TRON – loved/hated, esoteric and dated has, after 28 years, been given a proper sequel. This isn’t the first time a film has been dusted off and given a follow-up after the fact, but the real question is (in the case of TRON specifically): How do you make a nearly 30 year old property relevant again? Why, “Reboot” it of course (and that seems all the more funnier since this is a computer based film). Sure reboots have been all the rage in Hollywood in the last decade but it’s yielded mixed results. But in this case, doing so does the world of TRON quite a proper service.
While Legacy has been billed as a “sequel” but more appropriately, it’s a reboot/sequel hybrid. TRON: Legacy tells the story of what happened to Flynn after his first adventure in the digital world. Further his subsequent disappearance left his son pretty much abandoned and Encom in about the same shape as when it was run by Dillinger. So his son Sam sets out to find his long lost father after a message from Flynn’s arcade mysteriously prompts him to do so.
Originally I saw this in the theaters in December (check out my initial thoughts of it here) and I have to say that I enjoyed my trip to The Grid this time around. Moreover viewing it on Blu Ray was way more enjoyable than seeing it in IMAX 3D. First off the 3D was hardly worth it and the idea of using a mo-capped Jeff Bridges just didn’t play out as intended. Reason? Well on a computer screen the CG Flynn (well CLU really) looks convincing, but when his face is stretched across a 85 foot screen, you get pretty close to the “uncanny valley”. Plus at home it’s easier to take in the depth of The Grid and still feel immersed and you have time take it all in before the scene changes.
Now I have to say that watching the original TRON recently helped me notice some of the nods and homages to the first film, few though they might have been. But the biggest story element that bridged the films was TRON: Legacy’s antagonist CLU. Now, as fans remember, CLU was a program created by Flynn to find the stolen games he created in the first film. But he was captured by Sark and no one really knew what happened to him (even though it looked like he was derezzed). With Legacy we’re told Flynn created CLU (again it seems) to help build the world of this new Grid while he lived in the real world. Yet like any good story, someone has to be the bad guy and CLU didn’t really like taking orders anyway. It’s reminiscent of John Milton’s Paradise Lost where this quote seems to sum up the whole film, “better to reign in hell than serve in Heaven“. Don’t you think?
On that note, TRON: Legacy further seeks to expand on the ground work laid in the previous film by giving face-lifts to the effects/elements that made the original TRON so enticing and memorable. There’s disc wars, light cycles, solar sails, recognizers which will make any fan just gush while this time around the visauls give a real weight to these immersive environments. Yet while vast, the world of The Grid still feels as vacant as it was before. It’s not really a huge detraction as the film’s real draw is the eye candy but it does feel a bit cold.
That said, even though the story of the film isn’t as strong as it could have been TRON Legacy still created more questions than it was prepared to answer. For instance what are the consequences to losing your disc? We’re told it’s bad but if that’s the case, then why is everyone flinging them around in disc battles? Then you have Flynn, the maker, who is regarded as a deity and has the power to create things in The Grid…but why if he is this omnipotent persona and has supposed power, why does he simply not use them? And what’s with the games anyway? Is “The Grid” so crowed that it has to make room by way of outright murder disguised as arena combat?
Now none of that is really enough to fully take you out of the film but it sure feels like elements to the story could have been given a little more thought, weight and purpose. Still it’s not the story of TRON that draws people in, its the ooh and ahh of a digital world. But as I can’t be satiated with scenery alone my one suggestion to improve the plot would be to take the ISOs (isometric algorithms) out of the story completely and instead put focus on stopping CLU from creating his army. But with all that Koscinski, Adam Horowitz,and Edward Kitsis have done, I love this film, the set up for the third film and am really looking forward to it (especially after the introduction of Dillinger’s son).
For his first at bat, Joseph Kosinski didn’t do half bad at all. It could have benefitted from better editing in addition to some story work, but on the whole TRON: Legacy is certainly no slouch of a film. It seems Kosinski wanted to give this film, despite its fantasy based story, a grounded feel a la The Dark Knight (right down to the gritty dark tones and a score Hans Zimmer would be jealous of). In that case, they certainly succeeded with the added bonus of making it now cool to like TRON. This reboot/sequel gives a sophisticated look and feel to the world of “The Grid” in an effort to future proof the film so to avoid the poorly aged fate of its predecessor. Soak up the glamor of this digital realm, try not to ask many questions and you’ll really enjoy the ride. As a parting note I must say that what dazzled viewers in the theaters just over 90 days ago looks simply exquisite on Blu Ray.