Jared Leto's Tron 3 Needs To Bring Back A Character From Legacy, And I'm Not Talking About Sam Flynn

Garrett Hedlund in Tron: Legacy
(Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Well, fans of The Grid recently got a big reason to get excited because, after years of anticipation, a third Tron film is finally coming to fruition. The threequel, which is subtitled Ares, will see Jared Leto play the lead, and Joachim Rønning is reportedly in talks to direct. There are plenty of unknowns that surround the project, and deals are reportedly still being made as well. That hasn’t stopped fans from speculating on potential storylines, though. While the movie will obviously build on what was established in the original 1982 film, one has to wonder how much it’ll tie into the events of the 2010 sequel, Legacy. That remains to be seen, but I’m already of the belief that one character absolutely needs to return – and it’s not Sam Flynn.

Garrett Hedlund’s Sam – the son of Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn – was the protagonist of Tron: Legacy, with his father and Quorra (played by Olivia Wilde) serving as supporting characters. The young man was left in an interesting position by the end of the film, as he set out to introduce the newly freed Quorra – a game-changing program known as an ISO – to the world. It’s clearly a plot thread that many would like to see wrapped up, and I wouldn’t mind that myself. However, I’m more concerned about another plot point that was teased during Joseph Kosinski’s film – the presence of Edward Dillinger Jr.

Cillian Murphy in Tron: Legacy

(Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Who Is Edward Dillinger Jr., And How Does He Connect To The Original Film?

Fans may remember that acclaimed actor Cillian Murphy cameoed as Dillinger early in the film. The character is the son of disgraced former ENCOM Senior Executive Ed Dilinger Sr., who was played by the late David Warner in the ‘82 movie. In that film, the elder Dillinger served as a secondary antagonist, as he forged a dangerous alliance with the all-powerful Master Control Program (MCP). Their machinations, along with Dillinger’s past hijackings of Kevin Flynn’s work, are ultimately made public, and he’s eventually ousted. (His demise is extremely satisfying and one that Warner played so beautifully on the screen.) 

His son takes on a less villainous role in the 2010 follow-up, where he’s revealed to b  the head of ENCOM’s software design team. He’s present when Sam sabotages the launch of the company’s new operating system by having it go live for free. While other members of the board are rattled, Edward simply suggests that the corporation deem it as an act of goodwill for the public. The character is later mentioned in the short film Tron: The Next Day, when Roy Kleinberg asks Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) if Dillinger should remain with the company. Bradley asserts that he’s earned his place, but that may not be the best idea – based on what was planned for the future.

The MCP in Tron

(Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Why Should Edward Dilinger Jr. Should Return For Tron: Ares?

Before Jared Leto’s Tron 3 began making progress, another film went into development shortly after Legacy’s release. The movie, called Ascension, would’ve brought back Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde and Bruce Boxleitner. Joseph Kosinski explained that the film would’ve been about Quorra’s introduction to the real world as well as the ramifications of Sam’s actions within The Grid. The filmmaker also made it clear that Cillian Murphy was to return as Edward, which wasn’t surprising, as it was quite clear that he was being positioned for a major role later on.

The little information that we know about the Ascension script, and previously released media from the franchise, suggests that Dillinger Jr. was to serve as an enemy for Sam. A bonus scene that’s available on the Blu-ray release of Legacy most notably shows him having a virtual chat with a user known as “MCTRL_751,” who may or may not be a new version of the MCP. And because he refers to it as “Dad,” one also has to wonder whether it’s a digitized version of his father from the Grid. Regardless of the specifics, it sounds like something dastardly was being cooked up, and I’d still like to see it. 

While David Warner has since passed away, his character certainly could live on virtually. The sheer idea of having the relationship between the Dillingers be a focal point would be intriguing and serve as an apt counterbalance to the previous installment, which hinged on the bond between Sam and Kevin Flynn. I’d be personally interested in getting some background on Jr.’s corporate rise as well and specifically see if (or how) his father’s actions might have hampered him in the early aughts of his career.

Tron Legacy promo poster

(Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Is There A Real Chance That Tron 3 Will Utilize Edward’s Arc?

It’s certainly not impossible that the upcoming movie would bring back the character. After all, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of a character played by Cillian Murphy? Also, the title Tron: Ares suggests that it could be a villain-centric, which would be perfect for Dillinger. I mean, who’s to say Jared Leto isn’t playing a new program known as Ares, which has been created by Edward for nefarious purposes? There are plenty of possibilities, all of which could end with Dillinger causing serious damage to ENCOM and even the world. It’s all speculation at this point, but it’s certainly worth discussing and hoping for. 

Ultimately though, all we know for sure is that the film will provide fans with a (presumably ripped) Jared Leto and some stunning visual effects. You also have to wonder whether the forthcoming Lightcycle Run coaster will have any narrative ties to the feature film. (That may seem like a long shot, but it’s always a possibility.) But in terms of the main topic at hand, one can only hope that Edward Dillinger and even other aspects of Legacy come back into play as well. 

Those waiting for more updates on Tron: Ares can check out the first two films in the meantime by streaming them with a Disney+ subscription. You can also dive into CinemaBlend’s schedule of 2023 new movie releases for a list of the biggest movies headed to theaters this year.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.