Tron Night Recapped And Reviewed

Unless you’re living under a rock or really truly couldn’t care less about Tron: Legacy, you know that 23 minutes of the upcoming film were shown in 500 theaters worldwide tonight in 50 different countries. Excluding San Diego Comic Con (which is really only available to those that a) are paid to be there b) have the money to fly out to San Diego for a weekend or c) already live in California), the event, labeled Tron Night, was the first major public showing of extended footage from the film.

While others around the world were sadly not as lucky, the screening that I attended was at the theater on the Universal City Walk in Los Angeles, CA, which is an authentic IMAX theater. What made the event even more special was that Steven Lisberger, the writer and director of the first film and producer of Tron: Legacy was present at the screening and gave an introduction in which he talked about the history behind the first film and how it was inspired by neon lights and a game of pong. He remembered that it was the younger audience that understood the language of his film better than adults and the reason why it has taken 28 years to get a sequel made is because he was waiting for those 10-year-olds who truly got the film to be old enough to make it.

The screening then began and you can read my very detailed synopsis below.

The first scene was titled “Sam’s Apartment” and, shockingly, began with Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) arriving home to his apartment on a motorcycle. He turns on the lights, settles in and pets his dog before acknowledging that his father’s oldest friend, Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) is standing in his living room. Though Alan has acted as a surrogate father to Sam since he was young, following Kevin Flynn’s (Jeff Bridges) disappearance, the two have grown apart. Alan brings up a message that Sam sent to the board, his tone suggesting that Sam’s statements weren’t exactly professional. Sam says that he’s really not the person that should be running the company (we can assume that they are talking about Encom, though neither character mentions it by name). Tired of the discussion, Sam asks Alan why he has come to his apartment. Alan tells him that he received a page from Kevin’s office at the old Flynn’s Arcade, which has been shut down for years. He then recounts the night that Kevin disappeared, telling him that he had “cracked it” and found something that would change everything. Alan insists that Kevin “wouldn’t have left all that.” Sam dismisses all of it, saying that Kevin is either dead or relaxing on an island somewhere, certainly not somewhere that matters. Alan throws Sam the keys to the old arcade. Sam finds the idea of heading over there ridiculous – “You’re acting like I’m going to find him sitting there working. Just, ‘Hey, kiddo! Lost track of time!’” “Wouldn’t that be something?” Alan replies.

The scene cuts and we see Sam riding on his motorcycle past the decrepit remains of his father’s old business. The whole place is dark and all of the games are covered in plastic and dust. Armed with a flashlight, Sam ventures in and heads over to the fuse box, turning on the lights and games. The room erupts in the sounds of 8-bit noise. Over the loudspeakers plays “Separate Ways” by Journey, an allusion to the first film’s soundtrack. He climbs up the stairs to Kevin’s office but, just like everything else, it looks as though it hasn’t been touched in years. Going back downstairs, one game catches Sam’s eye: Tron. The game is positioned against the back wall, and Sam watches the demo run before taking a quarter out of his pocket and inserting it into the machine. The quarter doesn’t register and instead drops to the floor. Leaning down to pick it up, Sam sees grooves in the floor leading back to the game. Pushing on the machine’s left side, it moves forward and reveals a door. Sam goes through the door, the game moving back to its original position as he enters.

Sam walks down a stairway as “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics plays faintly in the background. The path suddenly opens up and he finds himself in his father’s back office. Scanning the room, you can see the laser that digitized his father oh so many years before. Sam then sits down at a computer with a dust-covered touch interface to try and find out what his father was working on before he disappeared. It becomes plainly obvious that Sam is his father’s son and knows his way around the equipment. As he works, the laser slowly rises up behind him, Sam discovering that it was the laser that Kevin was last working with. The computer sends up a prompt asking if he would like to activate the laser. Sam presses yes and while the laser begins to glow, the scene cuts to black.

A title screen appears identifying the next scene as “Recognizer Capture.” Sam has found himself in the computer and is quite terrified (and reasonably so). From above, a giant recognizer appears and two orange-glowing guards come out and grab Sam, placing him with a group of programs that the guards have also captured. Sam’s feet are locked in and the recognizer takes flight. Looking down, he recognizes a tank from the old Space Paranoids game and says something to the effect of “He actually did it.” Turning to his right, he asks one of the programs if they recognize the name “Kevin Flynn,” but they tell him to shut up. Off to his left, one of the programs is terrified, repeating “Not the games” over and over. Sam questions his behavior but is shot down by a program who has a face that has been half derezzed. The recognizer lands and the guards begin to had out assignment locations. One of the guards stands in front of the terrified program and assigns him to the game grid. The program wigs out and runs away before jumping off a ledge to his death. Unfortunately, the guard also assigns Sam to the Game Grid, but Sam has absolutely no idea what that means.

Sam is then placed on a platform that then lowers to another level. His feet are locked in so he can’t move. From the four corners of the new room emerge the sirens in lock step, the group led by Gem (Beau Garrett). These are female programs dressed in all white and their job is to prepare the Tron gladiators for battle. Despite Sam’s protests (“That has a zipper!”), Gem and the others disrobe him using lasers. A black suit then slowly appears over his body. The sirens retreat, still in lock step and grab various plates of armor. One siren remarks to Gem that Sam is different. The sirens then walk back and place the armor on Sam and it begins to bond with his outfit before it begins to glow. One of the sirens then walks over to grab Sam’s identity disc as a voice on the loudspeaker warns him that punishment for losing his disc or failing to follow orders is immediate deresolution. Placing the disc on his back, Sam’s eyes flash and the sirens begin to retreat back into the walls. Before she goes, Sam asks what he is supposed to do. Gem replies, “Survive.”

Another title screen pops up that reads “Disc Wars.” Sam has now been placed on the Game Grid and is about to begin his first battle. His opponent takes the disc off of his back and a helmet appears over his head. He then throws his disc at Sam who just barely manages to avoid it. This happens again before he looks over to another battle going on simultaneously and watches as one of the programs is derezed as a disc flies through him. Getting the message, Sam takes the disc off his back and he gets the same helmet. Sam and his opponent trade throws, both of them narrowly missing each other. The challenger then slams his disc at Sam’s feet causing the floor to drop out. Sam manages to hang on, but barely. Climbing out before the rival can strike again, the two exchange throws before Sam is able to get his opponent to fall. Sam wins! The crowd roars.

The scene cuts again and a new title screen appears, this time saying “Escape Route.” Sam is now in the passenger seat of a Light Runner, a four-wheeled vehicle. The driver is dressed in black but wearing a helmet that covers their face. The car is being pursued by a pair of orange sentry lightbikes. The driver presses a button to her right and a pair of grenades pop out the back. One of the lightbikes hits the grenades and explodes, but as the sentry is flying through the air, he generates a new lightbike and the chase continues. The driver then presses another button that makes cannons appear on the sides of the Light Runner. Blasting holes in the wall, the vehicle crashes through to the outlands where lightbikes can’t follow. The driver’s helmet is removed revealing Quorra (Olivia Wilde). The scene then plays out the same way as the clip that we showed you earlier today.

We then come to the final scene, titled “Safehouse.” Quorra and Sam have arrived at their destination: the home of Kevin Flynn. Kevin is in a state of meditation with his back turned to the door, so he doesn’t see his son walk in. Quorra approaches him and we hear him speak for the first time. He tells her that he believes that “today is different” is Quorra explains that it’s because it is – they have a guest. She points Kevin towards her son who is too shocked to move. “Sam?” Kevin asks. “Long time,” Sam replies. “You have no idea.” Kevin then embraces his son, seeing him for the first time in years. They begin to cry. Kevin remarks how big Sam has gotten and Sam is about to mention that Kevin has gotten old, but the father finishes the sentence for him. Kevin asks how Sam got in and Sam tells him about Alan coming over after receiving the page from the arcade. With tears in his eyes, Kevin walks out to the balcony. Sam looks over to see a bright white lightcycle and tells him that Kevin built it “many cycles ago for the games.” On the balcony, Kevin looks over the edge at Tron City in the distance. The scene fades to black.

A montage then begins to play, showing off Castor (Michael Sheen) and Daft Punk, as well as various clips from lightcycle battles. We see Clu 2.0 (a digitally-young Jeff Bridges) says “You’re move Flynn. Come on. Come on!” and the screening ends with Quorra saying, “Here they come,” as light jets form in the sky.

What everybody seems to want to know is how the visuals look and the quality of the 3D. I can assure you that audiences are in for an extraordinary treat come December 17. Though the first of the five scenes wasn’t in 3D (a note from Steven Lisberger before the screening began assured us that this is not something to be concerned about), everything in the computer world certainly was. The director, Joseph Kosinski, has rendered a world of absolute beauty and depth. The disc battle, in particular, made terrific use of the technology, the projectiles launching out of the screen at the audience. As you probably assumed from the beginning, visuals will not be Tron: Legacy’s problem.

On the other hand, what has had myself and other fans concerned is the depth of the story. When 15-minutes of James Cameron’s film was shown at the event known as Avatar Day, it mostly consisted of action sequences that best showed off the director’s incredible new inventions. When Avatar arrived in theaters, however, the story turned out to be more shallow than your little brother’s kiddie pool in the backyard. With this event, Tron: Legacy has shown audiences that there’s not only depth, but emotion in the film. Fans may be disappointed that they didn’t get to see any extended lightcycle sequences, but I was personally more satisfied to see the reunion of Sam and his dad. You actually felt the raw feelings that come with a father reuniting with his son for the first time in over a decade. If Tron: Legacy can have strong characters, a meaningful plot and effects that rival Avatar, we are in for one hell of a ride.

The film has been waiting on my “Most Anticipated” list for years now and tonight’s preview only bolsters my confidence. For more of my Tron Night coverage, click here to watch my interview with Tron creator Steven Lisberger following the screening.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.