Tron: Legacy (Blu-ray)
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
As part of a stellar 5-disc combo pack, Tron: Legacy's technical elements shine in a showcase-worthy presentation.
The Age of Atarius
Tron: Legacy picks up the Tron story some 28 years later. Software giant Encom, formerly led by a shifty CEO who stole code from his own programmers, reported its best financial performance to date. There's some chest-thumping as boasts are made about the company's new operating system, which is cynically touted as the old system repackaged with a new number, as well as the imminent initiation of the company's stock trading on the Nikkei index.
The new OS boasts the best security on the market and that buttoned-down package is juxtaposed with chatter of a free and open computer society, a concept Tron played off 28 years ago. Think Microsoft. Think Google. There's even a wisp of a jab at Steve Jobs' megalomaniacal persona. But, unfortunately, it doesn't get any more topical than that.
All of those reasons to get excited in the Encom empire come crashing down thanks to a hacker who just so happens to be the son of Encom's most legendary programmer, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges, True Grit). Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund, Friday Night Lights) has clearly spent quite a bit of time watching Batman Begins and other comic book movies. He's an adrenaline junky with an incredible sense for derring-do. While Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered, Sam's father disappeared 25 years ago, shortly after Sam's mom died, and, exactly like Bruce, Sam's become the ultimate insider acting on the outside.
Lost in Cyber Space
Considering Ed Dillinger's theft of Kevin's video game code was the catalyst for the action in Tron, it's kinda creepy the disgraced man's son would manage to find a prominent spot in Encom, with Kevin's own son effectively the majority shareholder. That Cillian Murphy, Scarecrow in Batman Begins and the target of Inception, plays the young Dillinger (in what amounts to a cameo appearance) makes comparisons to Christopher Nolan's far superior storytelling sensibilities all the more inevitable.
As for Sam's father, his disappearance, as happens with most disappearances, left many questions and theories. Perhaps he flaked out, maybe he didn't love his son and wanted a new start. As it turns out, Kevin is once again trapped in the cyber world of his own creation, his Second Life gone horribly wrong.
Sam responds to a mysterious, old-fangled page sent to Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner, TV's Babylon 5) that leads him to Flynn's arcade. While checking out Kevin's dusty ol' haunt, Sam encounters the super zapper that transports him into Kevin's computer.
One of Kevin's favorite creations, Clu, has taken over the cyber world and wants to port himself out of cyberspace and enter reality in order to wreak havoc on the world. What's Clu going to do when he enters reality? There are no precursors, no teases of havoc to come; the consequences are never really explored.
Instead, Tron: Legacy, like its precursor, starts out strong and with a promising story, but the best threads unravel in favor of a standard escape-this-place plot that doesn't hold together.
Tron: Legacy certainly does have its positives. At the top of the list is director Joseph Kosinski, a director of TV commercials with a background in architecture and engineering. Tron: Legacy marks his feature film debut and he does have a good eye for the visual element. He's on the radar with the potential of being the next Ridley Scott or David Fincher.
Kosinski's best accomplishment in Tron: Legacy is the spiffed-up expansion of the light cycle game, with the cycles now able to move in fluid curves on a multi-level platform that even includes speed stripes on the on-ramps. Back in '82, those cycles were stuck on a single flat surface and the movement was confined to the lines on a grid.
The cast is also solid, with relative newcomers Hedlund and Olivia Wilde (TV's House) holding their own with Tron veteran Jeff Bridges. And it's also great to see Boxleitner reprise his role and bring his calm presence back to the huge screen.
The problem is the story is like a program made out of bits of code from other programs from disparate operating systems; the odds of it running correctly are astronomically unlikely. Sure, there's code from the original Tron. But snippets from Blade Runner, Batman Begins, The Phantom Menace, Revenge of the Sith, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and heck, even Cabaret and 1970s David Bowie also find their way into the mix.
This review is based on the five-disc combo pack that includes 1) Tron: Legacy Blu-ray 3D, 2) Tron: Legacy Blu-ray 2D, 3) Tron: Legacy DVD, 4) Tron: Legacy Digital Copy, and 5) The original Tron Blu-ray.
This set offers a nice, big surprise. The Next Day: Flynn Lives Revealed. Wow. This is awesome! Consider it another nod to The Dark Knight's marketing playbook and the Gotham Tonight series of TV segments originally presented on Comcast. The description of this 10-minute segment is a little misleading. The jacket reads "Be the first to discover what happens after the movie ends." Well, a good chunk of the events in this segment take place after Tron ends and before Tron: Legacy begins. This is in part a bridge between the two movies, with Flynn's disappearance, competition from Dillinger's new company, and boardroom wheelings and dealings leading up to Legacy, then continuing the story arc with additional corporate intrigue after the Legacy storyline. In many ways, the presentation style of raw TV news clips, press conferences, interviews, and the like is more fun than either movie.
And it cleverly makes mention of the inclusion of Dillinger's son on Encom's board of directors (an issue this reviewer has a problem with, as already mentioned). Alan Bradley brushes off concerns, simply stating the kid's earned his place. Well, all righty then. But a new curiosity pops up: Dillinger Systems. If the kid's that good, why isn't he working for his own father's company instead of the competition? One loophole closes... and another one opens.
But wait... It gets even better. After the Next Day segment, an arcade game leader board appears. Enter "SAM" and get treated to another segment. Enter each one of the top scorers' initials for another serving (better yet, simply enter "ALL," the 10th place scorer, and view the complete panoply of footage). This is comprehensive supplemental movie material. There's a commercial for Kevin Flynn's latest book (in old-school TV's 1.33:1 aspect ratio), the introduction of flynnlives.com, and a commercial for Space Paranoids that features the Atari 2600. Hot damn! All told it's roughly 21 minutes of nerdgasm that even hints at some nefarious plotting involving Dillinger's wiz kid. Those loopholes are now a little more interesting.
The Next Day is the kind of extra-mile supplemental material Disney has done before, most notably with the DVD release of The Incredibles. It's the kind of stuff that makes the movie itself more enjoyable. Disney's earned the highest kudos for this effort.
Second Screen is a new interactive tool for use while watching the movie in sync with an iPad, Mac, or PC. The software is accessed via the Web; while the movie plays, supplemental material is viewed on the external device. There's an option to sync with the movie's audio. Good luck with that. Old school manual syncing works fine; once things get going, syncing is simply a timer that helps users play the supplementals then get back in sync with the movie's pace. As a supplemental experience, it's just as well to take the manual option and explore at one's own pace. Among the options are mini galleries of storyboards, concept art, behind-the-scenes photos, short video clips, and interactive 360 views of some elements.
Technically speaking, the Second Screen execution is slick enough and the content is quite good and well organized. But the question must be asked: Why wasn't Blu-ray's picture-in-picture capability used? Or even BD-Live? Sure, some of the pieces work well interactively, such as the three-way view of verious scene elements and the panoramic set views, but none of the content is particularly unique; that is to say, other releases such as Iron Man and Transformers have provided much the same kind of content within the confines of the Blu-ray itself.
The need to go out to external gadgets is gimmicky and in some respects annoying. Plus, this material, like BD-Live material, is stored on Disney's servers, so once they pull the plug on the content, access will be lost. That's one of the beautiful things of today's packaged media. Enjoy while it lasts; in the era of downloading, consumer ownership will become a thing of the past.
Launching the Legacy (10 minutes) The key takeaway here is that Disney spent a good chunk of change to create a "presentation trailer" for Comic Con. The crowd's reaction would determine if the film would get made or not. Obviously, the crowd's cheers were a resounding "yes." That presentation trailer, by the way, featured some incredibly cool footage – but it had virtually nothing to do with the final movie's storyline.
The presentation trailer, sans the sounds of the Comic Con audience reaction, was at one point available via BD-Live, an option which appears to have fallen out of favor in the Disney camp. The online service now offers only the standard theatrical trailer for download - and this Blu-ray is not BD-Live enabled. Maybe it's tucked away somewhere as an Easter egg.
Disc Roars (3 minutes) Pandering to the Comic Con crowd, this one's about the use of the panel audience as crowd noise for the games sequences within the movie.
Derezzed (3 minutes) This is Daft Punk's music video tie-in. Olivia Wilde makes a cameo and that makes it worth watching.
Visualizing Tron (12 minutes) This is a good look at the design elements of Tron: Legacy, including comments from Steve Preeg, whom The Mattopia Times interviewed as part of an online chat media panel.
Installing the Cast (12 minutes) a pretty standard, but entertaining, look at the lead actors on set.
First Look at Tron: Uprising is a teaser for the new animated TV series. Truth be told, it looks good. Hopefully there'll be decent stories supporting the voice talent of Bruce Boxleitner, Elijah Wood, Mandy Moore, and Paul Reubens.
Also slipped into the package is a postcard-sized vintage picture of Bruce Boxleitner as Tron.
Picture and Sound
Simply put, Tron: Legacy on Blu-ray is showcase material. This is a truly impressive presentation. The detailed imagery is crystal clear and the sound surrounds.
Following in the footsteps of The Dark Knight (and a limited edition of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, for that matter), Tron: Legacy is presented with an aspect ratio that switches between 2.35:1 and the super-sized IMAX format 1.78:1 in order to capture the director's vision as presented in IMAX theatres.
It's a complicated presentation. The real world scenes are in 2D, the world of Tron is in 3D. Some footage is 2.35:1, some is 1.78:1. It's an interesting mix of artistry, technology, and money. More precisely, it's a reflection of the limitations of money and technology, even in a production the size of Tron: Legacy.
Audio options include English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, English 2.0 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Video Service 2.0 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.
Subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.
How to Use This Set
Certainly check out the movie in full Blu-ray glory, especially if you've got Blu-ray 3D. Then be sure to give The Next Day: Flynn Lives a spin. If that piques your interest, enter "ALL" on the leader board for more fake documentary goodness.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.