Thursday, August 6, 2009

TRON Redux

I was recently pleasantly surprised to learn (I know, I've been out of the loop, as this has been old Internet news since mid-2008) that there's an honest-to-MasterControlProgram sequel to TRON in the works, entitled TRON Legacy. It's not a remake, or a kiddified revisiting, but a continuation set 25 years later, with Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their characters from the original movie.

I was 14 when TRON hit theatres in the summer of 1982, and it's a guilty pleasure that I still watch every few years -- I bought Disney's original bare-bones DVD and thoroughly devoured the Special Edition set that came out several years back. So I'm excited about the sequel, although I will reserve judgment until I actually have a chance to see it. I will say that I appreciate the trailer's approach -- it's more dynamic and contemporary in feel, but retains the original film's style: black-and-white live-action elements melded with stylized, geometric CG visuals. The technical limitations of the time gave the original film a unique look, and I'm glad to see it preserved.

I call TRON a guilty pleasure because the film is flawed in many ways. The story loses its way near the end, with several sequences that don't really pay off. The dialogue tries too hard to be contemporary and casual, yet suitably techno-geeky, making everyone sound like they've graduated from Ridgemont High Technical Institute. It's hard to tell some characters apart early on, and the ambitious visuals are uneven; there's one hand-animated shot of the grid bugs that always makes me cringe, and Flynn's "scanning" into the computer is so simply presented as to look out of place. My understanding is that rendering speed at the time required a full day to produce a finished frame of film, so last-minute production crunches forced a few compromises, and director Steve Lisberger was fairly green at the time. It also features music by Journey, which dates it more than anything else in the film.

But the film has aged remarkably well and has a substantial cult following; it is almost certainly more popular today than when it flopped upon release. The computer terminology, which must have seemed tremendously alien to non-techie audiences in 1982, is almost always correctly and appropriately utilized in science fiction terms. I think the modern audience is much more hep to the lingo, as we used to say, and gets the in-jokes, like Bit having only two states, and the resigned humor of Barnard Hughes playing part of the security system. And the film's look remains impressive -- as primitive as the technology was, it convinced us we were "inside the computer" as promised. The story is simple individual-against-the-Establishment stuff, but it works well enough, and it's nice for computer geeks like me to see ourselves as central characters and heroes.

There were two arcade TRON games back in the day, both of which are currently available on XBLA, and three home games for the Mattel Intellivision, none of which have been re-released on compilations due to licensing issues. Disney has kept the film's legacy alive in recent videogames, however. The Square/Disney RPG Kingdom Hearts for the PS2 sends Mickey, Donald and Goofy into the TRON world for on sequence, and of course TRON 2.0 on the XBox and GBA delivered the only sequel I thought we were ever likely to see.

So it is great to find out that I'm not the only TRON fan out there, and that Disney thinks there's a market for a proper sequel, in 3-D to boot. TRON Legacy might be a marvelous cyber-adventure, preserving the best aspects of the original, or it might be pretentious, muddled crap, preserving its worst. Either way, I am eager and willing to ante up the price of a movie ticket and don the polarized glasses.


No comments:

Post a Comment