As a casual geek from back in the day, my memories of the Tron experience revolved around the game more so than the movie, a surprising fact for a film critic to admit, but I’m willing to take my admission one significant step further – I didn’t remember the movie itself, at all. So when the buzz surrounded Tron: Legacy, the follow-up to the “phenomenon” that was Tron, well, I maintained a subdued hush because I was waiting for the inevitable release of the original film on Blu-Ray and DVD to stoke the fires before the triumphant Legacy cut a huge swath across the multiplexes as it made its way into the annuls of box office glory.
A funny thing happened on the way towards that path; Disney took a hard unfathomable left turn by refusing to release the earlier film on DVD prior to the debut of the sequel. The studio teased audiences with extended advance scenes, a nearly half-hour trailer to showcase the IMAX 3D efforts to modernize the world of the Grid, but kept Tron under wraps, which imprisoned me even further in the dark along with all of the non-geeks who never got onboard the first go-round in the 1980s.
Now, months after Tron: Legacy has come and gone from the big screen, Disney finally reissues the original Tron along with Tron: Legacy hoping to spark a revolutionary call for the follow-up to Legacy that exists right now as little more than a whisper campaign, although there is an animated television series in development now to tide audiences over in the meantime.
So, finally, we get to see a truly young Jeff Bridges (pre-Big Lebowski, Crazy Heart and True Grit) as Flynn, the videogame genius intent on hacking his way into the mainframe of his former employer to prove that the industry giant has been stealing and capitalizing off his ideas. Flynn looks and feels like a rock star in an age of big hair bands and pixilated cursors, before the world or anyone in it even dreamed of a digital life of social networks. Tron is all flat architecture with green graph lines and cheap plastic suits and dialogue that explains everything twice rather than simply trusting its visual scheme to show us what the future might look and feel like.
Tron may have been the inspirational call-to-arms for a generation of programmers and dreamers who went off and spawned the Internet and social networks with music file sharing and films like The Matrix, but it suffers immensely from being the first of its kind in an age when technological change occurs in the span of a couple of keystrokes. Tron looks like it was created pre-computer and long before the invention of narrative development.
Legacy gains credibility through comparison to the original, but that is not to say that it is a marvelous or bold step forward either. Flynn’s reckless and now full-grown son (Garrett Hedlund) who has grown up largely without the presence of his father receives a message that sends him on a quest into the cyber world to find his long-lost father and free that world from tyranny. The Grid now looks like the future (circa 2003 maybe) and the movie feels like a pastiche of all of the sci-fi dreamscapes we’ve seen since the mid-1990s. The action is slicker and brutal, although sanitized for a PG audience; the single greatest effect is likely the oddly wooden version of Flynn, a digital transformation of current Bridges into a younger man.
Watching Bridges and his younger doppleganger, I found myself wishing for a reboot rather than a sequel. Why not remake Tron and push forward with Tron: Legacy simultaneously like some many productions have done recently? Looking so far back for inspiration meant that the Legacy we were granted arrived already dated and I’ve already started erasing it from my memory bank. (tt stern-enzi)