Friday, 24 December 2010

Tron and It's Legacy


The recently released Tron: Legacy is something that is being commented on by hundreds of people around the world and has been praised for it's impressive visuals, musical score and it's use of 3D technology. I saw this film in 3D on Tuesday with two of my brothers, one of which has come home from university for Christmas; this trip to the cinema being a little “reunion”. I contemplated posting my personal opinion, and not a review, of the film but decided against it as I believed that, for one, it is not entirely relevant to my imagined theme of this blog and two, I did not believe that I had anything to say that hasn't already been said. However, after watching moviebob's short but, as ever, interesting review of the film I felt that I too had quite a bit to say about it. If you haven't watched this review, or any of moviebob's videos, I whole-heartedly recommend them, especially my favourite series, The Game OverThinker. Of course, said review created new trains of thoughts about “Tron” as a franchise that I hadn't really considered; with this only fuelling my idea of posting about it. So here we go...

1982 Tron arcade cabinet
Tron, for those who don't know, is a 1982 film produced by Disney and directed Stephen Lisberger who, apparently, found his inspiration for the movie when witnessing Pong for the first time. The film, in a nutshell, follows the adventure of a programmer called Flyn whom finds himself trapped within the computer system of a leading software developer for which he had previously worked for. Unfortunately for Flyn, The computer system itself is a dystopian cyber-city where programs, represented as humans, are under the dictatorial rule of  the “Master Control Program” (MCP). Flyn teams up with Tron, a freedom fighting security program, and together they set off to defeat the MCP whom intends to assimilate all programs in an attempt to control the real world. The film is most known for it's iconic disc-battles and Light Cycle races, where programs would fight to the death in arcade-like games, as well as it's computer generated vehicles and brightly coloured, “neon” environments and characters. Regardless, the film did not perform incredibly well in the box office, hence why there has been no sequel for nearly three decades. So why has a sequel finally been made? What's been keeping Tron alive all these years?

Tron Guy: Saving the world one system at a time
The answer is within both you and I; the nerds. Moviebob's afore mentioned review pointed out what should have been obvious to me; that even though the film didn't do too well, it directly affected the lives of numerous people to different extents in such a way that they felt a love for Tron that carried on long after everyone else had forgotten about it. This ranges from parents who force their disinterested children to watch their new, digitally remastered copy of Tron on DVD, to the much loved Tron Guy himself. It is such individuals that ensured that the 1982 arcade game of the same name generated more revenue than the film itself. Other releases include the popular, 1983 arcade release of the popular “Discs of Tron”, as well as other titles on the Intellivison, Atrai 2600 and the  Commadore 64. Tron continued to pop up well into the 21st century, with the fairly positively reviewed, 2004 FPS “Tron 2.0”, released for PC as well as a port on the Xbox and the GBA; these having their own comic adaptation, “Tron: The Ghost in the Machine”.

My post has gone off on a bit of a tangent. It's a good history lesson for you all anyway. The truth is, I don't know why Tron: Legacy exists other than for simply making money off the previously mentioned Tron fan base and computer games nerds. I could try and dig up some information on it's origins, but the Wikipedia article on it doesn't divulge much and I fear that if I attempted to look any deeper I'd end up writing an essay. So count yourself lucky.

In my opinion, Tron: Legacy is a visual feast. It accomplishes the task of modernising the style of the original film, while leaving it's essence untouched. Vehicles and structures, such as the Light Cycles and Reorgs, look both like they could exist in the computerised world as well as the real world and the programs themselves looked like they fell straight out of Blade Runner. The 3D effects were simply stunning. Truth be told, I've only seen two other films in 3D and no, one of them wasn't Avatar, but I was still able to fully appreciate the quality of what was being presented to me. I felt a real sense of depth and perspective that I hadn't seen in the other two films. This kind of thing is difficult to explain, but it all seemed a lot more real. An experience to say the least. I was surprised to find out that the large majority of the film was in fact recorded in 3D as opposed to having 3D affects added later in the process. This was a real revelation for me, especially since I'd never seen an advert for 3D televisions, camcorders and cameras until the trailers for Tron: Legacy. Perhaps 3D isn't just a flash-in-the-pan...

Comparison of the new (left) and old (right) Tron Reorganisers

Unfortunately, I can't be as positive about Tron: Legacy's storyline which was, to be frank, flimsy. It really had little relation to the original film, save for a sprinkle of references and a small cameo appearance; for a film named “Tron”, the titular character played no real part at all. Another problem I have with it is that important plot elements seemed only briefly explained, for example, the Isometric Algorithms that spontaneously appear in Flyns computerised environment, The Grid, are supposed to be able to reveal the secrets of religion, philosophy, science, medicine etc. but how they're to do this isn't even mentioned. As well as this, I know “The Grid” was created by Flyn in the 80's so isn't subject to such modern things as networking and the internet, but this is still something I would have liked to have seen in the film. They modernised the visuals, so why not modernise the computerised environment? I get the feeling that some weaknesses in the plot are intended to be touched upon in future sequels, as it would seem Disney intend to turn “Tron” into a multimovie franchise. Good luck to them, but I don't think they'll need it; after all they've managed to make three extremely successful films (with another on the way) out of a theme park ride.

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