In order to have some idea of what to expect from Tron: Legacy, which will be released in December of this year, it helps to have some background knowledge of the movie’s 1982 prequel, Tron. Tron was one of the pioneering works in the history of cinematic CGI. It is about a computer programming genius named Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who comes up against two different types of enemies within the company where he works. The human—and far less dangerous—enemy is a rival programmer called Ed Dillinger (David Warner). The other enemy is a program—the Master Control Program, to be exact, which has plans for world domination. Flynn carries out his battle both in “real life” and in the CGI virtual world of the company’s mainframe. While in the virtual world, he is accompanied by the title character, Tron (Bruce Boxleitner), a program designed by his friend Alan (also Boxleitner, since the human forms of programs are represented as looking like the programmers who designed them). That program ended happily, with the villains defeated and Flynn becoming the company’s boss.
However, we have fast-forwarded several decades into the future, where the situation looks rather bleak. Flynn has been missing for years, seemingly having vanished without a trace. However, his now grown-up son Kevin (Garrett Hedlund) has recently found information that will help him finally track down his father.
There is not much information out there at the moment concerning the film’s plot, so a lot of advance opinion on the movie is based on different previews—some the usual trailer length, one over twenty minutes long—screened in advance by Disney, which also helped make and promote the first Tron movie. However, what we can gather from the previews is that Kevin, like his father, will have various virtual world adventures, with anthromorphized computer programs as allies and enemies.
Olivia Wilde has been drafted to play Kevin’s sexy sidekick. However, a far more interesting casting choice is Jeff Bridges’ double role. One of his parts is the (now older) Flynn, the same character he played in Tron. The other part is a villainous computer program that looks much younger, about the same age as Flynn was in the first movie. This double role is not merely a point of conformity with the Tron tradition of having programs look like their designers. It can also be a rich source of symbolism and allegory: isn’t it true to many young men that their fathers are both heroes and villains? Tron: Legacy would add many more layers of intelligence and excitement to its story if it would explore psychological themes such as this.
Of course, it is impossible to write an article about the upcoming Tron: Legacy film without discussing its visual effects. The film certainly looks slickly made. Special props go to the makers of the virtual world, which looks up-to-date and fascinating, while still paying homage to the best features of the original design. One particularly eye-catching effect seen in the previews is a virtual bike made out of neon pixels, which materializes and dissolves underneath a player as needed.
In short, Tron: Legacy looks very much like it was made with an eye towards pleasing fans of the original, while updating the story and look of the film to create more thematic and technical complexity to draw in new viewers. It certainly seems as if Tron has stepped up its game well for the new decade.
Release Date in the UK: 26 December 2010
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Jeff Bridges, Michael Sheen, Garrett Hedlund, James Frain, Bruce Boxleitner, Yaya DaCosta, Amy Esterle, Elizabeth Mathis, Brandon Jay McLaren, Owen Best
TRON: Legacy Official Site