Friday, October 29, 2010

Brave New Tron...

Last night I had the pleasure to attend Tron Night and see 23 minutes of Disney's Tron Legacy which, for the most part, was presented in Imax 3D. I was awestruck. I can tell you this… Tron Legacy is a game changer. Like the original Tron was before it, Legacy has raised the bar for visual effects again and will mark a whole new era for film. The future of cinema has arrived. It's a brave new world.

A few days ago I posted that Disney had curiously postponed releasing the original Tron on bluray out of fear that its now-dated visual effects, costumes and abstract narrative might not be very well received by modern audiences. That's a tough pill to swallow for a lifelong Tron fan such as myself who holds the original very near and dear to my heart but after watching the mind-blowing preview I am forced to admit that in their wisdom they were right. It's a whole new Tron and, sadly, I will never again be able to look at the original Tron the same way. Unlike last year's Avatar, this may very well be the first science fiction film that truly lends itself into creating a fully immersive world with visually mind-blowing CGI effects unlike anything anyone has ever seen before. Frankly, Legacy makes Avatar look like Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.

I have been no advocate of 3D… at all… in fact, I have been against it but even I have to admit that after watching the preview I was far more impressed by the stunning immersive visuals in Legacy than anything I saw in James Cameron's overrated cartoonish blockbuster. This may very well be the film that makes me a true believer that 3D is here to stay and the future of film. I still hate wearing the clunky polarized glasses which make the image look somewhat dim and blurry and I don't think that all movies are deserving of the 3D treatment, especially conversions, but I would welcome any shot in full 3D that have the exhilarating imagination that Legacy has in creating a visually stunning world unlike anything we've ever visited before and I will gladly pay the price of an expensive premium ticket to see it. Legacy has already won me over.

*******Below are spoilers with a breakdown of what was shown*********

The first scene which was presented in 2D only was Sam returning to his warehouse flat to find Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) waiting for him. Alan was the computer programmer working for the Encom corporation who wrote the security program called Tron. The scene was a bit long on exposition but we learn that Sam, son of the missing Encom CEO Kevin Flynn, is a typical rebellious youth who would rather embark in reckless motorcycle riding than accepting the responsibilities of running his father's empire. The rest of what follows was seen in the trailers where Alan tells him he was paged (yes, PAGED) by Flynn from his office at the arcade where Sam goes to look for his dad.

Sam arrives at Flynn's Arcade (this scene again was shown in 2D) full of old familiar 80's arcade stand-ups with dust covers. Sam flicks a switch, the lights come up, and the jukebox plays Journey "Separate Ways" and the Eurthymics' "Sweet Dreams" and for those of us old enough to have remembered what it was like are immediately taken back to this nostalgic period in our lives. Joseph Kosinski brilliantly and wisely captures the retro-chic of the original Tron and the 80's making it appeal to fans who grew up with the original film. Everything is exactly as it was and no small detail has been overlooked including Flynn's back room overlooking the arcade floor. He even added Flynn's electronic hand-held LCD football game sitting on the couch in his secret office behind a Bally Tron coin-op that Flynn was playing in the original film. It's like 28 years have passed and everything is still exactly as it was. Sam finds the old glass touchscreen tabletop Encom computer, wipes off the dust, and activates the molecular digitizing laser that was designed for teleporting physical objects.

Once Sam is digitized into the laser we are transported back to the grid in full 3D and just like Dorothy arriving in Oz we've gone from black and white to full color. Recognizers, those big monolithic hovering red sentinels from the first film appear only far more evolved now immediately spot and capture Sam where he is taken by intimidating guards with freakish voice modulators to be sent to the games. We also see other programs, some of which bare the wounds of fierce gladiatorial battle. One program in particular looks like half his face has been derezzed. Another program when sentenced to the games runs and leaps from the edge of a platform where he suicidally falls and derezzes into thousands of glass-like particles of bits. Sam is taken away to another room and is then approached by several beautiful and very retro chic looking Sirens who cut away his clothing with illuminated fingernails to be fitted in full gaming attire and given his identity disk, or what could be considered the "Lightsaber" of the Tron universe. Next we briefly see Michael Sheen's character Castor as a sort of master of ceremonies and briefly see Daft Punk in a sort of DJ booth. Sam is then sent to the arena to fight for survival in a game of Disc Wars very reminiscent of the old Bally game Discs of Tron. Sam survives his first battle, the crowd cheers and he shouts "I won now get me out of here!"

The next scene shows Sam escaping the grid on a lightcycle where he is picked up by Quorra on a Light Runner four-wheeler who takes him to the Safe House far outside of the grid where other programs cannot follow them and where his father resides isolated in a white Kubrickian estate with antique furniture that invokes images resembling 2001: A Space Odyssey. Flynn is shown on his knees in a meditative yoga-like trance with dripping electronic droplets of water flowing upwards around him. He tells Quorra he had a vision about Tron (interesting because we never really see the title character Tron and we know that Jeff Bridges is playing his alter-ego Clu and that the technology has de-aged him 30 years and seeing as how Bruce Boxleitner has returned as Alan Bradley why not use the same technology to show him in character as Tron? Hopefully that question will be addressed in the film). Quorra tells Flynn that they have a visitor. Flynn tells Q there are no visitors here but turns to see Sam and a tearful father/son moment ensues as we learn that much time has passed since they last saw each other and Sam is now fully grown and Flynn is now old. Flynn tells Sam he will reveal all to him once they have had dinner and goes to a balcony overlooking the grid while Quorra shows Sam his father's white lightcycle which she describes as being "vintage."

What follows is a montage of images seen mostly in the trailers concluding with the film's logo and the Real3D and Imax 3D logos. The presentation went by very quickly but it was well worth the long wait in line. I was already anticipating seeing Legacy on December 17th but now I am even more exciting and enthusiastic to see it than ever before. I need to get back to the grid.

End of Line.


HypaTRONic said...

I don't believe you'll see Tron in the film. I think the title says it all. Tron Legacy. This world is the legacy that Tron left.

End of line.

Brother Bill said...

One question--are the new recognizers able to slide their legs together to stomp on things, as in the original? (In the new design, the legs appear fixed).

Brother Bill

Anonymous said...

Wow! You are such a Tron homer! The general consensus is that the footage and the 3D were lackluster at best and didn't come close to matching what was seen in Avatar last year. In fact, why did this have to become a comparison at all? The original Tron is just as silly a cartoon as you claim Avatar to be. While many will give accolades to Moebius and Syd Mead's designs, few would be as favorable to its' simple and generic Wizard of Oz rip-off of a plot. You yourself mentioned that many laughed at it's silliness. You have every right to wet yourself and bath in hyperbole for this movie, but there is no need to create battlelines. Especially since I'm pretty sure you placed Avatar in your ten best list last year. No need to rewrite history. Save the remakes for Hollywood.

DizWiz said...

After reading your post from the other day regarding Disney holding back the Tron Blu-ray from being released before Tron Legacy, I thought Disney was crazy.

However, like you, after seeing the footage at Tron Night last night, I think Disney is wise not to release it yet. Tron Legacy is just vastly different visually, and they shouldn't mess up all of the great promotion that they've already done in preparing everyone for the new film by releasing the original that looks fairly primitive in comparison. It doesn't change my love for the original. It's just that the look of Tron Legacy is just so different.

Wonderful post, as usual. Keep 'em coming.

TRON UNIT said...

As much as I love the original Tron it just visually looks like an Atari 2600 now compared to Legacy. They've pushed the envelope of CGI to another level and that's probably why Tron 1.0 shouldn't be released with Legacy because the comparisons would be unfair with Legacy having an unfair advantage. As for the title character of Tron, yes I've heard the system is all about his "Legacy" but seriously, a Tron movie without Tron? How hard would it be to give Bruce even a cameo appearance as the title character and de-age him like Bridges? The original was mostly about Flynn and Legacy is ALL about Flynn. Bring back Tron! Tron lives!

Anonymous said...

Great review Tron Unit!

TRON UNIT said...

To the guy who thinks Avatar was in my ten best from last year:

Wrong. Not to get into a pissing match with you but I did not like Avatar. I thought the CGI blue people looked very silly and cartoonish. I guess you could say my reaction to it was very much like the reactions some have posted regarding the original Tron. I thought it was very bland and narratively it was a bore. I used to like Cameron's film back in the day but after he got too successful he lost something creatively and like Lucas and Spielberg has never been the same guy since. To each his own.

Sorry to disappoint you.

Yohann Vehenne said...

Anonymous, if you paid more attention then you'd have noticed that the writer of this post was Tron Unit. Honor was the one that had it on his top ten list. There are several writers on the blog and if you read to the end you can see who posted it.

Woodrow said...

Love the Ferngully comparison. You put what had always been in my mind out there in cyberprint. Anyway, that's about an entirely different (and not very engaging) movie.

Tron has yet to prove itself, but I for one am getting very eager to see this in the iMax format. I have to travel 200 miles to get there, so here's hopin'!

Padawin Paul said...

Great to hear. Looking forward to your review of the final film. Enjoyed your Punisher review as well.

2.0 and Beyond said...

My only issue at this point, based on the little I've seen, is that when you see where video games have gone over the past 30 years, Tron still seems to be stuck in it's "original world". Sure the effects have evolved, but the elements themselves are pretty much just as they were in '82.

The background story, along with the effects, may well be strong enough to make the film a success. However with the actual "game" having evolved so little, the film feels like it just doesn't live up to what is could have been if it had evolved as much (over the last thirty years) as the effects had.

Next_The_Black_Hole said...

The whole movie sounds retro. The disks and the lightcycle might be interesting in the original, but not so much in the overdue sequel. We are so beyond that with current games with the focus on social and casual games. Hardcore gamers enjoy role playing shooters. The arcade type games of the past are no more. I'm not sure who will enjoy this movie. Disney isn't exactly the most in tune movie studios. It usually succeeds when it finds its own niche and develops its own market. As an old old viewer, I hate to see anyone make a sequel for a movie that no one really cared about. What next? The sequel to "The Black Hole". Tron and The Black Hole are mis-steps. Disney did them when science fiction was all the rage with the success of Star Wars. Latching on with inferior product is what happened with those movies.

Hans Reinhardt said...

It wouln't be "Tron" without its trademark games. They aren't making Resident Evil or Doom. There's already movies for those. It's suppossed to be retro. Kids these days think everything revolves around them and their interests well I hate to burst your bubble but it doesn't. When/if you ever grow up you'll understand this. There are people who actually like Tron and The Black Hole but seeing as how kids today have no original franchises to call their own because everything just keeps getting remade they will have nothing to look forward to in 20 years because everything has already been done again and again.

2.0 and Beyond said...

Then Disney should be creating those original franchises (like PotC), not just making sequels of cult favorites.

Tron was unique only in one way at the time: computer generated effects and the engaging story that made use of them.

As you pointed out, kids today will probably not be that interested in it. Unfortunately, for Disney to produce a successful franchise requires that it be appealing too a broader demographic than just those who enjoyed the original film 30 years ago.

Anonymous said...

POTC has been a Disney theme park attraction for 50 years and they turned it into a movie franchise. Tron and Black Hole are other properties they own. How many Return to Witch Mountains can they keep doing? Point is Disney, like every studio, keeps falling back on the properties they already own because it is safe and marketable. Perhaps if they would take a chance and invest in some original undeveloped ideas they could create new franchises but that's across the board in Tinseltown. In this economy nobody wants to take a chance on new ideas.

Anonymous said...

I am on the fence about the release of 1982 "Tron" to home video. Yes, it's a dated movie with dated graphics and effects. However, it would serve to bring newer generation folks and folks who remember the era but whose memories need refreshing up to speed so they can put the 2010 "Tron Legacy" into context and enjoy it all the more.

One way to check out the original "Tron" is to "Search" for it in YouTube. I found the 1982 trailer for it. The trailer and the manner in which movie studios promoted films back then is very dated, in fact it's understated. You see The Grid and lightcycles and what, for that time, were groundbreaking visual effects.

If you can get past the datedness of it the trailer you can see on YouTube, and maybe more of the movie on YouTube, you can become familiar with what made "Tron" special back then in 1982.

Nobody owned PCs back then, or very few people did. CNN was just coming into existence, and cable TV while I think it existed didn't have many channels. No cell phones. I think Apple had it's Macintosh computer available for home use but most people were thinking, at the time, "What do I need a computer at home for?" No one was on the Internet, yet, back then. "Star Wars" premiered in 1979 and had at least one sequel out by then, and people thought the effects used in "Star Wars" were mind-blowing. People used landline telephones exclusively, and the nearest coin-op public phone if they had to make a call while they were out and about. Politically, Ronald Reagan was President and George H. W. Bush was Vice-President.

My 14-year old son and I saw "Tron Night" in IMAX 3-D and were blown away. Our theater, however, was not sold out. A lot of people there, but a lot of empty seats. And the show started at 7:15 PM CDT not at 7 PM CDT. We still loved it! Hopefully the original "Tron" is around somewhere available for rent or download, and I can always fall back on searching for clips on YouTube. Son wants to see the original movie now.

My son remarked while we were in line at the movie theater "There are so many OLD people here!" I looked around and didn't see anyone terribly old.... Then he said *I* was old! LOL! I saw a mix of age groups, some children just getting off from school and their parents, but there were Baby Boom age people there too, I guess fans who remember the original 1982 "Tron". One Disney Store employee were there in a "Tron Legacy" T-shirt.

king said...

Probably the way that Tron Legacy could be a success with the current generation is if they have NO reference to the original film.

If they approach Legacy unaware of the original, then the minimal difference in the game's evolution won't be an issue. As long as the "real world" game aspects are solid enough on their own that they wouldn't consider it lame from the outset. Then the story could be appreciated on it's own merits.

Anonymous said...

Um, Hunter, how about some coverage of Epic Mickey? It's already being nominated for awards, prior to its official release, and could be a real game-changer (no pun intended) if it's as big a hit as I suspect it will be. It also involves the return of Walt's first brainchild, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which I think is a tad more Disney-relevant than all your palaver about the Marvel superheroes (may Iger be cursed for that unfortunate purchase). How's about showing some enthusiasm for genuine, vintage Disney?

Anonymous said...

"And the show started at 7:15 PM CDT not at 7 PM CDT."

Hmmm.. Movie previews always take 15 minutes to run its course. It allows you to have a last minute bathroom break and time to get your popcorn and hot dogs.

Anonymous said...

Folks, Tron WILL BE in Tron Legacy. Joseph Kosinski has stated this several times in interviews. Also, if you look at the Disney/MARVEL graphic novel TRON:THE BETRAYAL (which takes place between TRON and Tron Legacy) that just came out, TRON is in it. Also, there's a ton of footage from TRON: Evolution that clearly shows TRON in it. Look closely at one of the characters in the trailers for Tron Legacy and you'll see a certain light pattern on his suit familiar with TRON from '82.

As far as Disney not wanting to release the original on Blu-Ray, I seriously disagree, and I share the enthusiasm that Steven Lisberger stated in an interview recently about the 6 weeks he spent redoing some of the effects of the original film, and how he had fun with it.

One serious problem I have with alot of the current generation (and even some current members of the OLDER generations who really should know better) is that they arrogantly and misguidedly think that the NOW just happened to exist (or come into existence) on its own, without anything that came before it. No wonder why many can't stand history or they don't care to research it - (aside from the fact that much of it has been slanted) -nonetheless, you can't understand the now without understanding the THEN.

aka Renegade Program