Tron: Legacy with Tron: The Original Classic [3D Blu-Ray]

Though one is supposed to be a sequel to the other, Tron and Tron: Legacy aren’t all that alike. Sure, they have some similarities: they present interesting computer graphics for their respective times, they feature daredevil heroes, and they both contain a plot revolving around fighting a bad guy. But Tron: Legacy, with its dystopian soundtrack and un-warming perspective is several light years away from the warm, risk-leads-to-reward melodrama of the original. It would be like comparing Dreamgirls with the second Chipmunks movie. Sure, you’ve got three strong females singing their hearts out, one is heavier, and both need to fight for or against their men, right? Same-sies. Still, they work well when presented together, and that might be enough of a reason to purchase this set. Back in 1982, when Tron reached audiences, it developed a reputation as being a graphically dynamic film. The plot of Tron itself was fine, and so it spawned a generation of young men who, like NBC’s title character on Chuck, still have a poster on a wall somewhere, or would, if their wives would let them. Tron never broke through with critics, though it did make a little money. Still, it was enough of a cult phenomenon that Disney was bound to bring it back for a sequel, eventually.

Most people interested enough in Tron to read this review don’t need a history lesson from me, although I think it’s safe to add that since Disney waited so long to produce a second film, it needed to be epic. What we get instead is a stiff lead in Garret Hedlund, a disinterested Jeff Bridges pulling some random Buddhist/ hippie act that ruins the original charm of the 1982 Flynn, and, above all, a very dark landscape. Sure, it is beautiful, well put together, finessed. However, the technology implemented can only be called equivalent to 2009’s Avatar, not really exceeding it, so it isn’t a technological pioneer like the 1982 film. The expectations for Tron: Legacy were so high, it needed to be a great, and while it has a few moments that reach terrific heights—like a Daft Punk party scene featuring Michael Sheen—as a movie, it’s merely pretty good.

Tron: Legacy is set in present day. Kevin Flynn (Bridges), our hero from the first film, disappeared a long time ago, leaving a young son, Sam (Hedlund), as the largest shareholder of Flynn’s computer company, ENCOM. After snooping around his father’s arcade, Sam is sucked into the grid, where he is identified as a user and participates in many of the same types of games his father was subjected to back in the day. Eventually, Sam escapes with the help of Quorra, played by Olivia Wilde, and is taken to the outskirts of the grid where his father has been hiding for many years. The three hatch a plan to fight Clu (also Bridges), who has taken control of the system, and escape the grid forever.

Doesn’t sound too far from the original, but it is. Tron: Legacy was not made for a niche market interested in a small film that tries hard graphically. It couldn’t have been, it would have been too costly. Tron: Legacy, instead, is made for a mass-market audience. It could never have the charm and underlying glee of all things geeky Tron had, but Legacy had the capacity to be as universally loveable as The Dark Knight, a movie with nearly the equivalent budget. Tron: Legacy succeeds in being different from the original—instead of a small grid, a large one, instead of a contained space, a veritable metropolis created with distinct grittiness and darkness. Given to us as a set, though different, the two films are complementary, a detailed history lesson of how a world and people’s outlooks have changed in thirty years. It’s great that Disney cleaned up Tron for Blu-Ray. It’s great that we can buy a detailed set with both films. It’s great that the company threw so much money into marketing special features on the new discs. If either film is a little disappointing, take it in stride. One wouldn’t exist in our current collective consciousness without the other.

Author’s Note: Since this is Tron:Legacy with a copy of Tron, the star rating reflects the 2010 film, although the review discusses them as a set. Disney actually sent me the 3D set, which includes a Blu-Ray copy, but unfortunately the technological advances I can afford include this 3D stuff, so this review is based on the Blu-Ray copies of Tron and Tron: Legacy.

The Blu-Ray disc starts with previews, but these are skippable. There’s a preview for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides that I hadn’t seen, one for that already-forgettable Prom movie, and a new Tron: Uprising animated series that looks pretty good. Once you get to the main menu, it’s as sleek and well put together as the graphics on the film itself.

The first extra begins with what seems to be an alternate opening called “Flynn Lives.” It’s pretty creepy; the segment goes through the entire history of ENCOM post Flynn missing in 1986. It’s really long, and sort of preachy if it was meant to be an opening at some point, but it does work as a special feature to explain what the hell happened with Kevin Flynn, Sam, and Alan up to the start of the film.

The Blu-Ray disc for Tron: Legacy offers the capability to watch with Disney Second Screen. This is an interactive app you can download here.

The next segments all discuss various aspects of the making of Tron: Legacy. Some discussion of technology is implemented, the creators talk about the design and the ‘physics’ of the film, and a “Finding the Cast” feature comes with cast interviews—you don’t really have to watch the latter, just know “Jeff Bridges is the man,” or as Hedlund puts it, “a unique cat.” Finally, there’s a music video for Daft Punks “Derezzed”, and that’s pretty cool.

There’s a lot of advertising on the disc, but it isn’t forced on you, so it didn’t really deter me much. My biggest problem with this release is that Disney has piled on so much it takes a while to load and to return to the menu page after you’ve watched a feature. There’s even a warning that pops up when you put the Blu-Ray in, saying you may be in blank screen limbo for awhile as the disc reloads.

The Tron disc is formatted the same way as the Tron: Legacy disc. The “new” features for this Tron release are retrospective, since all archive stuff was used for the DVD release. The first feature is amazing and explains how various parts of Tron were made. The idea continually iterated through this is creators used practical measures to achieve a digital look. The second feature is a ‘Photo Tronology” segment with Tron director Steven Lisberger and his son, Carl, giving commentary as certain photos are shown. The latter bits were all created for Tron’s initial DVD release. These features include original interview footage, “The Making Of Tron,” deleted scenes, storyboarding, design, and a segment on the music in Tron.

Bottom line here: Disney clearly wants to sell copies, and put some serious effort in; if you have any interest at in either Tron: Legacy or in owning the original Tron at all (it’s no longer available any other way), go for it.