Disney’s TRON was many things when it came out in 1982. It was a
pioneering technical achievement – the first film almost completely animated
by computer, about 15 years before Toy Story made the style viable.
It was a state-of-the-art look at a brand new trend (computer gaming during
the era of “Pacman” and “Asteroids”). TRON was a starring vehicle
for one of the bigger film stars (Jeff Bridges) and television stars (Bruce
Boxleitner, Scarecrow & Mrs. King) of the time. The soundtrack was
even an odd amalgamation of two new songs by one of the biggest rock bands of
the day (Journey) and a score by a well-respected and recently transgendered
orchestral composer (Wendy – formerly Walter – Carlos).
However, the one thing that it wasn’t is a big hit. In fact, at the
time it was considered to be something of a failure.
Chuck, the main character’s love for TRON and
conspicuously hung movie poster in his bedroom is given a great deal of
the years since, though, the film’s groundbreaking technique has gotten the
film a certain hipster cachet amongst sci-fi nerds (yes, I realize that is a
contradiction in terms.). In fact, in the current nerd-chic hit TV series
Still, it came as something of a surprise when nearly 30 years later Disney
decided to green-light a sequel to the movie.
there really enough of a following for the original to return to the world
the plus side, there has been a huge explosion in the technology of computer
animation. After all, remember, when the original film came out, it was the
same year that Microsoft originally released MS-DOS, many computers still
used punch cards and the-state-of-the-art in home computers was Radio
Shack’s primitive TRS-80. Therefore TRON’s effects, which were
groundbreaking at the time but now look positively medieval, would be
improved by leaps and bounds.
fact, last year we interviewed TRON star Jeff Bridges about his
Oscar-winning performance in Crazy Heart. Bridges was already
working on the sequel and he excitedly previewed TRON: Legacy by
saying, “The new one makes the old one look like an old black and
white TV show. The stuff they’ve got going is phenomenal.”
A year later the film is here and Bridges was absolutely
right. Artistically, TRON: Legacy is stunning.
Storywise, less so.
Actually, I should say artistically it is mostly
stunning, because while the world of TRON: Legacy looks amazing, one
computerized effect simply doesn’t work.
They have many scenes in
which a computerized version of a younger Jeff Bridges’ character circa
the 1980s (as well as a few of a young Bruce Boxleitner as well) and
these look completely fake. The effect is cool in theory, but the
characters are much less expressive and lifelike than any of the other
characters in the film.
Those younger versions are supposedly computerized versions of their
creators named CLU (Bridges) and TRON (Boxleitner). This may explain
somewhat why their expressions are so robotic – however all the other
characters in the computer world look much more natural. Also, the younger
fake-looking Bridges is also shown in a flashback scene in the real world.
Also, oddly, the computer character of TRON – who is the title character,
after all – barely shows up here. He’s in the background a bit, but never
quite breaks out into the forefront of the story.
story is pretty similar to the original, or at least a variation of it.
Bridges’ character of Flynn is a computer genius who somehow figures out a
way to transport himself into “the Grid,” an alternate universe inside of
starts in flashback seven years after the action of the first film. Flynn
suddenly mysteriously disappears after becoming a computer mega-tycoon.
Flash forward to the present day and his grown son, an idealistic slacker,
learns of a secret office of his father’s. While exploring, he sets off a
machine which transports him to the grid – where he is thrown into the
updated arena of computer games that his father conquered decades earlier.
While searching for his long lost father, Sam gets intimately involved in a
cyber revolution because his father’s computer program has become a monarch
of the world.
story doesn’t always make sense and the action scenes ride upon rather
pedestrian ideas, but the effects are so spectacular that you almost
overlook all of TRON: Legacy’s little faults.
do have a stunning artistic vision – even in those early phases of the
art form.A new
BluRay special edition also comes with the original film so that you can
revisit how well it has aged. Surprisingly, the computerized art – though
of course primitive by today’s standards, still often is surprisingly
evocative. This is not true in all cases – the human characters in the
computer grid have an ashy unnatural black & white hue to their faces in the
computerized outfits and the super Master Computer is somewhat simplistic
computer graphics. That said, the landscapes and the machines of
as the story, it is probably a bit more slow-moving than you recall. There
is a lot more talking and less fighting than there is in the more
hyperactive TRON: Legacy. However, in many ways the original story
sets the template for the remake/remodel to come. There are also more of
the “games” that did not make the new version – including marauding tanks, a
version of jai alai with laser balls and a shootout where you have to blow
blocks through a circular wall.
Bridges is as always a natural star here, likable and fun – and it is nice
to see him young with his face moving realistically, unlike the Legacy
CGI scenes. And it is nice to see David Warner again – one of the great
screen villains for the 70s and 80s.
back, TRON was certainly a flawed film, but it was also in some ways
visionary. Maybe it’s not a surprise at all that it was revisited so many
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: April 5, 2011.