Saturday, April 16, 2011

TRON – The Original Classic and TRON: Legacy 2D/3D Box Set Blu-ray Review

Disney took a huge gamble in 1982 when they released TRON into the marketplace.  It was so unlike anything else, that it never found an audience worthy of its ambition.  For most movies, that would have been the end of it, with no chance of redemption or an ongoing franchise.  Then a couple of things happened.  The world changed and people as a whole became more technologically savvy and open to a film that is so focused on an electronic world.
Disney wisely paid attention and tested out a teaser trailer that was really a proof of concept effort at Comic-Con and the crowd went crazy. It what may be the best display of corporate patience ever, Disney then decided to revive the franchise twenty-eight later and this time, the public was ready.


 (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
TRON: Legacy: (4 out of 5 stars)
In TRON, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a former employee of a software company called Encom.  He was one of their top people but for some reason he decided to create some video games on the side and a less talented colleague named Ed Dillinger (David Warner) stole his ideas and used them to catapult to the top of the company’s management.  Flynn on the other hand, was fired and at some point he also lost his girlfriend Lora (Cindy Young) to his former co-worker Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) too.  With nothing left to lose, Flynn started hacking into Encom in an effort to find computer traces that can prove that he created the games.
For Alan and Lora, working at Encom has become more and more difficult since their access has been cut by by the Master Control Program (MCP) through Dillinger.  The MCP is the super mainframe that has self-awareness and also a burning desire to assimilate any and all information throughout the world.  In fact, it’s gotten so out of control that at this point, Dillinger is only nominally in charge, as he defers to his uncontrollable creation.  Alan has a solution to the MCP called TRON, which is an independent program that can circumvent the MCP’s wishes and bring it into line, but Dillinger and the MCP killed the project to allow their plans to continue.
Kevin, Alan, and Lara team up to sneak into Encom in order to allow Kevin bypass the computer security from the inside and to let Alan activate his TRON program.  Kevin underestimates the cunning and desperation of the MCP and ends up getting dematerialized from the real world by a laser and sent into the electronic world otherwise known as the Grid.  In the Grid, life is cheap and random programs have been rounded up to either participate in deadly arena games or sent to the MCP to absorb.  These programs look like humans in this world since they are essentially avatars and Kevin fits right in with them.  In fact, the MCP’s main henchman is a program called Sark (David Warner again) who is sadism personified.
While waiting to be sent to compete in the games, Kevin meets TRON himself (also played by Bruce Boxleitner).  When he is forced to compete in the disc wars battle, Kevin quickly learns that the stakes are life and death.  Things get even more dangerous when he has to partake in a ruthless light cycle battle where one wrong turn means instant death or in this case derezzification.  With some help from TRON, Kevin finds a way out of the arena and together they decide to face the MCP and end his rule both in the Grid and in the real world.
When TRON: Legacy begins, it starts seven years after the events of TRON, with Kevin Flynn now in command of Encom and a father as well to a son named Sam.  Kevin has been going back into the Grid to build a new world alongside his friend TRON and also another caretaker that he created in his own image called Clu.  One night Kevin tells Sam about a miracle that happened in the Grid that was going to change everything but disappeared before he could show or explain it more.
Cue to over twenty years later, and now Sam is the largest shareholder in Encom but doesn’t want to take control of the company, instead he would rather prank them by releasing the company’s flagship software for free.  It’s a mystery why someone who would risk prison to humiliate a company wouldn’t just take it over to make the changes he wanted but that’s Sam for you.  Growing up without a mother and a father and not knowing what happened to him has left a giant chip on Sam’s shoulder.  Because of that, he races his motorcycle through busy traffic at over 100mph and ignores and evades the police.  While this ability helps foreshadow his talent for the lightbike racing later in the movie, I just kept thinking, couldn’t he have just left a little bit earlier to avoid that kind of risk?  Sam takes unnecessary risks that undermines the movie’s efforts to show how clever he is with all of the hacking he does.
Alan Bradley still believes in him however, and has tried to be a surrogate father to Sam in Kevin’s absence.  When Alan shows up to tell Sam that he got a page from Kevin’s office number which has been offline for decades, Sam goes to Flynn’s Arcade to check it out and ends up getting zapped into the Grid just like his father before him.  When he steps out into the electronic world he finally sees the world his father created and is amazed.  He is quickly picked up by a Recognizer (a ship designed to find stray programs) and taken to play in the games much like his father had been forced to do before.
The games now have evolved into a quicker paced sport where it’s become even more dangerous with alternating gravity that can shift the playing field in an instant.  Despite not understanding the game or its rules, Sam does well and ends up fighting the Disc Wars champion called Rinzler who is so good that he takes Sam down quickly and is about to kill him until everyone see blood dripping down from Sam’s cut which shows that he is a user (non program).  Sam is quickly taken to what appears to be his father who challenges Sam to a light cycle battle.
From here on, the movie is exciting and it brilliantly takes what was done in the first movie and builds on it in every way possible.  It’s tough to review because I don’t want to give away a lot of the movie but I can say that it’s obvious that everyone involved in this movie did their best to remain true to TRON.  From the neon buildings and the use of light throughout the Grid is recognizable and fitting in this electronic world that has been cut off and allowed to flourish on it’s own.  The Disc Wars and light cycle combat are back and even more thrilling than before, especially with the light cycle’s track that is now on multiple levels.
There’s a lot to like about this movie since it has excellent visual effects and a fantastic score by Daft Punk that I think is at least 40% responsible with how good this movie turned out.  Of course there’s also the excellent performances from Bridges, Hedlund, Wilde, and Boxleitner as well.  For me, the key actors who really made this work are Bridges and Boxleitner as each provided an anchor not only for this movie but also for the original movie too.  Bridges in particular is asked to do a lot, and he pulls it off with ease as expected, but I don’t agree with all of the choices made for Kevin Flynn since he seems out of character for most of this movie.
I also had a lot of questions that the movie completely ignored  like why has Kevin aged in the Grid?  Where is his physical body?  Where and how did they grow real food (it looked like asparagus or something) in the Grid?  Why would he need to grow real food when he can drink the water (power current) like he did in the original movie?  Since he is the creator, why couldn’t he just use his ability to change the world to how he wanted it to be?  He basically did that at the end of the movie so I really didn’t get why he sat around for over 1000 years on the Grid (a time-frame given to me from the director).  I know it sounds like I’m nit-picking but I only have these questions just because I love the universe so much.  For as much exposition given in this movie, I think these could have been addressed too.  Complaints aside, this was a great movie and it had a real emotional punch at the end.


 (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
TRON: Legacy: (5 out of 5 stars)
TRON Legacy 3D: (5 out of 5 stars)
Let’s start with TRON’s amazing 1080p (2.20:1) transfer. I’ve got the 20th Anniversary edition of the movie on DVD and let’s be honest…it looks like crap.  Now on blu-ray, this looks like an entirely new movie and it’s really increased my enjoyment of the movie because you can appreciate it more since you can actually see it!  This is a beautiful restoration and I’m willing to bet that it looks better here than it even did in the the theaters when it was released.TRON: Legacy’s 1080p (both 2.35:1 and 1.78:1 due to the IMAX viewing format) is simply spectacular.
Both movies have excellent detail and contrast and even more important for these movies is the fact that the black levels are perfectly deep and inky which contrasts nicely with the world of neon.  Color stands out even more than usual in this dark landscape and it looks fantastic.  While flesh tones are a tricky thing to quantify for TRON since most of the movie was shot in black and white while they were on the Grid, it isn’t difficult to measure TRON: Legacywhich has natural and accurate skin tones throughout.  The detail is so good that I even noticed some easter eggs that I had never noticed before such as a Pac-man on the map after the light cycle scene and the phrase “Klaatu barada nikto,” from Forbidden Planet, which is on a banner in Alan’s cubicle.
The 3D transfer is also stunning and the branching between the 2D and the 3D is as seamless as the switching between aspect ratios.  Much like their other 3D releases, Disney wisely doesn’t bombard the viewer with constant 3D gimmickry and instead subtly uses the 3D to immerse the view into the movie.  There’s some fun instances where objects do seem to come out of the TV (the disc war battles come to mind), and it’s done very well and made even more enjoyable and surprising due to their previous restraint not to overdo such effects.   Ghosting isn’t an issue for this release and I was glad to see that colors weren’t muted by the 3D experience.  Every one of these discs in this set is reference quality for it’s respective format, whether it’s the 3D Blu-ray, the regular Blu-ray, the DVD, or even the digital copy.


(4 out of 5 stars)
TRON: Legacy: (5 out of 5 stars)
TRON Legacy 3D: (5 out of 5 stars)
This is another movie that got me in trouble with my wife! This DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix is so powerful that my wife could hear it from the street…while she was still in the car!  In my defense, she happened to show up during the End of Line nightclub scene but really, it wouldn’t have made much difference when she showed up because this mix is so good that it almost hurts, especially with the constant LFE.  Both movies sound incredible, but TRON: Legacy is by far the most active especially with the sonic assault that is the Daft Punk score.
Between that throbbing score and the effects, this is a mix that will shake the house.  Dialogue is spot on and the cross channel panning done is incredible especially during the disc wars and the lightbike fights.  Just a side note, this audio mix has been changed since the theatrical release because as the director Joe Kosinski told me, “After TL opened theatrically, I was able to go back to Skywalker Sound and fix approximately 100 different aspects of the sound mix that bothered me.  So, the domestic Blu-ray contains that completely remixed and remastered 7.1 audio track.”  I couldn’t tell the difference between the two, but I can say that I would give this a higher rating if I could!

Special Features

(5 out of 5 stars)
TRON: Legacy(3 out of 5 stars)

All of these are ported over from the DVD and are in standard definition except for the new featurette called “TheTRON Phenomenon” which is in HD.
  • Audio Commentary – Director Steven Lisberger, producer Donald Kushner, associate producer and visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw, and visual effects supervisor Richard Taylor discuss the making of the movie and the challenges they faced making the movie.  This track is voiced primarily by Steven Lisberger who obviously has a lot to say about the movie, but the others chime in too.  I thought this was very interesting to hear how much work went into making the cutting edge effects for its time.  They were inventing new processes just to make the movie.
  • The TRON Phenomenon -  The cast and crew of TRON: Legacy discuss the impact the original film has had on the world and its legacy that led to a sequel.
  • Photo Tronology – This is a fun extra that I wasn’t expecting!  The original TRON director Steven Lisberger and his son Carl are invited to visit the famed Disney archives  to see the collected material that’s been stored from the original filming of TRON.  Not only is it interesting to see what’s been stored, but it’s also nice to watch the discussion between a father and his son about a project that meant a lot to both of them.
  • The Making of TRON -  This feature-length documentary encapsulates just about everything from pre-production to it’s legacy with a bunch of coverage on the making of it in between.  This is a solid documentary and it’s really all you need to watch since it really covers it all and because it’s so good.
  • Development – A look at “The Early Development of TRON,” an “Early Lisberger Studios Animation” logo, a “Computers are People Too” television programme from 1982,  some  “Early Video Tests,”  and a “Development Gallery” of original concept art, sketches and storyboards that charted the evolution of the concept.
  • Digital Imagery – This featurette demonstrates the revolutionary techniques that went into the creating the effects of TRON through five short featurettes; Backlight AnimationDigital Imagery in Tron“Beyond Tron” – a testament to MAGI’s (Mathematic Application Group Inc.) work on  the film – and the two parts cover Triple I’s contributions to the movie  (Role of Triple Iand the Triple I Demo).
  • Music – Although Wendy Carlos was hired to provide the score for TRON, not all of her music was utilized.  Here, accompanied with some footage of the lightcycles and the end credits is the original music Wendy Carlos composed for each.
  • Publicity – This collection of six trailer includes a National Association of Theater Owners sample that allowed them to see how the film looked and worked in their theater, a work-in-progress trailer, four finalized trailers, and two image galleries of marketing materials with 124 pictures included.
  • Deleted Scenes – Three deleted scenes are available along with an introduction by Steven Lisberger.   “Tron and Yori’s Love Scene,” “Tron and Yori’s Love Scene #2″ and an “Alternate Opening Prologue.”  I think they made the right choice of not including these into the movie.
  • Design – Steven Lisberger introduces a four part look at the design of Syd Mead’s lightcycles, MAGI’s animation tests, and brief look at the  Space Paranoids video-game footage.
  • Storyboarding -A look at the storyboard process that includes the featurettes:  “The Storyboarding Process,” the “Creation of Tron‘s Main Title”, a gallery of additional storyboards, and a comparison between the film and the storyboard for the lightcycle segment with Bill Kroyer.
  • Galleries – For the diehard fans, here are hundreds of additional images collected and organized into four different  categories: “Design,” “Early Concept Art,” “Publicity and Production Photos,” and “Storyboard Art.”
TRON: Legacy
All of these extras are in high definition!
  • The Next Day: Flynn Lives Revealed – This featurette serves as a prequel and as a sequel to Tron: Legacy.  We get to see chronological coverage of what happened after Kevin Flynn disappeared and how it affected Encom, his employees, friends, and family, and also the public at large.  We see a fringe movement called “Flynn Lives”  start to rail against Encom and push the idea that Flynn is still alive.  We also see interviews with Alan Bradley, ENCOM employees, and the public on fallout Flynn’s disappearance caused.  IT also shows events that occur after the ending of Legacy that shows Sam prepared to take the reins of the company and that he is sporting a Flynn Lives T-shirt.  There’s also some footage from the Disney event that incorporated the press at a mock event with Alan Bradley.  At the end of this segment, users are shown a glimpse of Space Paranoids and the high score screen.  It will remain there until you either back out to the main menu or you enter the initials listed already on the high score screen which will unlock hidden videos that fill in a lot of gaps between the two movies.  You can also type in “all” to view all the segments in order.
  • Disney Second Screen: Disney’s  “Second Screen App” that allows some  interactivity between the movie and a PC, Mac, or iPad, once they are synced to the film.  You can download the app at Disney’s website where you can also get a tutorial too.
  • First Look at Tron: Uprising Disney XD Animated Series – I  didn’t know what to expect about this show, but after watching this short preview, I am ready to start watching this stylish animated series.  There are some good people attached to it as well like Bruce Boxleitner, Elijah Wood, Lance Henrikson, Mandy Moore, Paul Reubens, and more.  This series will take place before the events in Tron: Legacy.
  • Launching the Legacy – A short look at the genesis of the film with cast and crew interviews and glimpse into the test film that won over a comic-con audience and proved that a new TRON film could work.
  • Visualizing Tron – A short but detailed account of the production design of the movie and the efforts made to tie it to the original movie and yet move the concepts forward.  We see the blending of practical and digital sets, and how important the use of light was to create the electronic world and costumes.  We also get to see some of the work involved in bringing a young Jeff Bridges to life and a lot more.  I wish this had been longer since it had a lot of good behind the scenes info!
  • Installing the Cast – The usual fluff where everyone did a great job and how much fun it was fun to work with them.  There’s a few nice behind the scenes glimpses into filming but that’s about it.
  • Disc Roars – Director Joseph Kosinski took advantage of Tron:  Legacy’s Comic-Con panel audience to record some of the picture’s important crowd chants such as RINZ-LER and DE-REZZ!  Kosinksi also mentioned that he wanted to win a Guinness record for directing the most people at once.
  • Music Video – A Daft Punk video for  “Derezzed” starring Olivia Wilde.
  • DVD Copy
  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts

TRON: (4 out of 5 stars)
TRON: Legacy(4 out of 5 stars)
Both movies used cutting edge special effects to tell a real human story about technology and its place in our lives.  Kevin Flynn focused so much on his electronic world that he ended up trapped within it.  These movies serve as a cautionary tale but also work purely as entertainment.  Disney has once again released an incredible set with perfect picture and sound and fully restored TRON to the glory it deserved.  With every 3D release by them I wonder if that title will be the one to tip the scales enough to encourage people to buy a 3D TV and this one is no different.  If you are looking for an immersive experience, then this is the movie for you.  I highly recommend this set!  End of line.
Programs! Order both Tron and Tron: Legacy today!

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