that, Flynn tapped into his power and began to pull back Clu by force of will.  In his final act, Flynn reintegrated Clu and sacrificed himself so that Sam and Quorra would be saved.  The reintegration caused a huge explosion that consumed the portal and destroyed Clu’s carrier ship.

* * * * *

[Author’s Final Insight]

In a way, a father’s love defeated Clu.  Flynn loved his son so much that he was willing to accept the consequences of reintegrating Clu, even though it meant destroying himself as well.

Sometimes I wish that I could relate more to Flynn.  I like to think that if I were put in situations similar to what he went through, I would have the strength and courage to do as he did – never give up, do the right thing, and, if necessary, be willing to sacrifice myself for the one I love.  His determination, courage, boldness – I can’t help but admire Flynn for those traits, and more.  Dedication, bravery, charisma…I could go on, naming all the traits of a Knight in Battered Armor.  Simply put, Flynn is an excellent example of the kind of traits and qualities I look for.

His armor has been dented, battered, and even broken, but he did not let that weigh him down.  He took hits (such as Dillinger stealing his ideas and later firing him), but he got right back up and kept moving forward.  He created a program to help run the Grid, only to have that same program later turn against him and assume control of the system.  For a time, he seemed to have given up – “The only way to win is to not play.” – but soon realized that there was a glimmer of hope; there was a way to win, but that win would come at a terrible price.

Have you ever wondered what has gone through the mind of someone who has resigned themselves to the fact that their next decision/action would cost them their life?  Do you wonder how long Flynn had thought about reintegrating Clu?  I’m sure that Flynn was aware that doing so would kill the both, but I’d like to know at what point Flynn made that decision; at what point he chose, or resigned himself, to reintegrate Clu so that Sam and Quorra could escape.  Was it near the end, at the portal, or was it perhaps earlier, during the dogfight with Clu, Rinzler and the Black Guards?

And what about the lead up to that decision?  How long did Flynn go over the situation/scenario in his mind?  This is where I find myself unable to relate to Flynn.  I talk about wanting to be able to relate to him more, but in a real life-or-death situation, what would any of us do?  Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that question.  Part of me hopes I never have to answer that question, but the other part of me hopes that I would have the courage to do what was/is right, if there is a right answer in a situation like that.

Kevin Flynn, from the time we first meet him at the beginning of TRON, to his death at the end of TRON: Legacy, exhibits many of the traits and qualities a Knight in Battered Armor should have: bravery, determination, courage and honor.  While Flynn may have felt responsible for allowing Clu to gain control of the Grid and commit genocide against the ISOs, I would argue that back when Flynn created Clu, no one could have predicted that this would happen.  Flynn was able to rescue Quorra, the last ISO, from Clu’s genocide.  He came out of hiding after his son arrived in system and went into Clu’s domain alone.  And at the portal, with his son and Quorra on the verge of escaping into the real world, he reintegrated Clu into himself, destroying them both and allowing Sam and Quorra to escape.

Kevin Flynn has had his share of victories and defeats.  He has been beaten down, but each time has gotten right back up, dusted himself off, and continued on.  He is an excellent example of a Knight in Battered Armor, and I am proud to include him on the list of Honorary Members.

Welcome to K.I.B.A., Flynn.

[End of line.]

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