Well, here it is, folks. Twenty-eight years in the making, with some $170 million dollars expended, we have TRON: Legacy, an honest-to-goodness sequel to TRON.
To say that it’s something of a surprise to have a sequel after all this time is an understatement. To say that it’s surprising that there’s a a sequel at all is likewise. As most movie-savvy folks like to point out, the original TRON barely eked out a profit at the box office back in 1982 and wasn’t considered a great film by anyone’s standards. It was weird (and weird-looking) and it used computers to generate backgrounds and special effects, which was just this side of eldritch.
As I said in my review of TRON, the film is by turns extremely cool and somewhat inert. Watching it now really brings out the weaknesses in the movie. It’s still fun to watch and I still like it, but I’m less dazzled by it than I was when I was 12. The only 1982-vintage film that retains the ability to strike me with awe whenever I watch it is Blade Runner. It would actually be interesting to write a blog entry about how Blade Runner and TRON address technology, but that’s a little bit outside the purview of this review.
We’re talking about TRON: Legacy, probably the unlikeliest of sequels ever made. It’s not just the span of time between original and follow-up. It’s not just the disparity in budgets. Basically it’s unlikely because TRON didn’t seem the sort of movie that would inspire the nearly 30 years of devotion necessary to bring such a film to life. Even for those of us who liked TRON, the idea of sequel was not foremost on our minds once the last reel had unspooled. TRON was just… TRON. No further additions necessary.
You’ve seen me post the three trailers for TRON: Legacy last week and from that you can probably glean that I’m at least somewhat interested in seeing that movie. And if I’m so invested in seeing the sequel, then I probably have some affection for the original TRON, released some 28 years ago. You would be right on both counts.
It’s important to point out that I first saw TRON in the theater when I was 12 years old. I worked my tail end off to earn the money to buy the novelization and I was generally a big TRON-head for about a year. This was before home video had really hit, so it was years before I got a chance to see the movie again. I’ve kind of kept up with that tradition: letting long periods of time elapse between viewings, mostly because it makes the memory of the movie sweeter. It has the side effect of making the viewing something of a letdown on occasion because that time apart has built up a veneer of nostalgia that the movie can’t really penetrate.
Don’t get me wrong: TRON is a good, fun movie, but it’s not a classic by any means. It’s remarkable largely for its cutting-edge special effects and not for its fine craftsmanship. That’s pretty much okay with me.
It’s been eight years since I last saw TRON. My copy of the 20th-anniversary DVD was brand new then and I was anxious to rekindle my love affair after five or six years apart. As mentioned, I was a little let down by the experience. The same held true this time around.
For those few who haven’t acquired basic knowledge of TRON‘s plot through sheer cultural osmosis, it goes something like this: a hacker (Jeff Bridges) trying to find hidden corporate files that will net him millions once they’re made public, is transported into a realm that exists entirely inside computers, with programs functioning as semi-autonomous avatars for their users. Bad-guy programs, represented by David Warner as Sark, force good-guy programs to play video games in which the loser dies. So every time you put a quarter into a game, a sentient being dies. Think about it, won’t you?