I was lucky to get to sample the five-disc (!) combo pack version of Tron: Legacy (list price: $80), even though I’m not able to evaluate the 3-D capabilities. There are four discs for the new movie — one each Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3-D, DVD, and digital copy — plus a Blu-ray for the original Tron. Personally, I would have rather had Tron on DVD also instead of the digital copy of Legacy, but I don’t have much reason to watch movies on portable devices.
I did laugh a little at the flyer in the case telling me how easy it was to “Bring Disney 3-D Home”. Only 4 easy steps, which include owning a 3-D TV, a 3-D capable player, “3-D glasses compatible with your 3-D TV”, and the movie itself. Oh, and a high-speed HDMI cable, which doesn’t count as a step, apparently (but will raise the price of joining the 3-D future). Other options available for owning Tron: Legacy are:
This was the first film directed by Joseph Kosinski, previously known for ads and video games, and he does an admirable job for having such a huge project as his debut. I enjoyed entering this virtual world and found myself caught up in the images. Here’s the trailer, showing the key elements — glowing killer Frisbees, lightcycles, Olivia Wilde, and Jeff Bridges.
Tron: Legacy opens with Bridges as Kevin Flynn (the programmer of the first movie) talking to his son, explaining the previous Tron plot and what’s happened since. Then he disappears, leaving a grown-up Sam (Garrett Hedlund) to seek him. When Sam enters the computer world, he discovers his father’s program, Clu, has taken over. His real dad has become a kind of guru and raised, in the Grid, an adopted daughter, Quorra (Olivia Wilde). In other words, there’s more to life in this virtual world than just the games and battle of the first film.
Legacy is very glossy, very five minutes into the future. I expected as much, since the appeal of this franchise is strongly visual. The new one is gosh-wow, a high point of today’s abilities, with the kind of high-tech action added that evokes such films as Mission: Impossible. The electronic world is better developed than before, with a sexual component added — as can be seen by the women stripping Sam and then rebuilding him — that was cut out of the first movie. (The expectations of a Disney movie have also changed.)
Instead of giving a digital, computerized feel, this movie is more about light and glass, as the programs seem to shatter when they de-rez. The earlier film created a digital world digitally; this one creates a digital world practically, using sets whenever possible, and the suits are self-lighting, carrying their own illumination.
Some details that struck me. I found it interesting to see, with a kill -9 command, that the operating systems are still based on Unix. The stadium set reminded me of visiting Disney World, especially when the fireworks go off around the Castle. Most of all, the scene where the arcade comes back to life, with all its bloops and pings, accomplished by the flip of a breaker, did thrill me.
Unfortunately, I found the audio for the movie inconsistent; I had to turn it down on the action sequences and up to actually hear people talking. I also was troubled by the addition of shooting games in the digital world. I know programs were “de-rezzed” in the earlier film, but there’s a difference in tone between sports challenges and gun battles. I found myself wondering how thought-generated vehicles stall or jam. Like every other modern scifi film, you can see how the makers were affected by Star Wars and The Matrix.
The most successful effect is Clu himself, played by a computer-generated Jeff Bridges based on his younger self in his earlier films. It’s not a perfect effect, which gives the face an inhuman creepiness that suits the villain. The motivation is familiar — I’m sure we’ve all seen examples of a computer, set up to run the perfect society, deciding that imperfect humans must be removed — but I found a certain resonance in the debate between father and son over how to fight evil, whether to risk everything with ambition and youthful arrogance, or whether to be more patient, refusing to stoop to the enemy’s level and understanding the power of waiting. And when Bridges said, “The only way to win is not to play,” I was pleasantly reminded of the same lesson from War Games.
This is the second movie (after Bambi) with Disney Second Screen, a way to have your laptop or iPad follow along with the movie and show extra content. Tron: Legacy is a much more sensible choice for this technology, of course, than a pastoral cartoon, and after some setup glitches (and having to enter my Disney Movie Rewards code to get full sync), I discovered the content consisted of filmmaker quotes, set pictures, storyboard sketches, and background on the effects shots. Ultimately, I wound up finding it distracting. That’s my own fault — it’s definitely best suited for someone who’s already familiar with the movie itself. I shouldn’t have tried to watch it my first time through. You also don’t have to run it in conjunction with the movie; there is an option to explore the content on your own.
The first extra feature is “The Next Day: Flynn Lives Revealed“, a faux-behind-the-scenes documentary about a movement to find the missing Kevin Flynn and what happened to the company between the time of his disappearance and the events of the movie, featuring more Bruce Boxleitner. It seems that this was part of an online ARG and a teaser for a possible sequel, although this isn’t explained on the disc; I had to Google it. My favorite part: They brought back the guy who played Ram (Dan Shor) as a supporting character.
There are four other bonus featurettes:
“Launching the Legacy” — 10 minutes talking about what the filmmakers remember about the movie and how they balanced that influence with new elements. They shot a presentation trailer (included here) to demonstrate what could be done and showed it at Comic-Con, even before the movie was committed to be made. Also discussed are the generational aspects, how to make the movie exciting for a much different culture.
“Visualizing Tron” — 12 minutes on how they’re using light, which defines TronWorld, and other design elements, especially construction of the otherworldly costumes, plus effects.
“Installing the Cast” — 12 minutes about the actors, including comparing filming the second compared to the first.
“Disc Roars” — the crowd noise for the arena was recorded at Comic-Con, at the Tron panel, and this three-minute short shows the process.
Plus, there’s a short ad for the “Tron: Uprising” cartoon and a Daft Punk music video. I normally love special features, but in this case, I think I would have enjoyed watching the movie itself again more. It speaks for itself very well and serves as a fitting, yes, legacy to Tron. Tron: Legacy explores similar themes — man and his creation, whether program or child — with better eye candy. I’ll leave you with this slideshow of behind-the-scenes images. (The studio provided a review copy.)