Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tron 2 De-Rezzed...

Well last night what arrived on my doorstop would surprise some of you...

Actually, this time it didn't arrive in a nonedescript manila envelope like other secret packages most of the time here at Blue Sky Headquarters. Instead it came as a digital document. Appropriate for a copy of the "Tron Legacy" script, yes?

That's right, the Tron sequel script. Actually, I think it's an early draft of it, as there is only one writer listed on it, Richard Jefferies. Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis' fingerprints are nowhere to be found on this draft. I was thinking of reading it, but I decided I wanted to go into the film fresh with no preconceived notions of what I was going to be seeing. I asked a friend that is a huge Tron-Geek if he'd like to review the script for me. Nada. It appears that he doesn't want to know too much before the actual film comes out in December... I don't blame him. So then I turned to another friend whom I'll call "Tron Unit" to review it. Thankfully, he said yes. He finished it very quickly and then asked if I still wanted his opinions because he could tell that this was an earlier version of the script and not the final one. Yes, I said. I thought that it would give fans the ability to see where they were going in the earlier draft of the script. The differences can be pointed out after you leave the theater this holiday. And with that, here is his review of the Jefferies draft of "Tron Legacy" for your digestion:

I will preface by saying that the following review is from what appears to be an early draft written by Richard Jefferies so I've no idea how much of his material will find its way into the finished film and therefore may contain spoilers so read at your own risk.

Imagine my surprise when I received an electronic document from Honor Hunter containing a script entitled "TRON 2.0 (aka TR2N)" with the condition that I write a review for Bluesky Disney. How could I refuse? To be honest, I had my reservations. I love the original Tron and having read the script to Star Wars: Episode I months before it was released and having 16 years of anticipation unexpectedly "derezzed" by the time I had reached page 11, I was convinced that the person who gave me the script had punked me with a fake script. Alas, it was the genuine article and all my hopes were crushed in one swift stroke. So I carefully pondered whether or not to potentially spoil any expectations I have prior to Tron Legacy's December 17 release. I was so impressed by the teaser trailer which poised some very interesting ideas and questions and I was blown away by the visual effects and the artistic design that has appropriately evolved to bring Tron into the 21st century. Needless to say I was more than a little curious to find out why Flynn appears in the trailer to simultaneously co-exist between the electronic and the real world.

Richard Jefferies' script begins with an intruder attempting to break into Encom's hacker-proof security firewall called X-Net. We discover that the program that has hacked it is Tron who has successfully eluded detection because his programming is so low-res and obsolete that the system doesn't see him to pose any real threat. Tron disrupts the system by causing an overload and is detected by X-Net who responds with intrusional counter-measures known as X-Takks. Tron successfully eludes them and crashes the system but meanwhile, back in the real world, Rush Nortebi, the security system's programmer for Encom is frantic that his perfect security system has been compromised.

Encom's CEO Gordon Sinclair has been preparing the media for the corporate launch of Encom's X-Net which guarantee's 100% security protection for any system. When news of the security breach reaches him he tells Rush and his team to find the intruder before product launch or it will turn into a public relations disaster for the company. So Rush along with an advanced projects expert named Megan Randall access the lab of Kevin Flynn who was presumed killed in a laboratory accident some years before. Meg back-engineered Flynn's Quantum Digitizer that breaks down physical matter and digitizes them into binary bits of data. Rumor has it that Flynn survived and was sucked into the computer during the accident. Sinclair and Meg decide to use the Quantum Digitizer to send Rush into the system to find the intruder. As they prepare to send him in, there is another system's breach and the machine loses stability and overloads just as Rush is digitized.

Inside the system Rush is mistaken as the intruder by X-Net intelligence program Mega, the counterpart of real-world Megan who detains him and takes Rush to the Central Control Server to be questioned by Plexor, X-Net's CPU and dopplegangert of real-world Sinclair. Rush tells Plexor that he has identified the intruder as Tron and tries to convince him and Mega that he is a User which they dismiss but believe he can help them locate and destroy Tron. To help them they are joined by another program named Krod, another called I-Beem and a gargantuan King Kong-like formatting program called D-Rezz who hurls a massive Romball that smashes data and derezzes it. They go to the ancient Game Grid sector where they intend to lay a trap for Tron who just can't resist a good grudge match.

Krod pulls out a light wand and rezzes up his light cycle. Rush dose the same and Mega climbs on. They head for the Game Grid. I-Beem and D-Rezz overlook the horizon of the grid along the rocky boundary as they prepare to lay an ambush for Tron. It isn't long before Tron is racing towards them across the grid on an intercept vector. They rally as Rush and Krod try to lure Tron into the awaiting ambush but Mega unexpectedly grabs the handlebars and veers off course. They jump from the bike before it smashes into the walls. Tron suspects something is wrong and sees D-Rezz hurtling his Romball that clips the the rear wheel of Tron's light cycle and it derezzes. Tron escapes into a tunnel and they pursue him into a maze of exposed memory leaks that derez anything that touches them. Tron hurls over the memory leaks and gains ground to throw his disc at D-Rezz but it is ineffective against the colossal program. D-Rezz hurls his Romball but is knocked away by Tron's disc and it falls into a memory leak and derezzes. Tron moves in for the killshot but Rush blocks him. Tron has no data of this program. He jumps up to a higher level and the others climb up after him but D-Rezz falls into a memory leak and lives up to his name. Rush squares off with Tron and demands that he identity his User. He sends a surging wave of energy zapping through Tron's nanocircuits triggered by entering all nine digits of his encryption code. Tron shuts down and falls into a memory leak and is derezzed. Rush picks up Tron's code disc. Mega is worried.

They are quickly surrounded by Finity Fighters and a dark limping figure appears who is revealed to be Flynn whose leg was badly damaged in the lab accident and barely escaped by activating the Quantum Digitizer. Flynn reveals that Mega has been working for him and he tells them that they have been playing for the wrong team and that Plexor's X-Net has taken control of the free system and that back in the real world Sinclair plans to hijack and control every computer system worldwide with his X-Net security software.

Meanwhile, in the real world, ATM's, traffic lights, and cell phones simultaneously go berserk causing widespread panic and chaos. Televisions all run the same add for X-Net's security software solution. Soon Encom is flooded with calls from all the major banks, airlines and governments from all nations demanding X-Net's security protection. Sinclair and his executives are pleased.

On the other side of the screen, I-Beem has returned to X-Net's central server and is revealed to be a spy for Plexor who tells him their location and that they are being helped by Flynn. He assembles his X-Net cruisers and X-Takk squads to find them. X-Net quickly crashes their hideout. Mega is captured. Plexor reprograms her. Rush is concerned that Mega is under Plexor's control but Flynn assures him that he gave Mega free-will to make her own choices. Flynn's Code Monkey's (no seriously) manage to hack a copy of the Hologon master encryption key to shut down X-Net. Rush is the only one who can power up Tron's code disc and becomes… wait for it… "Tronified."

They head for X-Net's power supply. I-Beem rejoins them and switches sides by shaking off his programming. They are confronted by X-Takks and bestial Cybavors. Flynn confronts Plexor. Rush manages to insert the Hologon into X-Net's control cell shutting it and Plexor down for good. The programs are liberated and free once again.

Back in the real world, Sinclair is giving his presentation for X-Net when it crashes. Rush re-materializes back in the lab. He is reunited with Megan and… Flynn whose leg has miraculously healed. Sinclair enters the lab furious that X-Net has crashed but when he see's Flynn he knows that his plan has been exposed. Flynn fires Sinclair and orders security to detain him so he can be questioned for charges from the SEC and the Justice Department and rewards the "heroes" by promoting them to executives in charge of the company. Rush kisses Meg.


I have to say that I felt Jefferies' script to be a big disappointment but knowing that this is not the final story as it will appear in the finished film does at least give me some hope and I remain cautiously optimistic that Joseph Kosinski will deliver a finished film that will be deserving of the legacy of Tron. The problem with this script is that it takes the original film's framework and reworks it for the internet generation. It's essentially Tron meets Hackers. Plexor is basically Sark. Encom has been transformed from a worldwide corporation with major military and defense contracts into a diabolical internet software company like Norton Anti-virus. The plot is predictable and cliched. That's not to say that the plot of the original film was much better because I will be the first to admit that it wasn't. Tron creator Steven Lisberger was heavily criticized for having a weak script that hampered Tron's critical reception when it was released but what sets the original film apart was that it was developing an entirely new mythology that had yet to be defined and was nearly a decade ahead of its time. Tron came out in 1982, the same year that cyberpunk author William Gibson released "Neuromancer" and coined the term "cyberspace" for the as-yet-to-be-defined electronic frontier. Tron was attempting to take these abstract ideas and concepts and work them into quasii-religious themes in an allegorical landscape while simultaneously pioneering a revolutionary kind of computer generated visual effects that not only gave the film a distinguished look and feel unlike anything that had ever come before it, but one that would remain solely unique in cinematic history. The techniques employed to create the world of Tron are in and of themselves obsolete and it would be impossible today to replicate the same aesthetic look, feel and nuances that gave Tron its defining characteristics. For example, the random "glitches" that occur throughout the original film were actually a happy accident caused by a problem with printing frames of exposed Kodaliths on film. Those techniques to process the film's visual effects are no longer used in the digital filmaking world. Certainly the technology has changed and advanced to the point where it would be relatively easy for the filmmakers to recreate the exact same environments and design of the original film digitally but have taken it to the next level by upgrading it to meet current 21st century visual standards. By that token, Tron Legacy will attempt to break new visual ground just as similarly as its predecessor did with a technically sub-standard script. I can only hope that Joseph Kosinski was aware of the shortcomings with Jefferies' script and that additional contributions made by writers Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal have reworked it into something much more sophisticated and philosophically intriguing. The trailer brilliantly hinted that Flynn was somehow able to mentally project himself within the electronic world as his younger-looking program Clu and that the electronic world can somehow interact simultaneously with the physical real world as if it is virtually juxtaposed three-dimensionally over our own. The Jefferies' script makes no allusions to this. My questions raised by the trailer are still unanswered. I can only hope that all will be revealed come December. Hopefully I'm not setting my expectations too high.

Well, I guess he didn't like it. That's fine, as this project has gone through several revisions and writers. The fact that the latest drafts were handled by people that have written "Lost" is reassuring. I've talked to a couple Bothans that say the final script and film itself are significantly different that this version.

And that trailer coming out soon has been described as very impressive...


Anonymous said...

That script sounds totally disappointing. It's like a humorless, anal retentive programmer wrote it. Who wants to see a hack demonstrated or a firewall or anti-virus program in action? The real world repercussions were horribly represented. ATMs and cell phones going berserk is so yesterday. How about something more consequential?

I wasn't a fan of the first Tron. This sequel is just as bad.

Anonymous said...

Yes, its probably a very good bet that the final script is different than this one that was reviewed.

Let's just hope for the best.

Sark said...

Yeah, this is pretty much an early draft. I've read a revision and the story is way different than this draft. Fear not, it's a lot cooler. Not that the version I read was the shooting script, but it was headed in that direction.

Anonymous said...

that is definitely not the movie that is being worked on.

Anonymous said...

nooooooooooo it's soooooooooo lame thank god it's not this oooohhh myy gooooshh it's soooooooooo awwwfullll

Zack Parks said...

No, this can't be the actual film. Because there is no mention of Flynn's son, Sam played by Garrett Hedlund.

Anonymous said...

I don't hold out much hope for this sequel. It's sounding more & more "tween"-centric with special extended cameo appearances by the originals just to keep the fans from frothing at the mouth & storming the gates.

TRON, the original, championed the age of the computer back when computers were few & far between. Now, computers are everywhere - In your car, in your phone, in the kitchen, in the office & school...

The best time for a TRON sequel would've been 1997-2000 when the Internet was still emerging & it could lay claim to championing the Internet back when most connections were dial-ups & people were still involved with using "Marquee" & "Blink" HTML tags.

TRON 2.0, the PC FPS game, would've been a better vehicle for extending the franchise had Disney not botched it so badly. No SDK, no marketing (Are the mouse execs still happy that they spent all that money on what's-her-name to voice Mercury?) & the World's Most Cliched Plot all but killed that game before the game hit the shelves.

I think Disney really missed the boat on capitalizing on this franchise & is now either playing catch-up or just squeezing the last few desperate drops of blood from a stone to win back the boys who equate "Disney" to "Princess."

Maybe the TRON: Legacy video game might provide some entertainment... Provided that the Mouse will actually release the SDK this time...

Alan One said...

Tron 2.0 was a horrible, horrible game. Everything about it from the design to the characters (Jet Bradley, Mercury, etc) to the execution was just awful. I have much higher hopes for the Tron Evolutions game. I was all for a sequel back in the mid 80's but because the first film was a bomb at the box office there was no way Disney was going to get behind a costly sequel that wasn't profitable. Whether it was the mid 90's or even today Disney is still taking a huge financial gamble on this sequel. Sure, it's become a cult classic over the last 28 years but most kids today have never even heard of it or find it to be a relic of the past. They might be impressed by the special effects and all but like the remake for Clash of the Titans the only appeal to draw big attendance at the box office is overblown video game FX for the Xbox ADD generation.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree that TRON 2.0 was a "horrible, horrible" game. I know that a lot of consolers hated the console version of the game but the PC game definitely had it's strong points.

Granted, I was not a fan of the plot from Day 1 but a lot of in-game mechanics worked very well (The "Alpha-Beta-Gold" abilities, the "Permissions are the new Keys," etc.) & the levels were varied enough in style so that you never got the sense of, "Oh... We're back here AGAIN."

I'll admit that that TRON 2.0 fell into far more FPS cliches then I would've cared to play.

I'm never a fan of "Boss Battles" which essentially pits you in a FPS gladiatorial arena with some overpowered enemy that you have to outsmart in order to win.

I also didn't care much for the typical "Knife-Gun-Rifle-Machinegun" standard weaponry that the game had & would've been much more satisfied had the game design taken the bold step of using the disc as the only weapon & then derive whatever "Knife-Gun-Rifle-Machinegun" from that disc (which, I'll admit, it partially tried to do).

Finally, I had no interest in playing the light cycles. I understand why the designers tried to initially integrate the light cycle sequences into the game but, to me, it was really jarring & took you out of the game more then kept you into it.

Having written all of that, I was really surprised by how much the game got right more then it got wrong. The abundance of & integration of soft RPG elements into the game definitely elevated the mechanics of the game over your typical FPS. In a backhanded way, I'm almost a little disappointed that someone didn't have the moxie to go all the way & develop the title into a full modern RPG, like that of Oblivion.

This game could've emerged as much a cult classic as the film had Disney simply followed standard game industry practice & released the SDK into the public so that the public could've modded the game to their hearts' content. Even for back then when TRON 2.0 was first released, an SDK release was standard operating procedure for most FPSes. Note to game developers: When will you learn? When you don't release an SDK, that signals to the community that you have no confidence in your game. When a developer has no confidence in their game, why should the community have any confidence, either?

Here's to hoping that the TRON: Legacy tie-in game has learned the mistakes of it's predecessor. Unfortunately, I'm not expecting that lofty goal to be met.