A Look Back: Tron: Legacy
A Polarizing & Often Forgotten Sci-Fi Sequel Revisited
So, I feel as if the discussion has already possibly been overplayed about whether or not Tron: Legacy is actually a good film, or even a worthy successor to the original groundbreaking visual effects achievement that is the original Tron. However, for me, Tron: Legacy is one of my favorite sci-fi films to date, and I feel as if I’d be missing an opportunity to not write about it at all.
This film marked the directorial debut for director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Only The Brave, Top Gun: Maverick). The score for Tron: Legacy was composed by legendary French electronic music duo Daft Punk, and was also easily the most praised aspect of the film for most. This praise was more than earned as the score is an absolute gem. The duo crafted a musical soundscape that managed to immerse audiences in the world, making it feel even more digital when paired with the special effects.
The cast is led by Garret Hedlund as Sam Flynn, the son of Tron creator and original film protagonist Kevin Flynn, and Olivia Wilde as Quora, a special program acting as Kevin Flynn’s assistant. Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner return as both their real-world and digital-world characters as well, Bridges as Kevin Flynn/C.L.U. and Boxleitner as Alan Bradley/Tron.
On my last re-watch of this movie, I also caught what has now become one of the most random cameos, with Cillian Murphy appearing in the opening boardroom scene and then never again. With this film being released the same year as Inception and after the first two Christopher Nolan Batman films, it felt odd to see Murphy just here in a throwaway role. Fans speculated that he would be playing the villain in the expected third Tron film, however that never came to be. Looking into his role though, he was asked about it during an interview in 2012, having this to say;
Talk about being in a movie for a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ [role], I was just such a fan of the original, and they asked me if I wanted to be in it. I said, ‘Absolutely. Anything you want.’ — comicbookmovie.com , January 22, 2012
The level of respect for Tron is immense. It became a cult classic for many film fans, and still to this day is remembered as a fantastic and wholeheartedly original science-fiction film. However, with it’s sequel the same sentiment was not shared, although it should have been. Tron: Legacy was released in 2010 to very mediocre reception, however garnering $400 million off of a $170 million budget, making it fairly successful, especially for a sequel to a cult science fiction movie from 1982.
For many film buffs and cinephiles, the complaint of films relying too much on CGI is thrown around all too often, and Tron: Legacy was not exempt from these complaints, and yet by all accounts it should have been. Most critics of the film tend to highlight the uncanny valley effect done with de-aging Jeff Bridges for the role of C.L.U. however, for the time that effect was done exceedingly well. It is less an issue of poor visual effects and rather that nowadays the effect can be achieved even better than it could have been done in 2010.
The setting for 95% of this movie is within a virtual world. On top of that, the implementation of the computer generated effected within this movie are exceptional. The filmmakers created a fully realized virtual world that feels separate from the real world, yet still kept some semblance of realism, albeit futuristic realism. The sheer amount of detail that the visual effects artists for this movie did is unimaginable, making some of the most unreal scenes in the film feel fully realized. Comparable to 2008's Speed Racer (shameless plug to my previous article on that film) the visuals in Tron: Legacy are jaw-droppinginly gorgeous. While the two film’s styles are vastly different in both style and tone, they are both executed with extreme care and precision. The visual style of Speed Racer is more vibrant and in-your-face, whereas Tron: Legacy’s is more laid back, but also much larger in scale. The key similarity with these two film’s visual effects and style is that they each manage to immerse the audience within their own respective worlds.
As mentioned before, the most praised aspect of this film was/and still is it’s soundtrack. The electronic score helped accentuate the sci-fi setting and themes of the movie, blending it’s digital sounds with the virtual world created by Kevin Flynn in the movie. If ever there was a perfect pairing of music and visuals, Tron: Legacy has to be that example. Daft Punk composed a beautiful soundtrack that pairs with it’s visuals in the most fitting ways possible.
Tracks like Derezzed, C.L.U., End of Line, and Adagio for Tron are all perfectly composed for the movie, and more importantly for the scenes that they are attached to. The coupling of music and visuals feel like the most important aspect of the film, as it is really what sets it apart from other films in my opinion. The score here feels as if it was composed and coded by Flynn for his video game world, coming off in an extremely natural fashion in a way that most films fail to achieve.
For most, and rightfully so, the least impressive aspect of Tron: Legacy is it’s characters. While not bad, most of them just fail to be anything special. They all manage to leave a mark on you though, with Sam, Quora, Flynn, Tron & C.L.U. being easily recognizable to anyone who has seen the film. All of the actors also do well with what they are given, but again, every movie has to have a best and worst part, and for Tron: Legacy, it’s weakest link is it’s characters.
If there is one scene in all of Tron: Legacy that showcases it’s best qualtites to the highest regard, it would be the End of The Line club sequence. Everything is on full display throughout this sequence (which is slighly shorter in this clip than it is in the actual movie) the story, the fight choreography, the visuals, and the music all at once, culminate in this wonderfully shot scene. Michael Sheen chews the scenery prior to the start of this clip as club owner Zuse leaving the audience begging for more of his character before the fight begins between C.L.U.’s forces and Sam & Quora. This scene also features a cameo for Daft Punk as the virtual club’s in-house DJ’s. Derezzed, which is featured within the scene, was the lead single from the Tron: Legacy Original Soundtrack, and is one of the most easily recognizable songs composed for a film in recent memory.
The whole scene plays out fantastically frantic, all before coming to a head with the re-arrival of Kevin Flynn, who here, is portrayed to be feared and praised like a literal God. As a whole this sequence just stands out among the rest of an already visually pleasing movie.
Tron: Legacy is still regarded by many as a mediocre film, as well as an unneeded sequel. However, it is a film rich in its style, with vibrant electronic music and both deeply immersive and impressive visual effects. The acting in the film is also significantly better than it’s predecessor, with Jeff Bridges providing enough charisma and heart to warrant this sequel’s existence. Sadly, it does not seem as if the long-rumored Tron 3 will ever see the light, at least for the time being. Hopefully one day this film will be appreciated by more, and may also lead to inspiration to a younger generation of science fiction fans.
Ending with a look on the bright side though, for those die hard Tron fans venturing to Shanghai Disneyland (also coming soon to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando) there is the Tron Lightcycle Power Run roller coaster. This coaster is based of of Tron: Legacy, borrowing it’s visual style and it’s soundtrack for the queue and on-board-ride soundtracks.