Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I had plenty of ideas for this week's post. How to buy pants, why you should probably spend more on your haircut, the magnificence of Ghost in the Shell... Plenty of ideas. And then the jerks at Disney put the new trailer for TRON: LEGACY up on their website http://www.program-glitch-esc.net/

Just like that, every nerd fiber in my body was sucked into the black-on-black-horizoned world of TRON.

Last week, when I was preparing to write the Cowboy Bebop article, I was at Best Buy, and saw a 20th Anniversary copy of TRON for only ten bucks, and I bought the hell out of it. When I first found out about TRON: LEGACY, some time last year, I remember searching Best Buy, and finding no copies. Apparently the folks at Disney, in what I consider to be a fairly brilliant move, printed up a bunch of new copies, threw a sticker on them offering a free ticket to Alice in Wonderland, and promoted the LEGACY trailer that shipped out on the first reel of Alice. Double assault on nerds to get us in the seat for Alice.

I mentioned to my roommate that I got TRON on dvd, and he said that he had never seen it, but having heard me talking about how excited I am for LEGACY on numerous occasions over the last year, he suggested we watch it. It is thus that I can safely say, TRON doesn't stand the test of time. It is, in fact, an awful movie of which your fond memories are most likely wrong. Regardless, you will love it as I do. Just be ready for it to suck. The acting is kind of awful, the computer graphics are awful, and there's one goofy shot of this green hand-animated robot thing that isn't even in the movie for any reason.

What TRON does accomplish is this: it stays with you. They created a powerful and detailed setting which lives and breathes, despite the movie's technical limitations. My dad's standard greeting for the past 20 years has been "Greetings, programs!". The entire plot of a super-powered human savior in a computer-generated world was happily stolen/re-imagined into the Matrix. And have you seen Dillinger's desk? I bet Steve Jobs has one just like it and if you own an iPhone, you kind of do too.

Most importantly, TRON opened the door for nearly every nerd-movie you love. The producers convinced Disney to take a chance on something strange and new, and their moderate success helped soften other studios to exploring new technologies. At the time, the MPAA refused to nominate TRON for an effects award because they felt using computers was cheating. But fifteen years later in 1997, Ken Perlin would win a Technical Achievement Oscar for creating a graphical texture (Perlin Noise) used in TRON. This is TRON's true legacy. It was a pioneer in a brand new motion picture art form that was previously unimagined.

Will the sequel blow my mind? I know I can't wait to see the landscapes in IMAX 3D. I know they'll do pokey-outy 3D for discs to come flying at the audience... I accept that, and perhaps even welcome it, if it means I get to see distant glowing cities of light on the double-black horizon, while lightcycles duel in the foreground. I know now, 9 months in advance, that I will be in an IMAX theater at midnight no matter who I have to de-rez to make it happen. I only hope that LEGACY has a little more dialogue and a little better screenplay than its forefather.



  1. TRON's a horrible movie as a movie, but it has so much wasted potential: religious allegory, awesome effects, a score by Wendy Carlos. That lost shot of the city making it look like a microprocessor design is a brilliant move that makes it look like there's more intelligence behind the script that never shows up.

    Same with the new one: if life were awesome, it would turn into an AI singularity story. I doubt there'll be anything close to that, but at least it looks cool. That's TRON for you: intriguing world-building hints (which is probably what appealed to the geeklings we were) without delivery.

  2. PS: I forgot to mention...


    I envision a scenario where the Daft Punk guys were sitting at home, watching a documentary about robots when Disney called to offer them the job writing the Tron 2 score.