Tron Legacy has been out for over 2 weeks and it has only done okay at the box office and critical response has been mixed. The original Tron is now a cult classic but it’s a film that was released 28 years ago and for the most part Disney has not done much with it. Tron’s last DVD release was in 2002 and it has fallen off the market since. You cannot buy a new copy of it on DVD, you cannot rent it from Netflix, the only choices are to buy it off eBay for around $100 or resort to illegal download copies. Alas, all major film companies are looking for preexisting properties they can leverage and turn into franchises so now, to much surprise, we have Tron Legacy.
Disney has been hyping Tron Legacy for over 2 years and has mostly pointed all of their marketing to the Gen-X geek market which they hoped would build a swell of excitement for a property almost 30 years old. I’m the ideal viewer for Tron Legacy a Gen-X’er (who remembers the original fondly) with kids (Disney hopes I’ll bring them along and create new fans). For the most part it has worked. I’ve been reading about Tron Legacy for the better part of two years everywhere from blogs to cover story features in high profile magazines such as Popular Mechanics and Wired. Everything I’ve read and seen makes me want to see it. This can also be problematic for two reasons:
1. Although loving remembered by geeks Tron really wasn’t that great of a film. I know blasphemy… I re-watched it recently a few weeks ago (yes I have a copy) and although enjoyable it was really more of an experiment than a great film. It was one of, if not the first film to use live actors in virtual environments and given the time is was made the visual effects worked quite well. I can see why a modem filmmaker would like to give Tron another shot with todays digital technology and really, who wouldn’t want to see light-cycles redone by Digital Domian?
2. 28 years in the making including the past two years of heavily hyping a film can only lead to unrealistic expectations.
So even given all the above and knowing that critical response was mostly lack-luster I still found it important to see Tron Legacy in IMAX 3D (at a real 6 story tall IMAX). Oh and I brought along the family too. I’m glad I did. I found it to be a very exciting experience full of gorgeously designed and animated images. From the opening “gladiator” battles to the brilliantly reworked light-cycles to the Blade Runner-esque city and a finale that involves light-jet (yes jets) I was in awe. Mixed with a pulsing and rousing soundtrack by electronic music duo Daft Punk, Tron Legacy is more than a worthy sequel.
Okay it’s a sequel in name but in many ways it is almost a remake of the original where the basic premiss is essentially the same: User (original: Flynn, new: Flynn’s son) gets digitized into the system and has to take down the system’s seemingly evil overlord (original: Master Controller, new: Clu) in order to escape back to the real world via a guarded uplink. User meets a hot girl and gets involved in some cool games along the way. Yup that’s all there is to it. It’s a basic story which could have explored many heavier themes about the human condition vs. the digital realm and how the two are becoming one in the same. It however doesn’t go this route and pretty much adheres to the action spectacle formula.
Oh, and what a spectacle it is. In IMAX 3D I found Tron Legacy to be visual and aural nirvana abounding in a dazzling clash of neon light and sound. Could the story be better? Sure. Is it at least on par with the original? I’d say yes. In fact I can’t understand how so many critics who gave a pass on Avatar’s heavily recycled story haven’t also done the same for Tron Leagcy. Sure, it does slow down a bit in the middle but I never found myself bored or looking at my watch and I experienced the wow factor over and over again.
Bottom line: The experience is what a film like Tron Legacy is about and it delivers.
Rated PG-13: In theaters now.