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TRON LEGACY/TRON
Blu-ray/3D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack

Review by Michael Jacobson

TRON ***

Stars:  Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan, Barnard Hughes
Director:  Steven Lisberger
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.2:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  96 Minutes
Release Date:  April 5, 2011

“End of line.”

The critics have proclaimed Tron as “a milestone in the history of computer animation”.  It certainly is.

But, unlike other media milestones, I don’t think Tron has held up as well.  It’s still a cool picture to look at, with impressive and memorable visuals, but…well, just think of how great Snow White still is after 80 years.  In just 30, Tron seems more of a historical curiosity piece than a relevant film.

I still like Tron, and always enjoy coming back to it every few years.  This newly remastered and THX certified DVD was certainly a good way to do it after the disappointing and lackluster initial release of the movie…more on that further down.

I like it for its bold sense of style, and for the fact that it put images on the screen that audiences had never seen before.  It was a major risk for Disney, which at the time was trying to prove itself once again as a leader and not a follower in the film industry.  As far as that aspect goes, the film was a success.  Despite the advancement of computer animation technologies, I think many of the picture’s images still hold up quite well (the light cycle sequence remains a favorite of mine).

Other aspects ceased to impress as I grew older.  As a kid, I thought the glowing circuitry styled costumes were the epitome of cool.  Now, I only see silly looking jumpsuits with rotoscope animations stuck on.  And what was with those awful helmets, anyway?

The story was an intriguing one, essentially placing a gladiator movie into the realm of a video game.  The movie suggested, maybe even in a semi-religious way, that when people create programs, part of themselves go into it.  Tron takes us to the other side of the video screen, where these programs look surprisingly human, and even take on the traits of the people who created them…indeed, in their own image.

The villain of the piece is the Master Control Program, a computer who became artificially intelligent before such a phrase was really being thrown around.  Powerful and diabolical, it plans to absorb all kinds of information from other computers, including the defense grids of the United States and Russia!

The only possible hindrance could be a security program called Tron.  Created by programmer Alan Bradley (Boxleitner), it would police even the MCP, and keep it from attempting any illegal downloads.  He tries to implement the program with the help of master hacker Flynn (Bridges), who himself wants to break in to prove that the company’s five biggest moneymaking video games were his inventions, stolen from his private computer.

The MCP has other plans, however, and thanks to a new digitizing device, it zaps Flynn directly into the digital world…a world of programs, but no users!  There, he is trained to fight in the video games, where it is expected he will eventually die with only a “game over” as a memorial.

In that world, however, he meets up with the living Tron program (also Boxleitner), and realizes his only hope of returning to the real world is to help Tron implement Alan’s program and thus ending the autonomy of the MCP!

That’s the tale in so many words…of course, the story is merely an excuse for animator/writer/director Steven Lisberger to create a vapid new world for the silver screen.  Every frame is filled with visual wonder and imagination…it’s no wonder the film enthralled us the way it did.

Bridges plays the kind of laid back computer genius that would come to define our times in later years…had he been real, who knows what kind of impact he would have had on the world?  Can anyone say Flynndows ME?  As for the rest of the cast, their performances are mostly noteworthy for their technical merit…they had to act against blank walls and screens for most of the filming…never an ideal way to work, but they all manage to pull it off quite well.

But as mentioned, it can’t really be called a great movie, by any stretch.  Just because it looks great doesn’t mean that the plot and characters all gel into something cohesive and worthwhile.  Some of it seems a little silly, but the overall concept and design are the real stars here, and they’re what makes the picture a classic in its own right.

TRON LEGACY ***

Stars:  Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hudland, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen
Director:  Joseph Kosinski
Audio:  DTS HD 7.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1/2.35:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  125 Minutes
Release Date:  April 5, 2011

"Jules Verne is my favorite...do you know Jules Verne?"

"Sure."

"What's he like?"

Tron definitely built up enough of a fan base amongst sci-fi admirers and future computer techs alike that, even 30 years after, a sequel was warranted.  Even greatly anticipated.

I know I saw the first teaser for it a full year before Tron Legacy came out, and it spent that full year as my most eagerly anticipated film.  There was enough of a glimpse to know that the look and feel of this film was going to be lightyears ahead of the original...or just about any other technically based production, for that matter.

It opens with Kevin Flynn (Bridges) telling the story of his on-the-grid adventures to his young son.  He discovered more than another world...he discovered a miracle that would change the world.  But that story would have to wait...Flynn disappears, leaving the future of his company and his son in doubt.

Now, decades later, Sam Flynn (Hudland) is a brilliant computer whiz in his own right, and heir to his father's legacy.  But he's not much interested in either the man who disappeared or the company's fortunes.  In fact, his biggest kick seems to be derailing the corporation on the eve of the launch of its latest wallet-gouging operating system.

But an old friend in Alan Bradley shows up with some odd news...he received a page from Flynn's office in the old arcade...a number that has been out of service for 20 years.  It gets Sam curious enough to return, and what he finds is...well, spectacular.

Sam is taken to the grid, but not by any Master Control Program.  This time, the enemy is Clu (also Bridges), a program once made in its maker's image to create the perfect information society, but has taken that directive to extremes.

Kevin Flynn is there, and has been all this time.  Why?  He doesn't venture out because Clu wants Flynn's disc, which is the key for him and his program minions to leave the grid and enter our world to push their own designs of perfection.  The problem is...if you rid our world of imperfections, what would be left?

It's up to Sam and the miracle his father spoke of...namely, a new intelligent life form that sprung into existence on the grid.  They were called IOs, and were once plentiful indeed, but Clu hunted them down and destroyed all but Quorra (Wilde), who has been living under Flynn's protection.  Can the two of them break out of their cyber captivity, return to the real world, and prevent Clu from carrying out his grand designs?

Well, that's the story, and truth be told, it's not so great.  What IS great is the fully imagined and vividly realized computer world this movie offers.  It took everything we loved about the original film and expanded it to incredibly detailed heights.  The action sequences are like nothing you've ever seen.  The first and last thirty minutes of the movie are as visually thrilling as anything you could hope to see.

In the middle, when the plot rears its ugly head, it gets a little tiresome.  The story wasn't compelling enough to warrant slowing down the pleasures the movie truly had to offer.  I found myself fidgeting a little in the middle stretch, but I can assure you, I was transfixed again before it was all over.

The movie offers many pleasures, not the least of which is Oscar winner Jeff Bridges being a good sport and returning to an iconic role that many actors of his caliber would have since dismissed.  He is terrific, and believe me, it's quite a joyful shock to see how CGI renders him as his younger self in the form of Clu.  Astounding!

But mostly, it's returning to this world where what goes on in cyberspace has life and meaning and beauty.  That is really what Tron Legacy promised to its fans, and I have to say...it didn't disappoint.

Video ****

May I just say, simply and truthfully...Tron Legacy is now THE best reason ever offered to own a Blu-ray player.  I thought I had been wowed as much as I possibly could with the high definition format, but I was stunned, delighted and floored beyond belief by this incredible 1080p presentation.  It fills your screen with detail, color, action and imagination, and really never lets up.  I am at a loss for adjectives here, friends.  It's just that amazing.

Tron got a beautiful Blu-ray face lift, too...I've seen this movie in every home video format imaginable, and I'm convinced that long before there was such a thing, this movie was made for high definition.  Visually it's aged very well and brings the colors and sights of the original to a more vivid light than ever before. 

I don't yet have a 3D system, but this disc also includes the 3D Blu-ray of Tron Legacy, and I have to say, I think it's just DARING me to plop down the cash.  Resistance...is...futile...but, the set also include a DVD of the movie and a Digital Copy disc.  Count 'em...that's five discs total.

Audio ****

All the superlatives I offered the video quality can be echoed for the DTS HD tracks.  Tron Legacy has a relentless .1 track, mostly thanks to the incredible score from Daft Punk.  I mean, my subwoofer has never worked so hard in its life.  It needed overtime pay after it was all over.  And that's just part of it...the music and the effects together make for a totally immersive and explosively dynamic multi-channel listening experience.  It's almost too good to be believed.

Features ****

I'll start with the Blu-ray extras for Tron Legacy.  First up is "The Next Day", which gives you a glimpse at what happens AFTER the movie ends.  There are featurettes on "Launching the Legacy" and "Disc Roars", where the filmmakers rallied the Comi-Con crowd.  There is also a cool music video from Daft Punk for "Derezzed".  There is a look at the upcoming Tron Uprising animated series for Disney XD.  There is a recollection from the original cast on their roles, and a featurette on visualizing the movie. 

Tron begins with a pair of extras that should tell you everything you could possibly want to know about Tron.  This first is a rather informative commentary track by writer/director Steven Lisberger, producer Donald Kushner, designer Harrison Ellenshaw, and computer director Richard Taylor.  Even better is the hour and a half documentary that starts the second disc, which features interviews with both cast and crew, and shows in detail the evolution of the project, including dome of Lisberger’s studios early animated television commercials…brought back memories!

It also contains 4 trailers and 2 promos, including one designed specifically for the National Association of Theater Owners to show what the film was going to be like and featuring some of the production’s earliest tests at animation.  There are three deleted scenes (with introduction by Lisberger, NOT Bruce Boxleitner as advertised on the box), including a famous love scene for Tron and Yori.  There are numerous short featurettes on the design (including the vehicles, characters, world, and so on), a couple of pieces of deleted music, storyboards and storyboard-to-film comparisons, early development clips including the original test video for Disney and Lisberger’s early animation for his own studio logo, looks at how the digital imagery was created, and more!

Finally there is a look at the movie's influence on pop culture, and as mentioned, a digital copy disc.

Summary:

Tron Legacy paired with the original Tron has made for an all time apex in the history of Blu-ray.  I've never seen or heard anything like it, nor did I REALLY know what my high-definition system was truly capable of before now.  A surefire must-own!

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