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"TRON: Legacy" footage screened this past Wednesday night reveals that Disney sci-fi sequel has crossover potential

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"TRON: Legacy" footage screened this past Wednesday night reveals that Disney sci-fi sequel has crossover potential

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Flynnsbiggestfan writes in to say:

Thanks for sharing all that great info about "Tangled." But could you please be a bit more specific about this new Disney animated film? Maybe talk about "Tangled" songs or action sequences? Any additional information you can share would be great.

Sorry, Flynnsbiggestfan. No can do. You see, the only way that Disney would agree to let me (and about 100 - 150 other media types) see "Tangled" this past Wednesday night is if we agreed not to review it. So it's okay for me talk in generalities about this new Walt Disney Animation Studios production. But as for specifics (i.e. song lyrics, bits of dialogue, etc.) ... That's a no-no 'til the second or third week of November.

Sam Flynn's lightcycle was on display just outside of the theater where Disney's Holiday
Showcase event was presented this past Wednesday night. Photo by Jim Hill

But how about this? As kind of a make-good, why don't I tell you about what else Disney showed us on Wednesday night. Which was 23 minutes from the first half of "TRON: Legacy."

Rich Ross, Chairman of Walt Disney Studios, was on hand to introduce this footage. Ross first talked about how impressed he was with Joseph Kosinski's work. How it was kind of amazing that someone who's just begun in long form film for the very first time (Joseph initially rose to fame on the back of the many clever commercials that he's created over the past 10 years) could have produced something that looks as polished as "TRON: Legacy" does.

For Kosinski's part ... To be honest, he seemed pretty nervous about how this footage might be received. Joseph talked about how this 23 minutes of film we were about to be shown was still pretty rough, how it had  come " ... straight from the editing bay." Kosinski also mentioned that - immediately following Wednesday night's screening - he'd be headed up to Skywalker Ranch for a month to help out with "TRON: Legacy" 's final sound mix.

(L to R) Garrett Hedlund, Steven Lisberger, Jeff Bridges and Joseph Kosinski on the set
of "TRON: Legacy." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But beyond that ... Before this selection of scenes was screened, Joseph went out of his way to praise all of the people who'd been associated with this project. Including Steven Lisberger, the director of the original "TRON." Kosinski sang Lisberger's praises, talking about how far head of the curve Steve was in regards to design, concept & technology.

Joseph also took time to praise " ... the thousands of people who are still working on this picture," making sure that "TRON: Legacy" will actually be ready for its December 17th release date. Kosinski also talked a little bit about his vision for this "TRON" sequel. How it's not so much a sci-fi extravaganza, but - rather - a story about " ... people trying to make a human connection in this digital age."

And after that, the house lights went down and the press & their guests were then treated to 23 minutes worth of selected scenes from "TRON: Legacy."

Bruce Boxleitner & Cindy Morgan in the original "TRON."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"So how was this footage?," you ask. Well, I guess I should probably tell you folks that I'm not all that big a fan of the original "TRON." I mean, I thought that this 1982 Walt Disney Productions release had some terrific visuals & amazing special effects. But as for the story that actually drove the characters & plotline of this Steven Lisberger film ... To be honest, I thought that it was something of a snooze.

But as for "TRON: Legacy"  ...

WARNING !! There be spoilers ahead. If you don't want to know about some key plot points for "TRON: Legacy" almost three months ahead of when this Walt Disney Pictures release is scheduled to roll into theaters, NOW would be a very good time to bail out of today's JHM article.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Still here? Okay. Here goes ...

... I have to admit that I was impressed by the nuanced, intelligent approach that Kosinski took with "TRON: Legacy." Meaning that - in order for us to buy into the digital world of TRON, to get us to actually care about what goes on inside of this virtual realm - Joseph first had to give us some characters that we could care about.

And Joseph actually pulls this off with the character of Sam Flynn (who's played by Garrett Hedlund). This character basically serves as our guide through the world of TRON. Which has changed significantly since the original 1982 film (More on this later).

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Anyway ... In the introductory scene that was screened on Wednesday night, young Flynn must have just pulled one hell of a stunt at ENCOM's annual meeting given those huge bruises on his back. Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) comes by for Sam's garage / apartment for what Kevin Flynn's kid thinks is the next in a series of "You-have-to-clean-up-your act" speeches.

But Bradley has a surprise for young Flynn. In the scene that we've all already seen from the "TRON: Legacy" trailer, Alan tells Sam that he's just been paged by his father from a number that's been disconnected for over 20 years. Young Flynn first scoffs at the idea that his Dad might still be alive. "He's dead or chilling in Costa Rica. Maybe both," Sam says. But Bradley still tosses him the keys to Flynn's Arcade. Which then sets this "TRON" sequel's lightcycles in motion.

Wednesday night's screening then jumped ahead to the scene where Sam rides his bike over to Flynn's Arcade to investigate that mysterious page. Which is where I really had to give kudos to the filmmakers for their musical choices. Given that - when young Flynn hits the circuit breakers, sending power surging through the long-shuttered Arcade - what song comes blaring out of the jukebox but Journey's "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" ? Which all you 1980s music fans will remember features lyrics like ...

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Here we stand
Worlds apart, hearts broken in two, two, two
Sleepless nights
Losing ground
I'm reaching for you, you, you

... which does a nice job of underscoring / foreshadowing Sam's search for his Dad.

From there, young Flynn discovers his Dad's secret computer lab. Which prominently features the laser that zapped the original Flynn into the world of "TRON" back in 1982. And before we know it, Sam's following in his father's footsteps. Being blasted into bytes by that laser and then being reassembled inside of the virtual realm.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Once young Flynn arrives in the digital world, he's almost immediately captured by a Recognizer. Which then flies Sam - along with several other hapless programs - high above this futuristic cityscape before it then lands at the Game Grid. And given that one of these programs actually commits suicide (i.e. jumps to his death into an enormous fan, which immediately shreds his body) rather than submit to the horrors of the Game Grid ... Well, that then gives you some idea how things have changed in the World of TRON over the past 28 years. Not to mention that program who's locked in place right next to young Flynn on board the Recognizer. Who's clearly had half of his face sheared off by a far-too-close encounter with somebody else's identity disc. This is a far rougher, darker place now than the world that we visited back in 1982.

From here, Sam is suited up for competition. But to prove once again that this isn't your Daddy's "TRON" movie, young Flynn first has his clothes lasered off by four statuesque sirens ("This thing has a zipper, you know," Sam whines) before he's then given armor and his own identity disc. Even so, the sirens note that there's something unusual about young Flynn ("He's different," whispers one sleek plastique beauty to the other as they select his breast plate and knee guards).

And then Sam finds himself high up on the Game Grid, with thousands of programs below cheering and applauding, waiting for the bloodsport that's about to begin. As young Flynn looks across the playing field, he actually recognizes the warrior that he's about to go up against. "I've got a three-inch action figure version of you at home on my shelf," Sam says. But this warrior seems singularly unimpressed by that fact as he pulls out his identity disc and then flings it directly at young Flynn's head.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Okay. Rather than literally go through every single piece of "TRON: Legacy" footage that was unspooled on Wednesday night, let me now  jump ahead to the most important scene shown at that press screening. Which was when Sam was finally reunited with his long lost father, Kevin Flynn. In this sequence from his film, we actually get a sense of what Joseph Kosinski was saying. That - if you can totally disregard this film's great visuals and awesome design - when you get right down to it, "TRON: Legacy" - in its heart of hearts -- is about people struggling to make a human connection in this digital age.

And young Flynn ... Given that it's been decades since he last saw his father, Sam is clearly overcome by emotion as he hugs his Dad. Whereas Kevin Flynn ... Clearly all this time that he's spent alone away from real humans in the world of TRON has fried Flynn's circuits. In a truly inspired performance by Jeff Bridges, you get to see this man genuinely struggling to reconnect, trying to step away from the monk-like routines that he's created for himself in order to stay sane in this virtual world. Where (to quote from The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever") nothing is real. As the elder Flynn steps away from his son, saying that they'll talk over dinner, all will be explained then, you can see Sam wondering what's really going on with his father. Why he seems so distant now.

And as for what Kevin Flynn is actually been through , what caused him to become the way he is today ... Well, you're going to have to wait 'til December 17th in order to get the full skinny on that aspect of "TRON: Legacy."

Copyright 2010 New York Comic Con. All rights reserved

If - on the other hand - you'd like to get a bit more back story ASAP about what happened in the World of TRON over the past 28 years and you happen to live on the East Coast ... Well, New York Comic Con is next weekend. October 8 - 10th at the Jacob K. Javits Center to be exact.

And among the many great panels that will be presented at this three-day-long pop culture celebration is a "TRON: Legacy" panel. Which will be held on Saturday, October 9th in Room 1A21. And at this presentation, the developers of "TRON: Evolution"  will reveal how this soon-to-be-released video game will link the world that we saw at the end of 1982's "TRON" (when all of the programs were freed) with the darker, far more sinister world of "TRON: Legacy." How did this place come to be? More importantly, how did Kevin Flynn wind up being trapped inside of this virtual prison that he himself helped to create?

For answers to these and any other "TRON" -related questions you have, you should probably make plans now to be in Room 1A21 next Saturday from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. to catch that "TRON: Evolution" presentation. During which (hopefully) some new details about Kevin Flynn's back story will be revealed.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But beyond that ... I have to say that I was quite impressed by what I saw of "TRON: Legacy." Which took the strengths of the original "TRON" (i.e. great design & visuals) and then supplemented those with far better acting as well as a much more intriguing storyline. The end result is a motion picture that (based on just that 23 minutes of footage, that is) looks like it's going to appeal to a far larger audience than just the sci-fi crowd. That - just like last year's "Star Trek " reboot from J.J. Abrams - this new Walt Disney Pictures release has lots of crossover potential.

Provided - of course-that the other hour+ of "TRON: Legacy" are just as entertaining as the 23 minutes that were screened for the press this past Wednesday night.

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  • It's Bruce Boxleitner not Barry Boxleitner!

  • The Journey reference does double, in that it also reflects the fact that a Journey song (Only Solutions, recorded for the film) was playing in the background when we first see the arcade in the original film.

  • really dissappointed with what ive seen so for. i expected a crazier look to the world, but all ive seen is basic Matrix ripoffs with neon strips all over. the originals had a bizaar, almost abstract quality that is missing from this one.

  • If "Tron" does not want the Legacy of "Caddyshack II," Disney should have a heart and bring back Cindy Morgan.

  • I'm so glad to hear you praise and put out a good word for Tron Legacy.  My interest in the film is a little less altruistic then the enthusiasm for a great film, then what the benefits of a major Sci-fi Disney Hit could mean for the future of Disneyland's Tomorrowland.  I'm convinced that if Tron does well, it will lead to a renaissance of interest in rehabing a Tomorrowland that has been in troule at disneyland for Decades.  The shame is that all the elements for a truly spectaular Tomorrowland exists, but with the ever present deserted People Mover/ Rocket rod Track and the Rediculous Satelite conversion on the old rocket Jets, there seems to be an omni present , life sucking, void in Tomorrowland, and that is a shame because when I was a kid and Tomorrowland had all this life and energy, it was truly my favorite part of the park.  Back then, River's of America was the empty part of the park and everyone was crammed into Tomorrowland.  Now it seems to be a place one has to cross through in order to get from Buzz light year to Tomorrowland terrace or Space Mountain, the two areas that still remain magical.  I love tomorrowland Terrace!!! Anyway, again I hope this is a good sign for a company jumpstart on revitalizing a theme park area with such potential!!  From your review I will do my part in seeing the movie.  But, If you could Jim, let us know how the positive buzz on Tron is effecting imagineering talk on Disneyland's Tomorrwland, I know many readers would like to know!!!  Myself included!!

  • Great article Jim, the film looks pretty fun.

    By the way, if you haven't noticed by now, Gigglesock is a condescending jerk.

    Seriously, anyone who hates the Muppets has no soul.

  • No doubt the graphics will be amazing in this film. It'll be interesting to see whether it can attract a wide audience. Wonder how much this film cost to make?

    Not all remakes are bad. If a remake can improve upon the original, as the new Haunted Mansion film will hopefully do, then I'm all for them.

    To Dude: you're not impressing anybody with your childish rudeness.

  • Mac and anyone else:

    Tron Legacy looks NOTHING like "The Matrix" here's why:

    1) the Tron universe existed LONG before The Matrix films

    2) There are NO machine guns and modern 1999 real world type buildings in the Tron Legacy.

    3) Characters are not wearing business suits with ties.

    4) There was day and night time in The Matrix, the TRON world "The Grid"  HAS NO SUN so it has no daylight/daytime.  Only the characters' suits/clothes and buildings/towers/lamps generate light.

    5) The concept of self-aware Programs was is TRON long before "The Matrix".

    6) There were NO Light Cycles, Recongnizers, Identity Discs, or LightTanks in "The Matrix"; those are only in TRON and Tron Legacy.

    7) Tron has NO robot battle Mechs! or Squid-like robots ffs.

    8)  Tron doesn't have a green tint to everything, no real world cars, motorcycles, or helicopters.

    Seriously SOME people need to smarten up and stop ignorantly saying "looks like The Matrix". There is NO rule that days "all dark cyber punk looks like 'The Matrix' ".  

     It's extremely erroneous to claim Tron Legacy is "like/looks like 'The Matrix' "  when it's an extrapolation and evolution of Syd Mead's own early Tron concept designs and the new art design was done by excellent design-artists  Daniel Simon and Neville Page and to insinuate the their work which shapes the look, feel, vibe and atmosphere of Tron Legacy, that it "looks like The Matrix" is an insult to their all there magnificant work.

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