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Tron: Legacy (Advance Screening)

By now, you’ve probably heard that there’s a sequel to Tron coming out. I’d be very surprised if you hadn’t, considering that Disney is using every ounce of its considerable marketing muscle to raise awareness of this film. Tron: Legacy set a San Diego Comic-Con record, appearing for three years straight. TV spots are already making the rounds. The Disneyland monorail got a makeover. Even Marvel — freshly moved in to the Disney stable — has been tapped.

Disney is doing every possible thing it can to ensure that Tron: Legacy spawns a profitable new franchise and gets box office grosses on an Avatar scale. And to help ensure that, Disney borrowed one of the tricks Avatar used.

Last August, Fox launched Avatar night. IMAX screens nationwide were given a sizable chunk of James Cameron’s opus to screen in 3D for the fans who were lucky enough to get in. Tonight, it was Disney’s turn: IMAX screens across America (and a few abroad, I understand) screened 20 minutes of Tron: Legacy in 3D.

Tickets went online October 12th. I got mine the instant they were offered.

My screening took place at the Regal Bridgeport Stadium 18 & IMAX in Tigard. A decent crowd showed up, though not as many as I’d expected. Also, I was disappointed that no one came in costume, though I did see some neat Tron shirts and hoodies, as well as some clearly marked Flynn Lives players. The management gave out a decent amount of swag, including a couple of promo postcards and this awesome poster.

Best of all — though they were sure to confiscate any electronics and check all bags — they never forced anyone to sign a non-disclosure agreement. In fact, we were actively encouraged to go online and talk about the event. So, what can I tell you?

The presentation started with a scene from the real world. We meet our hero, Sam Flynn, who’s made a neat little one-room apartment for himself out of what appears to be an abandoned storage unit by the docks. We also meet Alan Bradley, played once again by Bruce Boxleitner. Apparently, Alan has been a surrogate father to Sam since the latter was twelve years old. We also learn that Sam — thanks to his missing dad — is perfectly capable of taking over the Encom corporation whenever he feels like it, but he’d rather stay out of that life and pester them with stunts instead. This exposition is slightly awkward, but the relationship between Sam and Alan feels convincing and the dialogue is just natural enough that I can let it slide.

Garrett Hedlund, however, is a slight problem. Though Sam does seem like he’d be a fun guy to go out drinking with, Hedlund just isn’t showing the swagger or the “don’t give a shit” attitude that Sam needs. I simply couldn’t buy him as a daredevil. It would’ve been perfect if Hedlund had pushed his performance a teeny bit more, but as it is, Sam is in that aggravating position of “so close!”

Now, it’s worth noting that the real-world segments of this movie were shot in 2D. So, Sam goes to Flynn’s hidden office in the arcade, the laser warms up (didn’t see it fire, though), we cut to the next scene and OHMIGOD, THERE’S A RECOGNIZER COMING DOWN ON ME!!!

The 3D in this movie is staggering and first-time director Joseph Kosinski finds some very clever ways of utilizing it. For example, there was a shot in which we’re looking up at the Recognizer pilot from under a clear glass floor. It sounds mundane, but the 3D made it look really good.

In the following scene, Sam is getting dressed by four programs that IMDB calls “Sirens.” This scene addressed one of my main concerns with the movie so far: The wardrobe. In the original Tron, the costumes looked like they were part of the characters and like the glowing lights may as well have been their blood vessels. The costumes in Legacy, on the other hand, have always looked to me like… well, costumes. Like the characters could just go home and change out of them.

That turns out to be true, though it’s really just skimming the surface.

Watching the Sirens take these armor plates and put them on Sam, it felt like they were equipping him. It wasn’t just like they were giving him a uniform, but they were giving him a toolbox as well. I got the impression that all the strength and training to fight in the games was hardwired in the costume itself, like swapping out the parts and replacing them with new ones would make for a different program altogether.

In fact, it seemed like the costume was like a semi-sentient partner at times. When Sam is given his identity disk, the light ring fills up one segment at a time, almost like it’s loading. When Sam’s eyes flash while all of this is going on, it’s easy to see that the disk is binding with him on some intrinsic level, which I found really cool. There’s also a point where Sam takes his disk and a helmet pops into place. It didn’t feel quite like an automatic thing and it certainly wasn’t anything Sam did. It almost felt like the suit itself was moving the helmet into place.

As for the programs themselves, it’s worth noting that they seem much more robotic. The freaky “stray programs” that Sam is rounded up with seem to have individuality, as do love interest Quorra and an enigmatic deejay called Castor. The Sirens, on the other hand, are completely rigid in their precision, synchronized in their movements, apathetic in their work and they sleep in these strange pods when they’re done. Ditto for the guards running the Recognizer. They all seem very much like machines, which I suppose is a fitting way to depict computer programs.

What followed was a lengthy scene of Sam in a disk fight with another program and it was awesome. The choreography was amazing, the pacing and editing were phenomenal and watching the programs shatter like glass made for a really cool effect. The preview also included a bit of light-cycle action, in which I saw a rider crash his light-cycle, launch into the air and then call another light-cycle into being before he hit the ground. Again, this was all in 3D. Kick-ass! Also, these light-cycle matches have a new twist in that the floor has two sides: There are panels in which the light-cycle can switch from driving on top of the floor to driving along the underside of the floor and vice-versa. It’s not an easy thing to describe, but it looked really cool and I can’t wait to see what the choreography does with that little trick.

Last but not least, I saw Sam reunited with his father Kevin, played by returning Tron veteran Jeff Bridges. Given that all of these clips are supposed to take place in the movie’s first half, I found it refreshing to know that Kosinski isn’t going to hold this scene until the third act. As for Kevin Flynn himself, he seemed kinda out of it. Maybe it’s just the fact that he’s meeting his son for the first time after so long, but Kevin seemed very muddled — almost senile. When Sam mentions the page that Kevin sent Alan (yes, Sam does joke about how Alan is still using a pager in this day and age), Kevin barely seems to remember that he ever paged Alan.

Then again, I suppose that all of this can be explained by the fact that time is hyper-accelerated in the electronic world. The twenty years that Kevin’s been spending in there must have felt like centuries. Even the few hours between Alan’s pager and Sam’s arrival could have been years apart for Kevin.

After this scene, we got a brief montage of clips, most of which have been seen in the various trailers released so far. However, this montage did address another one of my major concerns: Clu. Jeff Bridges plays one of his old programs as a younger version of himself and CGI was used to make him appear more youthful in the role. This effect looked rubbery and cartoonish in the trailer, but I was willing to let that slide on the assumption that it would look more polished in the final film. Sure enough, the one shot I saw of Clu tonight looked incomparably better than its corresponding clip in the trailer. I find this very encouraging.

Oh, and I also must mention the legendary Daft Punk. They’ve outdone themselves with this score and that’s saying a lot. The music I heard was absolutely perfect, with just the right amount of orchestral and techno. The emotion of every scene was perfectly captured in the score. The source music was amazing as well, with the jukebox in Flynn’s Arcade loudly playing “Separate Ways” by Journey and “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics. It was so deliciously ’80s that the crowd I was with lapped it up. In fact, the Portland crowd really seemed to have a great time at this event.

There’s still one thing that bugs me though: Story details are very scarce. All the relevant real-world details have been covered, but information has been very scarce in regards to what’s happening computer-side. This is a problem, considering that most of the movie will probably take place in e-world, and I don’t know any more about it now than I did going in. All I do know is that Kevin Flynn and Clu are at the center of the plot, probably as opposing forces. Tron himself got a namedrop in the footage I saw, with Kevin vaguely speaking of Tron in a dream he had, but the eponymous hero’s whereabouts and role in the story remain completely unknown. However, I do think it’s telling that Disney is focusing on the games so much. I don’t know if it’s because of story relevance, trailer-friendly visuals or both, but there’s no denying that arena disc fights and light-cycle competitions are going to play a huge part in this story.

I was greatly impressed by the footage I saw. It’s still too early to tell if Tron: Legacy will be worth the hype, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it will be worth seeing after its full release on December 17th.


  1. Ping from Brendon:

    I am eagerly awaiting the awesome sauce that this will be.

  2. Ping from Lyle McN:

    Thanks for the rundown, William! I’m more excited than ever to see this now!

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