On the other hand, while certainly not a FLOP, it received mixed-to-positive reviews and it wasn't up to the financial expectations of its studio and distributor, namely The Walt Disney Company, and, thus, further installments or similar projects, never materialized!
Then, something amazing happened. With new technologies came new resurgences of properties and TRON began popping up all over the place, from a video game sequel called TRON 2.0 to commemorative anniversary DVDs to pop culture phenomena, to South Park parodies, to internet memes to even an entire world within the video game Kingdom Hearts II for Mickey and Friends to adventure through.
True, TRON has now become the influential classic that it set out to be and its waves throughout the industry are felt all over the place. Perhaps that's why some out there consider TRON to be some sort of Sacred Cyber Cow that was unassailable since inception. The very idea that TRON wasn't immediately a mega-selling blockbuster, recognized by every award in history and took its time to become a phenomenon is beyond a lot of viewers today. Hence, when it comes to TRON Legacy, apparently audiences either LOVE it or HATE it.
I, personally, am one of those guys who saw TRON in the movie theatre at 8 years old and became a fan right away and ever since! Where do I stand on TRON Legacy? I love it! I absolutely love it. From an entertainment standpoint I could scarcely be happier. From a story standpoint I can point out only a few things truly wrong. All around, it's a superb visual experience and a great, spectacular ride that does more than merely pay lip service to its source.
In fact, this truly is the right time to have made this film. Another day might have led to a reboot or remake handed off to some semi-interested goofball company with little mind to the previous film. Indeed, the news that Disney hired newcomer (and commercial director) Joseph Kosinski to develop this film might have been tantamount to... I don't know... allowing some faux visionary to direct Watchmen or something. However, Kosinski brings a sharp, new look to the film, building on its predecessor but remaining unique. Further, writers Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal do a great job of bridging these two stories, separated by decades and allow TRON Legacy to be an evolution of the original, not a usurper to the grid.
Best of all, TRON Legacy brings back some major talent from the original. Not only is original TRON writer and director Steven Lisberger credited as a producer, but star Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn while the always welcome Bruce Boxleitner is back as Alan Bradley! I can't imagine letting the series continue without them!
Well... Alan is back, at least! After a mood-setting introduction that establishes Flynn's actions and intentions after the events of the first film, we're told that Flynn disappeared back in 1989, just as he was facing a breakthrough. This has left his company ENCOM in the hands of a greedy board that includes Cillian Murphy as Edward Dillinger, Jr., the very legacy of the first film's antagonist. It's all Alan can do to even object to ENCOM's Machinations.
However, Flynn also left a son named Sam (Garrett Hedlund) who has his own anarchistic methods of protest... even if he is the majority shareholder in and of himself. But when Alan receives a page from Kevin's office at Flynn's Arcade, the emotionally detatched Sam finds himself again looking for his missing dad... and discovering the bizarre truth of how to find him.
In the seven years between the defeat of the Master Control Program and Flynn's disappearance, a new computer world was built to expand on the original. To this end, Flynn enlisted the aid of our hero Tron (again played by Bruce Boxleitner... or, at least, his motion captured face digitally grafted on another actor's body). Joining them in their relentless persuit of perfection is the newly resurrected (or, perhaps, recreated) Clu, the electronic doppelganger of Flynn, who acts as his surrogate in the computer world (and is also played by a digitally de-aged Jeff Bridges, grafted onto John Reardon's performance). Perfection was just around the corner, right? Well... need I say that something went HORRIBLY wrong along the way? I need not.
Sam enters the Computer World and is almost immediately thrust into the brutal gladiatorial games that Sark and the Master Control Program were so fond of. However, this time it appears that he isn't dealing simply with accounting programs and repurposed batch scripts conscripted to fight, but specific digital life forms made to perform, do battle and, strangely, even applaud and cheer for the spectacle. They even enjoy music and have built their own society. And somewhere within that society, Sam's Father still exists... in some form.
What follows is more than just a video game. Sam must face Clu and his new agenda as he slowly begins to realize that these strange bedtime stories that dear old dad used to tell were all-too-real and that Sam is now a Cyber-Alice in his own terrible Wonderland. Luckily he also has an ally in the strikingly beautiful Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and a mission of his own, to save the computer world (and, hopefully, his absent father) while preventing a corrupted program from infecting the outside world.
Along the way he faces potential friends and foes, such as beautiful siren Gem (Beau Garrett), flamboyant night club owner Castor (Michael Sheen), the mysterious Jarvis (James Frain) and the enigmatic champion Gladiator Rinzler (Anis Cheurfa)!
Of course, one of the major questions here is, and ought to be, "Where's TRON Now?" The answer slowly reveals itself for those who look and listen. Fear not, true believers, they don't need to change the name of the series, even if more questions than answers emerge when we find all this out.
At first it's striking how different this evolved world of TRON looks as compared to the original. Innacurate? I think not. The film carefully explains how fast things evolve in the computer world (hours to us may be days or more to them). The 1982 TRON was made with 1982 computers and necessarily took place within a 1982 computer. This world (and the movie that tells its story) takes full advantage of the almost three decades of advancement between the first tale and this one. The suits are modernized, but still show their canonical roots in design (compare Sark's helmet to Clu's, for example, or the guard uniforms in the original to those here). The light cycles have come to a new generation, but prove to be just as deadly and the very discs the combatants utilize (both storage mediums and weapons) are all new models. Thankfully, none of this comes off as a travesty and all of it feels like a natural evolution and neither a repeat nor a complete divergence.
Of course, some things, quite simply, will look more sleek and real with 2010's CGI, as compared to 1982's. A program's death (or "derezzing") doesn't involve a simple optical effect and vanish but a shatterring into tiny bits and bytes, battles include near-impossible martial arts and the textures of both the savage digital wastelands and the comfortable refuges are both rich and well-dimensioned. This is including, and especially, when viewed in IMAX with Disney Digital 3D!
And make no mistake, the multi-layered story is no joke... it's rich and well-imagined, with virtually everything established and brought to fruition thanks to the excellent cast led by Bridges in two (or one-and-a-half) great roles! Further, the score by the band Daft Punk (whose members Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter appear in cameos as Castor's two Masked DJs) is excellent. It doesn't sound like a few songs performed by one band, but a full, rich, electronic score as variable as the tale it helps tell.
As I said, from an entertainment standpoint, I couldn't ask for much more from TRON Legacy! Still, from a critical standpoint, the film isn't exactly perfect. Fans of TRON (who aren't expecting a simple repeat) shouldn't be terribly disappointed. However, the facial grafting of the younger faces of Bridges and Boxleitner still looks like CGI. This is a pretty lame nit to pick, considering all, because, folks, it looks pretty amazing most of the time. However, with such attention given to photorealism, it's striking when any photorealism is lost. Further, the film is incredibly beautiful and worthy of a few slow-motion bullet time moments, however, with so many mediocre flicks employing the same technique, TRON Legacy comes off as a follower in a couple of places, rather than a part of a leading, cutting-edge saga. Lastly, there are a number of "homages" to other films all throughout the second half. After a time this stops feeling like an homage and more like a small series of borrowed elements. Sure it's clear that in a post Matrix world it's hard to make any sort of Virtual Reality film without there being a touch of that 1999 flick! On the other hand, this is a sequel to TRON, the original into-the-computer film... the religious echoes and even reflected imagery from The Matrix feels a bit familiar, as, incidentally, does the short run of Star Wars references.
Somehow it takes turning off that pure-entertainment part of the brain to really be distracted by these few rough spots. In fact, none of these are haphazardly shoved into the whole and the story progresses beautifully. Any other criticisms would either be spoilers or a matter of taste on my part. The truth is... while this might not be everyone's choice for "TR2N", I think it's fantastic and as a fan of the original film since its theatrical debut, I was far from disappointed in this long-awaited sequel!
In fact, note-for-note, scene-for-scene and element-by-element, TRON Legacy is a slightly better film than the original and fully worth Four Stars out of Five! Yeah, yeah, yeah, there will be those cyber fan boys who will argue this point to the most obnoxious degree possible. Hell, we had a few sitting behind us in the theatre. One gleefully explained that, as a child, he had seen Star Wars: Episode I... in... the... theatre... and was IMMEDIATELY Hooked and, since then, knew everything there was to know about Science Fiction. His newly met friend responded with something akin to "Yeah, me too!" How can I possibly argue with those movie masters? How? Right... if you guys took issue with this film, I'd better shut my squawking trap. Sigh... Episode I in the theatre, huh? Now that's qualfication. See the rest of you Movie Buffs in the Next Reel... and I'll be wearing my Glowing Armored Spandex at the time!
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