‘TRON: Legacy’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated December 21st, 2010 at 10:13 pm,

tron legacy review TRON: Legacy ReviewScreen Rant’s Vic Holtreman reviews TRON: Legacy

TRON: Legacy has to be one of the most hyped, if not highly-anticipated movies of the year. It’s been teased at the San Diego Comic-Con for three years in a row – where the footage shown wowed the crowd. It’s obvious how much hard work and dedication went into the visual aspect of the film, but unfortunately that’s about all it has going for it.

The original TRON was released way back in 1982, and at the time was considered groundbreaking for its use of computer graphics in a live-action film. If you’ve never seen the film and watch it for the first time today, you’ll probably find yourself laughing at the “hokey” visual effects – but remember that back then they didn’t have the advantage of being able to create virtual worlds via CGI motion-capture that could be translated into a computer-based character, etc.

Those who love the original film (myself included) may be infected by a bit of movie nostalgia – it’s not a great film, but it’s entertaining enough and actually managed to explore some interesting concepts at a time where computers were still “new” to most people.

Legacy is a sequel that starts out about seven years after the end of the first film. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has taken over Encom and with the help of Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) has made the company wildly successful. Flynn has a young son named Sam, who he’s regaled with stories of his exploits “on the grid,” and he promises to take his wide-eyed son there one day. Flynn is also on the verge of bringing a “miracle” to the world that will redefine everything – science, religion, medicine, etc.

After sharing this with his son, Kevin Flynn disappears – never to be seen again.

Cut to Sam (Garrett Hedlund) at age 27, now a loner bad boy who’s only involvement with Encom (despite being the majority shareholder) is to hack into it once a year in an attempt to disrupt the now greedy corporation (as opposed to the wonderful, benevolent company it was when his father ran it) in one way or another.

Sam is led to a secret lab at Flynn’s Arcade, where he repeats his father’s last computer command on the dusty console – which transports him into the cyber-universe of the grid. Director Joseph Kosinski makes this universe seem even more “special” in an effective way: The “real world” scenes are in 2D, but once we move into the computer world the 3D in the film finally kicks in – and it really makes for an effective transition. Think about the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy emerges from her house into Oz – on steroids.

Once in the cyber world Sam is understandably overwhelmed, but adapts quickly being the athletic guy we met in the real-world scenes. Sam soon meets Clu, the program his father created to run the system, who looks like a much younger Jeff Bridges (more on that, later). It seems Clu has turned into a dictator in search of perfection, and is not satisfied with pursing/enforcing it only in the computer realm.

Eventually a program named Quorra (Olivia Wilde) brings Sam to see his father, who has been trapped there since he vanished so many years ago. Of course Sam wants to return to our world with his father, but dear old dad is reticent because his “identity disc” contains the information that Clu needs to invade our world – and he doesn’t want to risk that. The trio race to find a way to stop Clu, and escape the cyber world, before Clu can execute his terrible plan.

tron legacy the grid TRON: Legacy Review

TRON: Legacy is a visual treat – at least until you get used to it. Visually, the highlight of the film takes place not long after Sam’s arrival in the computer world. The scenes in which the battles take place on the grid, both the hand-to-hand and the lightcycle racing, are truly amazing. As I watched that part of the film I thought “this is the techno answer to Avatar.” The 3D here is used to excellent effect, including a multi-level, transparent race track where the lightcycles do battle.

The musical score by Daft Punk is an excellent match for the film. Being an old guy, the first time heard of them was in reference to this film, but their techo-rock, pulsing soundtrack matches the otherworldly look of the film. As a bonus, they actually appear in the film (the club scene).

This world is much more detailed than that of the original film, reflecting the increase in computing and graphics power we have today compared to the vector graphics of almost 30 years ago. Updates to the ships and the suits worn by the programs are all well done and are visually impressive – there are also some new designs introduced  to keep things fresh.

There are many nods to the original film – I’ll leave them unmentioned so you can discover them as you watch the movie. However, there are also many things taken from lots of other films that came before – some so similar that it’s difficult not to think “rip-off” instead of “nod.” Those films include Star Wars, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey and more. In fact, in one scene I thought Garrett Hedlund was channeling Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker.

The world of the film is filled with many perfectly pretty people – and I felt little connection to most of them. If I had to pick one person who generated a sense of connection above the others, it would be Bruce Boxleitner reprising his role as Alan Bradley – and he was barely in the film. Michael Sheen as Castor had an excess of personality that made him seem like he was far more advanced than “just a program.” Olivia Wilde generated no connection and her character was no better. With a collection of the greatest written works of all time having been read by her (as provided by old Flynn), she professed her favorite author to be Jules Verne. Nothing against Jules Verne, but compared to the other books there and her apparent hunger to understand the real world, it seemed like an odd (lame) choice.

Then there was the quest to get home – was old Flynn’s data disc required or not? Was it important enough to guard with one’s life (because at one point it seems like an “oh well”), and do we even care?

tron legacy jeff bridges1 TRON: Legacy Review

Finally we get to the CGI recreation of Jeff Bridges as a young man. Have we finally gotten past the “uncanny valley” (where the mind/eye discerns that something is just not quite “real”)? Sadly, no. As long as young Kevin Flynn wasn’t talking, the face looked great – but as soon as he spoke, the creepy factor pops up. He looked like he had a face full of Botox – think Joan Rivers as seen recently on The Apprentice. One could argue that Clu was a computer program and should have been “stiff” compared to a human, but even in the opening scene of the film where we see the real-world young Kevin Flynn, the same effect is present.

Really, if you’re going to see the film, try to make it to an IMAX theater if you have one available – and if there isn’t one you really should see the film in 3D, as TRON: Legacy is an example of 3D done right. It was shot in 3D and there is use of both subtle and overt 3D in the film, an overall effect that looks impressive and adds to the feeling of being in a world that is not ours.

But if you’re looking for characters and a story that will draw you in, wait and go see that other Jeff Bridges movie: True Grit.

Here’s a trailer for TRON: Legacy:

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If you want to talk about the film without worry about spoiling it for others, head over to our TRON: Legacy Spoilers Discussion.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. To anyone who has not seen Tron Legacy yet, if you liked the original film, I do not recommend you see this film. You will come away thoroughly depressed.

    The film is not anything like the original. All of the programs act like people. The Grid looks like a normal human city (complete with Flynn’s arcade, nightclubs, living quarters w/ bedrooms, doors and dressers, etc). There is no attempt at explaining why anything is going on.

    In the first Tron, the games existed as a means to scare useless programs into turning into drones for the MCP. They are told to battle until their destruction or until they renounce the users and can become part of the MCP’s “warrior class.” There is never any explanation why there are games now.

    Also, unlike the first Tron where Jeff Bridges competes in one competition (the jai alai game) and almost falls off the game board, the main character here immediately fights multiple high-level “kung fu” masters who he easily (surprise) defeats. Despite no information about him being a flying disc martial arts master in the real world.

    Anyway, if you just want to watch anything, go see it. If you want to be engaged by the film or care about the characters or have a plot, you are better off watching something else (like the original).

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but I was very disappointed by the film despite my low expectations given how Hollywood has treated franchises of late (think GI Joe, Transformers, even Pirates). I learned after watching Tron Legacy that NPR rated it one of the worst 3 films of 2010….


    • originaltronlover…

      Aye, but there’s the rub: “Tron: Legacy” WAS engaging and presented some very interesting (and, from certain perspectives, both troubling AND inspiring ideas).

      Also, how can you possibly say that what had gone on before and led up to the film was not explained??? Besides at least one or two occasions when hints were given and crumbs of information were dropped, Kevin Flynn actually outright explained the events leading in to the film…WITH FLASHBACKS!!! I’m just not sure what film you watched…?

      You, of course, are entitled to like or dislike the film, but please, present the facts accurately.

      For my part, I DO recommend the film to people who want to see a fun, engaging, visually beautiful film

      • Ummm, a period, obviously, ends my rant. :) . (:

        • exactly.. flynn clearly states that he brought tron with him from the older system… so this new grid is a new beginning and a self contained ecosystem is u will. flynn’s attempt at creating a perfect system…

  2. remember flynn saying
    “our worlds are more connected than anyone knows”

    i have a feeling this is going to be one of those
    multiverse things

    the system is the the one universe
    (out of an infinite number) that has the
    CLOSEST MATCH to a “one-to-one” reflection
    to the rules and reality of the encom/flynn system.

    and it’s going to be a chicken or egg thing
    with regards to its creation.


  3. the movie was a let down. i kept hearing how it was gonna be an epic ride but failed to impress me. to be true i might be unfair since this is the only movie i fell asleep to. the story was not so great at the worst but it was there. the only thing this movie has running for it is that it looks nice,and do not even think of watching this movie in 3D because this is barley any. all they do is make the screen fuzzy and the glasses clear it up,there are even some points where i did not even need the glasses. i would not spend money on this movie and watch voyage of the dawntreader instead

  4. I liked the movie. The visuals and soundtrack were amazing, though seeing it in 3D wasnt really worth it. If your going to put it in the theaters in 3D than make it in 3D(I saw no 3rd dimension =(). As for the storyline i agree with most people it was lacking with drawn out visual sequences, and further questions should have been answered to make it more understandable to most viewers. I also agree that the movie lacked a real emotion too it. When Kevin see’s his son for the first time in 20 years he just gives him a hug and tells him we will talk later at dinner (really i think 20 years is a long enough wait). As for the other characters i understand that they are programs and would lack emotion.

    I have a feeling all these questions will be answered in the next Tron movie. They have already set up little hints here and there that there will be another movie like Edward Dillinger jr(son of former ceo Ed Dillinger from the first movie) as one of the Encom board members played by actor Cillian Murphy(kind of a small part for a actor like him dont you think), the mysterious page who know one knows who sent except Quorra, Rinzler’s color changing to his original color in the end, Kevin saying Quorra was his aprentice, Sam downloading something at the end, And sam telling Quorra i have something to show you then riding off into the sunrise and not even stopping to let Quorra watch the sunrise.

    So here is my theories of the movie. The isomorphic algorithms(a algorithm is is an effective method for solving a problem expressed as a finite sequence of steps) were created by the system (in the sea of simulation that Kevin created, recently found a comic called Tron: Betrayal that shows what happened between Tron 1 and 2 and a reason why Quorra said her favorite book is by Jules Verne, 20,000 leagues under the sea)trying to understand Kevins DNA in the system thus creating new life forms as reflections of humans(why Quorra was able to leave the system because her DNA is close to humans and when Kevin was looking at her data disc you see a human double helix, basically a AI with DNA). Which is why Kevin said Quorra was so important that she can changed the world. Her DNA is close to humans that you could find answers, so basically you could re-write human DNA strands and find a cure for aids, cancer, etc…

    As for Tron transforming into you know who, i think Clu cut his head off or damaged his head which is why he wears a helmet and why Clu was able to reprogram him untill he saw Kevin and realized his original program to protect the user(Alan Bradley has no access to this Tron because he was copied from a different system). Alan bradley couldnt save Kevin because he knows about the grid but he doesnt know how to access it and he has never been there. I think Edward Dillinger jr somehow hacked into the grid and contacted Quorra (why else would she have been at Sams game)and he is the one who sent the page trying to steal the information as revenge for his father and to become the new ceo of Encom(as you could tell from the movie he is a good programmer). But thats just my theory. I think Kevin was teaching Quorra about the world and that the world is not perfect as his mistake with Clu has shown him. Kevin wanted to help the world and through that his life became chaotic so i think his zen like attitude comes from him understanding that nothing is perfect and he is trying to find peace within himself.

    I dont think Clu would have been able to come to the real world (would have been funny if they all showed up in Flynn’s Arcade basement) he is not a iso. I think what Clu was searching for in Kevins data disc was a way out of the system and into other system throughout the world to create the perfect system worldwide(would be funny when he see’s how advanced programs are now) or it could be that he was searching for the information to change programs to iso form to pass to our world im not to sure though. I assume he and his army would come into our world as human, i dont know what that would accomplish unless they still had power to control computer programs. As for Kevin dying at the end, i dont think he died you see a explosion and the grid is destroyed. And if he is dead then what did Sam download at the end? I know tron is still alive because he fell into the sea and only the grid was destroyed so what else could he have downloaded? What i think he downloaded was the program to create the grid, tron, his fathers data disc which holds his fathers entire life, memories and secret to iso’s and his father or his fathers remains. Hopefully if they make a third movie they can bring his father back to life through the data disc and Quorra if he really did die.

    Overall i give it a 4star rating i thought a couple details could have explained in more detail so it wouldnt have been so confusing, hopefully when the DVD comes out there will be a commentary to explain a few things.

    • Great points, here are my thoughts on some of your comments and theories.

      - Like u did think the emotion factor was missing on a few key scenes (i was bothered by the non reaction Sam had when he realized he was in the grid… the implication, the possibility his dad could be alive.. granted the ship picked him up right away, i felt the director could have taken a moment to alloy the character to let it sink in… guess they were to focused on getting sam to the games…). as for dad and son meeting for the first time one has to realize that kevin has been in there for a thousand years so sam had become like a distant memory.. the evidence is in the dream scene were father and son are barely recognizable.

      - Sam downloaded the entire grid program to his chip.this will presumably be to transport the software to a modern server/system. from there no doubt try and figure out if he can save his dad with the help of alan and were enteference from Edward Dillinger Jr. would because plausible.

      -Do think quorra sent the page to A) break to stalemate between clu and flynn b) to get flynn reengage and give flynn hope that theres a way out c) if castor knew that something was going on with clu and his secret initiative then its very possible that quorra was cognizant that it would only be a matter of time before clu came looking for them. quorra when looking at the go boardgame does state that she has a more aggresive approach than flynn’s which lends credence to her wanting to change the game to the possibility of introducing a new user to the world.

      - it seems that though sam came through there is no way that anybody quorra, clu etc would have known who would be coming to the world.. could have very well been alan (which would have been interesting to say the least). quorra may have had a personal stake in her desire to leave the grid, but. if she did precipitate the even in the film by sending the page, then i think she would have done so like i stated above to change the game, to allow them a way out. she was even willing to give herself up and be reprogrammed so that sam and kevin could make it to the portal.

      -sea of simulation: oceans by nature are chaotic as opposed to the perfect order of the grid. this illustrates that as much as the grid city is order.. the rest of the world; that being the data/storm lightnight sometimes seen in the distance, the sea of sim show that thiugh kevin and clu created the world they didnt try and control everything and alot was left to its own devices. whether the grid was craving user and created the iso’s as surrogates or rather flynn’s initial code for the grid allowed for thr unpredictable to occur within the system is up for debate. thiugh if they were so focused on creating the perfect system they may have created the sea of sim etc as just an afterthought to make it hard for programs to get to the portal. they didnt pay enough to what was possible in places like the sea. code spontaneously coming together and merging/coping etc like some primordial pond and the dawn of life, a place where date was not closely scrutenized as on the grid/city area and thus allowed to run through endless permutations. they were focused on perfection on being gods to a perfect system until the iso’s emerged and that opened kevin’s eyes to the true possibilities, to he error of what he was persuing. clu unfortunately being a program could not alter/rewrite his code, his main directive and thus a rift between clu and flynn became inevitable.

      -the identity dick is shown to contain all info, experiences etc from the owner. sam didnt have a disk coming in the world and quorra’s damaged code was corrected on the disk but only became updated to herself when she was sync with it. this implies that the disks are backups of sort, they are not intrinsic to the owner (owners can exist without the disk.. iso’s dont have a disk when they are seen in the flashback). disks facilitate access to source codes of the users.. a easy way to alter code or a more sinister way as a system of control.

      -as for kevin flynn… can data ever truly be deleted or destroyed? note: the entire grid didnt blow up. only the stuff around the portal and everything within its vicinity oer the sea of sim. the outlands, the city etc would all still be intact.

      • my apologies for the typos… iphone keyboard.. grrr

        • Oh my God, the irony here.

  5. i wonder what would have happened if sam had accepted
    FLYNN’S PLAN to WAIT for the “maybe” revolution.

    if sam did wait- and the 8 hour window for the portal expired-
    and the revolution somehow happened and clu was beaten – then:

    did flynn have ANOTHER WAY out for sam?

    maybe flynn has another exit strategy – but that exit
    strategy is dependent on FULL CONTROL of the grid
    and its programs?

  6. Good movie. The wost part of the movie was the light reflection off of the white. I like how they took the light bike to the next level with the planes. It was a let down not to have Tron (as a main) in the movie.

  7. Better than Avatar in my opinion. (And yes I am sane!)

  8. As an original Tron fan myself, I find it difficult that one of my old-school alumni would say that Tron: Legacy is a visual avant garde but little else besides. Unlike the first Tron movie, which was thick on action but only skin-deep on plot, the idea that Tron: Legacy was somehow intellectually inferior is actually appalling, and shows that close attention wasn’t really being paid to the quite moving and in-depth story elements offered in what is a fantastic tribute to the original movie.
    And for my original fellow alumni, please do not misunderstand my interpretation of plot elements in the original movie. By skin-deep, all I mean is that the plot was more to drive the action elements of the film than to provide any real and thought provoking commentary on the issues of the time. (Which might be an unfair analysis, as one of the issues of the times was computers, but I think I’m understood in the point I make.) Much like its predecessors at the time, Tron was adept at twisting great action elements with an underlying story which was compelling, and more often than not, humorous. (Think Star Trek and Indiana Jones as good examples of this genre.)
    But Tron: Legacy goes far beyond the action and graphics and delves into the most fundamental elements of human hopes, desires and sense of purpose. In addition, the range of social commentary covers much, from corporate greed to the never ending quest/fallacy for perfection in all man touches. Also addressed are deeper philosophical issues such as what constitutes ‘life’.
    More than that, however, we are presented with the archetypically enduring father/son bonding story, only it’s ‘on the Grid’. If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is. More than that, though, there’s a certain duality to the father/son bonding story which I won’t touch on here so as not to spoil it. But it is nicely done, and makes one think about just what should and should not be expected from our ‘children’.
    To say that Tron: Legacy is just eye-candy for today’s generation is like saying that a gold nugget is just a ‘rock’. Not only is it a grave injustice to the writers and audience, it shows that sometimes if we spent all our time looking at something instead of through it, we miss the very essence of the thing itself. And I think that’s really the whole point of the movie, isn’t it?

  9. William: beautifully put, thank you.

  10. Steve is totally correct in saying that it was better than Avatar because IT WAS! Also, William laid out a great argument why everyone should watch this movie. The writer of this article needs to be derezzed for saying that it was “all about the eye candy, and not much else”. “/n”

  11. This film would have recieved better reviews if viewed in an UltraAVX 3D theatre. The audio was astounding and when I watched it again in IMAX 3D it was a bit dissapointing. My only complaint is that they should not have shown the ‘botox’ face of Kevin Flynn in the scene where he talks to 7 year old Sam. Brian’s comment has no validity, there were plenty of 3D scenes.

  12. I remember going to the theatre to see the first Tron when it was released. This type of film technology had not been seen before and audiences were in awe of the special effects and the futuristic look of the movie. It seemed way ahead of its time and quickly became a pop culture icon. It is surprising that it took this much time for a sequel to be produced. The CGI and special effects have been available for a great follow up film for a long time so it’s a wonder it took so long to come back to the big screen. Jeff Bridges is delightful as always and moved back into his character with ease. The special effects were absolutely astonishing to behold. See it in 2D or 3D, it doesn’t matter. It was a mind-blowing ride that most will enjoy.

  13. I think Tron Legacy really rocked. This movie was a total homerun.

    I don’t like many of the remakes that come out today. Generally they are using eye-candy and dazzle in place of story and substance. A perfect example would be the new version of V on ABC. Its like Hollywood is adopting the idea that Movies and TV shows are meant to stimulate the eyes and never the mind………….and making it the rule of thumb for all new productions.

    This one was one of the dwindling exception to that rule. I thought this story was great and well delivered. We do not have the science to explain how a carbon based life form can enter a digital reality…………. so if they had tried to come up with some flimsy explanation for it……….. it would have either been entirely made up…..or it would have been senseless…… I liked the way they explained it all at once with 4 words…….. “Its Heavy Stuff Man”……. perfect.

    I also applaud Disney for picking the story up instead of starting over. I never in my wildest dreams imagined we would get a TRUE SEQUEL. Its dangerous to make a sequel so many years after the original has come and gone. If its poorly done you ruin the original…… Disney outdid themselves in this regard and I admire them for it….

    As far as the special effects, lighting and sets go…… They were GREAT! I can’t think of a single movie offhand that looks this good. The visual style is hugely compelling and it was implemented flawlessly. The look and feel of tron was very distinct back in the 80′s and they captured it! They took the style to its limits without ever doing anything to redifine it or change it. That takes some real thought and effort and the result is magic.

    I can not imagine anything that could possibly have made me like this movie more…….

    This was a true sequeal that was worth waiting 20 some odd years for…..


  14. I dont see where the bad reviews are coming from. I found it to be as epic as I was anticipating. Maybe you all need to get your eyes checked cause on my PC The Blu-ray is gorgeous.Breathtakingly stunning. I think the reason people have a hard time is the philosophy behind it. We have gotten to a point where weve been dumbed down unable to expand our minds and spiritual sides and therfore get complaints about the plot. It was so easy to follow for me. I dont care what you people say it is FANTASTIC and is now one of my new favorites.

  15. Wasn’t expecting much from Tron Legacy but I have to say I thought it was really good. Better than the original and had questions of trying to create perfection in machines and that technology can take us where we never imagined. Some very interesting ideas and concepts about creativity and technology. Great music by Daft Punk.

  16. So much of the movie seemed pointless. Why does he break into a company that he can easily and legally gain control of? It’s just asinine and a lame excuse to get some dull pretty boy to show off his unexplained skills at all things badass. Oh yeah and we get to know that he is the typical blockbuster/maxim-magazine/monster-energy drink-commercial definition of “rebel”. What was even the purpose of showing the current greedy state of the company? Nostalgic cameos? 25 min Reference to a 30 year old movie? Emphasizing why Linux is better than windows? Ohhhhh… Those greedy software companies and their endless search for giving a return to their investors. That could of been some really good time to make me care about somebody. Then we finally meet the kid and he’s just as stiff as the protagonist in the new “clash of the titans” or “anakin skywalker([the sun] is warm, radiant,… Beautiful]). And, he makes insane arguments that leave me beating my head against the wall. I’m so dissappointed in you father. You don’t wanna risk the entire fate of humanity being subjected to your wayward creation? What are you? Some kind of sissy?

    The only thing that sexy Olivia Wilde was making stiff was that character. Im sure It wasn’t all her fault. I mean, she’s supposed to be beyond those other programs, so why didnt her human-like consciousness make her seem human? It would of really made me feel sowmthing about her entire race being wiped out. Instead, it was just watching some dull blue light people being killed by dull red light people. They even showed it through a shot from
    Far away, so the whole evoking viewers sympathy through their suffering idea is just understood through a characters brief description. in short, I think this movie wanted to be the matrix, but ended up being the matrix 3.

  17. First of all, I never saw Tron, so that may have affected this rant of mine, but, I finally rented Tron 2 from netflix, and to be honest, I truly hated this movie. For two reasons. One: the dialogue was a mosh of cheesy one-liners which distracted me from the one thing that I was excited for… which was 2. The music! Everyone hyped up the Daft Punk score, and I mean, I. LOVE. Daft. Punk. I truly think that they have pioneered modern techno/electronic music. But throughout the entire film I felt like they held themselves WAY back on the score, and the entire film for that matter. Where were the thumping bass lines? Where were the repetitive synths? When Michael Sheen directs Daft Punk to electrify the crowd in the club… THEY CUT THE MUSIC OFF!!!! That was a CRIME! At home my dad has a pretty nice surround sound system, and we put it to good use on this film, but honestly, if Daft Punk hadn’t appeared in the film, I honestly wouldn’t have believed it was them (true fan here, so that’s hard to say). I wanted to be electrified the entire time I sat through this drab two tone (literally) film. While I didn’t expect a Oscar worthy script, I expected much more from such a hyped up film. I was truly, truly let down, while the entire time I wanted so badly to like it. This film truly had every element necessary to create a great film, from the premise of “the grid”, Daft Punk’s involvement, Jeffery “The Dude” Bridges, to the simple promise of fantastic CGI. All of these elements promised success, and yet I was shocked at how bored I was throughout the whole film. (I won’t add the many technical flaws this film had with editing, but that’s a whole ‘nother argument)