Joseph Kosinski, Steven Lisberger
It's with a healthy dose of respect that we look back at the original TRON and its outdated special effects and concepts of technology. I had actually never seen TRON before (it was a little before my time and Disney had it pretty well locked up until recently) but it's nearly impossible to ignore the pop culture stamp this once under-performing film has left on society. While some of the ideas may be outmoded, what it has going for it is originality and a goofy, fun story that still holds up in the right context..
I'm sure the crux of TRON was a pretty novel idea at the time. As computers were becoming more of a consumer product and not just expensive lab equipment, the idea to represent the inner workings as a virtual world and the programs as people doesn't seem as hokey as it might today and TRON treats itself like a video game come to life. A video game starring Jeff Bridges (young enough to play arcade games) and David Warner with serious religious overtones, no less! While the idea of the users as gods and the Christ allegory with Bridges is the opposite of subtle, TRON is unabashed in its intent and equally daring in its design, from the neon costumes to the digital world. Bridges and Co. seem legitimately into it all, which really helps, giving eager performances from what had to be a very weird shoot.
The CGI is probably as crude as most pre-viz footage nowadays but TRON still manages to pull off some pretty exciting action scenes. The gladiator games, the Light Cycle chase, and the solar sail are all creative and executed fairly successfully even by today's standards. It has its issues (including a distractingly boring beginning) and I'm not sure I would consider the film a classic in any other sense than cult, but TRON does have plenty going for it. If I were a kid seeing this fresh, I’m sure it would blow my mind.
3.5 out of 5
There was quite a backlash against TRON: LEGACY for being a vapid special effects spectacle, but I didn't think it was as disastrous as the critics made it out to be—and honestly, it's not all that different from the first TRON. Watching both back to back, LEGACY does fare worse due to a lacking story and script, but structurally and thematically the two share a lot more than just shiny costumes.
The one thing that does really work here are the dazzling visuals. LEGACY takes TRON's design and style and reinvents them in a modern way that feels fresh and cool, greatly aided by Daft Punk's fantastic score. The world Joseph Kosinski created is impressive—a mix of sleek iDesign with some retro flair—and the effects used to bring it to life are overall very slick and polished, save for CLU, who doesn't quite meet the 100% realism they strove for. I think the virtual character gets a little leeway for being cartoony since he's supposed to exist inside a cyber world anyways, and I give them points just for attempting something as groundbreaking as a young Jeff Bridges.
The action elements like the Light Jets and Light Cycle sequences also work, but these bursts of excitement are fairly far and few between (which is again not all that different from the first movie). A big chunk of TRON: LEGACY is then left to be a clunky story fueled by a script that needed another round or two of rewrites. The story feels surprisingly small given the epic world its taking place in and there are giant leaps in logic to get characters from point A to point B (even when the narrative arc is already fairly simple). Another issue is that Garrett Hedlund is just not a good enough actor to carry a major event movie like this, at least judging by his flat performance here. Jeff Bridges is so comparatively charismatic that it nearly kills any believability that the two characters are father and son. (Even Olivia Wilde, playing a purposefully emotionless computer program feels more alive than the lead actor.) Bridge's elevates the material any way he can (including some great, clearly improvised lines) but the dialogue he's given is just too stiff to overcome.
If you simply watch TRON: LEGACY you might be entertained by what's happening on screen, but you won't be invested in the story or the characters. The universe definitely has potential though; it just needs a better script.
3 out 5 stars.
There are two new features (*) on the TRON Blu-Ray. The rest are ported over from the previous DVD and Laserdisc releases.
Commentary with director Steven Lisberger, producer Donald Kushner, associate producer/visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw, and visual effects supervisor Richard Taylor: This is worth a listen just to listen to everyone reminisce about how crazy the production was and how hard it was to pull off such an effects heavy film at the time. This is more of a technical discussion than anything. If you're looking for other information, I suggest checking out the next extra.
The Making of Tron: At close to 90 minutes, this feature length documentary covers pretty much everything you'd ever want to know about the original TRON. From the conception of the idea (and a context behind it) to the production to the difficult post-production, there's not an area left unexplored, and this feature gets access to all the creative minds who are willing to share. You also get a cool peek at the originally conceived TRON 2.0 sequel, which is quite different than how LEGACY turned out.
Deleted Scenes: Get a look at the infamous TRON love scene, which, while not graphic, is definitely…unique. Plus, an alternate opening.
*The Tron Phenomenon: This 10 minute retrospective looks at the legacy (…duh) of TRON in pop culture and cinematic history, talking to cast and crew. It's a short and sweet intro to the world, but also a fairly unapologetic plug for the new movie.
Photo TRONology: Clocking in at under 10 minutes, this feature follows director Steven Lisberger as he visits the Disney archives to check out all the original TRON preproduction material. While this could be a pointless, schmaltzy fluff piece, Lisberger brings along his son to introduce him to his work, which acts as sort of a cool father-son geek bonding experience.
Development: There's about 10 minutes worth of preproduction stuff here from early concept art to effects tests to a TV spot.
Digital Imagery: As the title suggests, this focuses on the effects of the movie, specifically the backlit animation process.
Music: A brief look at Wendy Carlos' score accompanying the Light Cycle chase and end credits.
Publicity: Some promotional material including original trailers, sizzle reels, posters and more.
Design: A short feature on the process of drawing up the Light Cycles and other pieces from the TRON world, with intro by Lisberger.
Storyboards: Compare some of the preproduction artwork to the finished film; about 10 minutes.
Galleries: There's a ton of stuff here from early design work and storyboards to production shots and publicity photos. However, there's so much that it's kind of a pain to have to flip through them on your DVD player.
I know the film wasn't as big a box office smash as Disney hope, but the lack of commentaries or sizable extras here is kind of surprising, especially considering the time and money the studio spent promoting it.
The Next Day: Flynn Lives Revealed: This interactive arcade requires codes to unlock all the material, some of which delves in to what happened to ENCOM after Flynn disappeared, as well as suggests what might happen after TRON: LEGACY ended. (Hint: You can use the code "ALL" to watch everything.)
Launching the Legacy: A look at how this long gestating sequel got started, from impressive test footage (showcased at Comic Con to big reactions) to nailing down the storyboards and the script (though I'll argue with the latter). At around 10 minutes, it's interesting but not comprehensive.
Visualizing Tron: This feature should be much longer, as it attempts to cram TRON: LEGACY's rich visuals in to a bit more than 10 minutes. That includes the idea and execution of the Grid, the sets, the costumes, the 3D, the realization of Clu and more.
Installing the Cast: This typical casting fluff piece is what you expect, with lots of praise for the return of Jeff Bridges.
Disc Roars: This is pretty cool and not just because I was there. At Comic Con 2010, director Joseph Kosinski got the thousands of fans in Hall H to stomp and chant, the audio of which he actually used in the arena scenes in the final film, as seen here.
Second Screen: I couldn't get this to work on my laptop (and I don't own an iPad), but theoretically if you download this new app, you can sync it with the movie and it will wirelessly transmit cool bonus content to your device to go along with the scene you're watching, from previz art to rotating 3D models and other interactive content. Sounds pretty cool, if a bit distracting, if you so desire.
Previews (including the new "Tron: Uprising" cartoon) and a Music Video for Daft Punk's "Derezzed."
This 5-disc Blu-Ray set, while hefty, is chock full of great special features (though LEGACY could be a little more comprehensive) and both films have phenomenal audio/video presentations (especially the original TRON). There are cheaper editions available for LEGACY, but serious TRON fans should definitely invest in this definitive collection.
Extra Tidbit: Allegedly Jeff Bridges showed too much of a bulge in the crotch area of his suit, so he was forced to wear a dance belt to conceal it. Jackie Treehorn would be proud.