Tron becoming a multi-film franchise was something most fans of the original had given up hope on. When Tron: Legacy was released in 2010, it was an unexpected surprise to many loyal fans. It’s rare a franchise takes thirty years for a sequel to emerge. Tron also had a couple of video games over the years, one being Tron 2.0, which was released for PC in 2003. The game is a rather obscure entry in the mythology but features the return of original cast members from the 1982 film and an impeccably accurate score by Nathan Grigg, emulating the original vibe of Wendy Carlos’s iconic music.
The Tron score got a makeover in the 2010 movie and arguably became the brand’s greatest strength as Daft Punk’s music nearly outshined the film itself. While not a perfect film, Tron Legacy delivered a stunningly beautiful visual and auditory experience. The film’s look is so clean and otherworldly, watching it is accompanied by a unique form of escapism, far more relevant today than it was in 1982, which speaks to just how far ahead of its time Tron was when it first hit theaters all those years ago.
With small spurts of info being dropped over the last couple of years, primarily from the film’s purported lead actor Jared Leto, little is known about Tron 3, which may or may not be moving forward at Disney. Fans should remain cautiously optimistic as the brand is one of Disney’s more sensitive subjects, and the company has its hands full of shiny new intellectual property acquisitions to explore. Before Disney could claim Star Wars and The Avengers as their own, their serious sci-fi inventory was primarily limited to the Witch Mountain movies, Tron, The Black Hole, and Flight of The Navigator. Not the biggest brands in the realm of science fiction, but still highly acclaimed and memorable. As Tron Legacy was rolling out, there was a sense of insecurity about how well the original had held up over the years. It was as if they were happy to have Legacy resonate with fans of the ’82 film but didn’t want to divert attention to the original for a new audience who wasn’t necessarily aware the brand already existed. While the ’82 film is a fascinating piece of sci-fi history, it isn’t exactly Star Wars. Tron represents a different kind of comfort food for users who want to disappear into their digital avatars and be worshipped as gods by their programs.
Let’s take a look inside the digital jazz of Tron and how it has become a symbol of the cyberpunk lifestyle, artificial intelligence, and even religion.
Tron’s Makeover Was Hot
From the cinematography, visual effects, casting, sound design, and music, audiences familiar with the 1982 film were treated to something they may not have been entirely prepared for when Tron Legacy hit theaters. The film is an absolute assault on the senses leaving the viewer feeling high on the neon perfection of an alternate world inhabited by sentient programs. This was Tron post The Matrix. It leveraged thirty years of cultural evolution and advanced cinema technology that couldn’t have been dreamed of in 1982. It was as if the movie was overflowing with an orgasmic level of light and sound. It’s like an overdose of cyberpunk fantasy, so much so that plot and character get a little side railed by the incredible set pieces, atmosphere, and style.
While these may be the best problems a movie could have, they still represent challenges the Tron franchise faces in remaining a story-driven piece of content. You almost desire it to shed its bonds of narrative rules altogether and just become a musical light show, which ironically was an attraction at Disneyland for the film’s promotion and was extended for months due to its popularity. The world of Tron is intoxicating, which may be its greatest leverage over other major sci-fi properties. Tron Legacy was also followed by a slick animated series called Tron: Uprising that starred the voices of Elijah Wood and Paul Reubens.
If you didn’t venture into the special features of the Tron Legacy Blu-ray, there’s also an excellent little in-world documentary called Tron: The Next Day. The short focuses on the “Flynn Lives” movement and features the return of Dan Shor, who played Ram in the original film, and the return of David Warner, who played Ed Dillinger, Sark, and Master Control Program. The short doc also features Alex Sanborn, Paul Dzenkiw, and Mary Kate Wiles, who do a fantastic job bringing the world of Tron into a believable reality.
Tron 3: Ares
An interesting bit of intel on Tron 3 came in the form of an Instagram post from Jared Leto, who may have accidentally dropped the film’s working title — Tron: Ares — before Disney was prepared to commit. Leto later edited his post to remove the leaked intel, but it can never be truly purged like any form of digital information released online. While we all hope the misstep didn’t get the actor derezzed by master control, it does inspire a specific speculation into the plot of the film.
Being the Greek god of war, Ares may imply warfare waged by the computer world on reality, a concept Jeff Daniels’ Clu was toying with. The conflict between a user or programmer’s creation and subjects revolting naturally brings up biblical mythology. Religion was a too low-hanging thematic fruit for the franchise to ignore, which is often a subject avoided by major studios, especially Disney. Yet it was there in 1982 and has always felt appropriate.
Another interesting idea Legacy introduced into the Troniverse was the notion of life spawning organically on the grid. Referred to as ISOs, they are a race of programs that spontaneously appeared instead of being written by users. Olivia Wilde’s Quorra character is one of last after Clu’s despicable act of genocide. This also opens up the possibilities of introducing creatures into the world of Tron, or “Tronsters,” if you will. Inventive lifeforms are seen briefly in the original ’82 film and somewhat explored in the Daft Punk “Derezzed” music video that depicted a Tronified horse and eagle. The video game Tron 2.0 also featured a character named Thorn, a kind of hulking digital abomination.
The Original Tron Shines
While current Disney executives may feel the original film doesn’t exactly fit the modern cyberpunk branding they’ve wisely injected into the franchise, it should be stated that the 1982 film is an indelible masterpiece. While it may have taken some audience members a lifetime to appreciate its nuances, the old bold movie packs a punch of forward-thinking and (now) nostalgia that is enough to please anyone looking for a dose of family-friendly, high concept sci-fi. The film is so creative and well-edited, not to mention the modern transfer has been impeccably well-preserved. Anyone who hasn’t seen it should hunker down and give the movie some well due respect. It’s so far ahead of its time it will make your head spin, and it has a sequel that fires on all cylinders.
Let’s hope things get back on track for the third installment because this franchise has nothing but the coolest future imaginable. If not, fans will continue to seek out obscure nuggets from the Tron library of content like L.B. Rayne’s The Groove Grid. If you’re a fan and don’t know about it, seek it out on YouTube. There’s a party goin’ Tron tonight, and you’re invited!