[Forgot to mention our latest episode -- "When Computers Were Magic" -- coming on Monday. In the meantime, enjoy this review. -- ed.]
Tron has been aging on a disconnected hard drive for the last 28 years. A Western Digital My Book, from the looks of it.
The first Tron has inspired countless (every?) animator alive today. And if you need to check the changes in the world from the ’80s, remember the oft-quoted fact that Tron was not qualified for special FX awards because “using computers was cheating.” A while ago I re-watched Tron on my Mac laptop, via a possibly torrented movie file from a friend. In the ’80s, computers looked like this:
The whole idea of Tron was inspired by this machine, and the possibilities that came with it. Enter static flickers, black lights, spinning disks (direct technical influence) and motorcycles. Would it have been too much to ask for a new Tron that was equally influenced by today’s world of Apple, Sony, Facebook, and Google? Do we not have an equally inspiring technical society today, that looks good even in plaid and thick-rimmed glasses?
The story of Tron Legacy is clearly meant to capitalize on the current generation of artists who were so inspired by the first film. (Capitalism: Disney’s rewriting the past so that every boy had Tron action figures and posters in their bedroom.) Since the target audience is kids who grew up, a father-son story works perfectly. A confused wayward child seeking adulthood/closure travels to a fantasy realm to find the answer to life’s persistent questions. This never fails to introduce a fantasy world but neither is it very original.
Traveling to Tron myself, I expected a hell of a lot more. But as Joseph Kosinski explains, Tron has been running on Jeff Bridges desk since he mysteriously disappeared, and it had no internet connection. My heart died a little when Jeff Bridges seriously asks: “What’s wi-fi? Oh, I invented that in 1985.” Really? Because it should have been part of your world and made it more interesting. Mr. Kosinski failed to distinguish Tron Legacy from any of the countless other sci-fi movies in this post-Matrix world. (Constantine, Matrix 2, A Scanner Darkly, and Titan AE come to mind.)
My personal problem with the film concerns the party scene. The people were supposed to be avatars of computer programs, and I really expected a variety of characters surpassing the diversity of Mos Eisley’s cantina. But instead, I got a stilted world where every girl has the same shiny black bowl haircut, and wore the silver astronaut dresses. Strangely, Daft Punk fit perfectly into this scene, having kept their style the same for years from the original Tron. They kept to their tiny DJ box, smartly avoiding everyone.
Tron has a highly specific artistic style that was reinterpreted by a first time architect/film director, who hired fashion designers, car designers, and other architects to work for the first time in film design. They did a beautiful job modernizing all of Tron’s concepts: the game arena is ingenious, and Jeff’s house is a perfect blend of 2001-Space-Odessey and iPod sensibility. And the action sequences are pretty exhilarating… arcade games inspired the 2D blocking of the light cycles so I suppose the Xbox inspired the 3D blocking of the light-jet-thingies.
I interpret this sudden rush of good-feeling towards Tron Legacy as Christmas cheer, but maybe it means that the movie is not all bad, and that many people will enjoy it anyway. If you needed one reason to watch: go for the young CGI Jeff Bridges. (Mr Kosinski tried to say something about how there are special relationships with Jeff Bridges and his real son versus his digital son, but I have no idea what he’s talking about.)