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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.