DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

The Original Tron / Tron: Legacy 3D, 5 Disc 2-Movie Collection (1982/2011)

Both astoundingly impressive visually, sure to please gaming and sci-fi fans in spite of a rather silly plot premise.

Published on March 30, 2011

The Original Tron / Tron: Legacy 3D, 5 Disc 2-Movie Collection (1982/2011)

The Original Tron / Tron: Legacy 3D, 5-Disc 2-Movie Collection (1982/2011)

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Olivia Wilde
Directors: Steven Lisberger (Tron); Joe Kosinkski (Tron: Legacy)
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures 106534 [4/5/11]
Video: 2.35:1 & 1.78:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 1080p HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, DD 2.0
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean
Contents = Disc 1: 3D Tron: Legacy; Disc 2: 2D Tron: Legacy; Disc 3: Blu-ray Special Edition of original Tron Classic; Disc 4 standard DVD of Tron: Legacy; Disc 5: Digital File Copy of Tron: Legacy on data DVD.
Extras: 3D Cover on album; “The Next Day: Flynn Lives Revealed” featurette; “Disney Second Screen: Tron Legacy;" "First look at TRON: Uprising" – animated series; “Derezzed” music video; “Launching the Legacy;” Disc Roars at Comic Con; "Visualizing Tron; "
Garrett Hedlund;" "Installing the Cast;" “The Tron Phenomenon” – its effect on pop culture; plus five hours of bonus features from TRON: The Original Classic Special Edition
Length: Tron – 96 min.; Tron: Legacy – 125 min.
Rating: ****(*) for gaming fans

Frankly I didn’t expect to like either the original or the sequel of these since I’m not a computer gamer and already knew that the basic plot idea of both is at heart really silly. However, I found them both great fun and just as involving as the Star Wars series.  They are both visually spectacular – especially the latest film. The art and design is the biggest star here, with jaw-dropping scenes and special effects of the sort that should have obsessive gaming enthusiasts leaping for joy. And especially with the added superb resolution of Blu-ray.  Tron: Legacy was actually shot in 3D, so when I’m set up for 3D (and a few other good movies aside from kiddie animation are available in 3D) it should be even more visually involving in 3D – maybe as good as Avatar.

Bridges is Kevin Flynn in the original, who hacks into the computer system of his ex-employer ENCOM to prove that the baddie stole his programming work. While trying to get into the system, he is unknowingly scanned by some sort of super-scanner that digitizes any physical object and suddenly he is really in the system – as a digital version of himself, joining computer gladiators in deadly high-speed games. They fight ultimate battles against the Master Control Program and in the end Kevin is able to beat the MCP, his ruthless boss (David Warner), and return to the real world as a normal human, and take over the software company himself.

Tron: Legacy stars Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the 27-year-old computer genius son of Kevin, who looks into his father’s disappearance 20 years before. Soon he is somehow pulled into the same computerized future world of deadly programs and games with gladiators – finding eventually this is where his father (Jeff Bridges) has been living since he disappeared. (No explanation for why he looks so old, since he is supposedly a digital avatar of himself, which wouldn’t age at all.) Clu – one of the “programs” – characters which Kevin took with him to handle security in the near-perfect cyber Grid – turned against Kevin and is now the ruthless leader in this world.  On top of that, with his army of digital soldiers he plans to invade the real world outside and take it over. Father and son, together with a female warrior program named Quorra, go on a life and death expedition across the futuristic world to try to best its ruling baddie and return to real life. There’s no explanation of how Quorra – an all-digital program to begin with – can return to “real life,” but no matter. In both films there’s a lot of deadly game action throwing powerful lit-up discuses around and racing around on “light-cycles.”

Tron: Legacy cost around $170 million and looks like it. The art design is amazing, putting the viewer in a giant city of light that is really spectacular – especially in the second film, although the first is not bad either. The costumes now are slicker and fit better – like going from the original Star Trek series to the later spin-offs or the feature films. The acting is not as good in the sequel but the visuals are so compelling that one hardly notices. The digital Grid seems to become more like real life in the sequel.  The programs now eat food, some dress differently and go to nightclubs, etc.

Both of the films have unusual electronic-leaning musical scores. The original Tron has a fun score by Wendy Carlos, of Switched-On Bach fame, and would you believe the supervisor of the whole music and sounds portion of the feature was fellow high-end writer and vinyl guru Michael Fremer? The sequel has an orchestra/electronic score by Daft Punk that is probably better than the Carlos keyboard score.  What’s most unusual about it is that instead of fitting the music score to the already-set-in-stone visuals, cutting and moving around as needed, much of the film was actually cut to the music score – the way most animation is done. Although it may not be the greatest film music in the world, its very close synchronization to the gladitorial battles and other action on the screen makes it often phenomenally effective.  Daft Punk is a duo and both of them appear as robot DJs in the club scene in the film, where actor Michael Sheen does an imitation of glam-era David Bowie.  I didn’t even begin to sample the over five hours of bonus features, but if you’re an inveterate gamer or fan of this series, have at them.

— John Sunier

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