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Tron: Legacy / Tron: The Original Classic

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG // April 5, 2011 // Region 0
List Price: $79.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 1, 2011 | E-mail the Author
"On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy."

Sure, it's a sprawling software corporation now, but ENCOM got its start with kids plunking rolls of quarters into arcade games like "Space Paranoids". Heck, even the Master Control Program that lords over ENCOM's network of mainframes
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used to be a chess program. All of its biggest games were quietly coded by an impossibly brilliant programmer by the name of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) just for kicks in his off-hours. His mostly useless coworker Ed Dillinger (David Warner) weaseled his way into the system and swiped all of Flynn's games, showing 'em off to ENCOM's board and gobbling up all the credit for himself. Dillinger scored a corner office and a chief executive title; Flynn, meanwhile, was handed a pink slip. Somewhere in ENCOM's mainframe, there has to be proof who the giant mind behind "Space Paranoids" really is. Even with as devious a hacker as Flynn can be, ENCOM's Master Control Program always manages to swoop in before he can track down that one critical file. It's not a lost cause, though; Flynn has friends -- kind of? -- in high places. He convinces a couple of his old coworkers (played by Bruce Boxleitner and Cindy Morgan) to help him sneak into the system directly.

Flynn desperately wanted to get inside ENCOM's mainframe, but...well, he didn't think he'd actually get inside the computer. A laser disassembles every molecule of his body and digitally transports Flynn inside The Grid: a world where programs are humanoid and seemingly sentient...where the Users in the outside world are deified with religious fervor...where the Master Control Program mercilessly lords over all. Programs that don't march in lockstep with Master Control's mandates are forced to fight to the death deresolution in gladiatorial the games that Flynn himself had coded! The stakes are higher than Flynn simply finding a way back home; Master Control sneers at humans as inherently flawed and believes a construct as wholly perfect as itself should be governing the world at large. If Flynn doesn't make his way to an Input/Power tower and fast, the free will of billions could be snuffed out.

Tron was on the bleeding edge in 1982. After all, this was an era when the concept of computers being a mainstay in every household seemed like something out of a dimestore sci-fi novel. The Internet was in
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its infancy and all but unknown outside of universities, research facilities, and the government. 3D computer graphics at that point were almost entirely limited to crude geometric shapes in technical demos, rarely and even then only briefly used in feature films. Some of the technical jargon that's tossed around throughout the movie may have seemed impenetrable in 1982 but are part of everyday conversation these days. Artificial intelligence...hacking...cyber-assaults...laser scans...virtual avatars...even the concept of some sort of purely digital existence aren't exactly science fiction anymore. There's certainly a part of me that marvels at how ahead of its time Tron is in so many ways, but that seems kind of academic at the end of the day. No, it's that childlike sense of awe and wonder that Tron still brings out in me all these decades later that reels me in.

Three decades after the fact, the seams in the rotoscoping certainly show, and its CG effects look archaic now, but that really doesn't matter. Tron is propelled by such a strong visual language that it transcends its limitations and is still startling all these years later. The Grid is a world that's truly unique and alien in a way that I've rarely seen captured on film. I'm so used to sci-fi transporting me to barren deserts, lush forests, and snowy wastelands, but these are just heightened versions of things I've seen time and again in real life. I've never witnessed anything approaching The Grid. Its sense of design more than holds up all these years later. Its pervasive neon circuitry has become iconic for a reason, and so many of the control systems and other elements that Flynn and the Programs around him interact with still look incredible. Its visual language is so well-defined that The Grid comes across as a single, cohesive world, despite the greatly varying techniques used to flesh out different sequences, not all of which involve CGI.

One of the things that really struck me when revisiting Tron is that as much of a technological spectacle as it is, the core of the movie feels like it has more in common with Errol Flynn than ILM. The skeleton of its story is very much along those lines: Kevin Flynn is the plucky outsider who rallies the oppressed masses, Dillinger's avatar is practically the Sheriff of Nottingham serving under Master Control's malevolent Prince John, the band of
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upstarts storms a digital castle, and...heck, there's even a beautiful princess for good measure. Even some of the action seems like something straight out of a swashbuckler, complete with battles with lances and tumbles from dizzying heights. The faces of the Programs inside The Grid are grainy and desaturated, adding that much more of a classic film look, and the performances inside the computer are as big and theatrical as a silent swashbuckler. Tron isn't a cold, technical exercise; it's fun.

Even with as massive and rabid a fanbase as Tron has built up over the years, this is a movie that certainly has its share of critics. The complaint that's lobbed at Tron more than anything else is that it's boring. I don't agree with that, but watching it again for the first time in many years, there admittedly isn't nearly as much action in it as I remembered. What's here is really effective -- the lightcycle race and the disc duel in particular -- but an unrelenting adrenaline rush it's not. It's just that Tron is science fiction, not an action movie with a few sci-fi trappings. The dialogue can be kind of hokey, and I can see why the bug-eyed overemoting might come across as cheesy even though that's all part of the fun to me. Honestly, I love how much personality beams out of the cast, and I don't think Tron would've worked nearly as well with anyone else on the bill. (...and just to be shallow, how jaw-droppingly gorgeous is Cindy Morgan? Millions and millions of dollars on Tron's visual effects, and she's still the best-looking thing in it.) There really isn't anything particularly memorable about the story, and even with as many hours and hours of extras as there are on this Blu-ray disc, I guess it's telling that no one really bothers to talk about that at all. There are some definite sociopolitical and religious undertones to it, but those don't amount to all that much at the end of the day. Still, I look at the plot as appealingly simple in a classic way; your mileage may vary.

As far as classic sci-fi goes, I wouldn't rank Tron in the same league as Star Wars or Forbidden Planet, no, but this is still a movie I've loved for decades now, and I'm really impressed by how well it continues to hold up all these years later. Especially with as gorgeous as the film looks in high definition, Tron is very much worth revisiting on Blu-ray.

Tron: Legacy
"You're messin' with my Zen thing, man."

I'm sure I'm not giving all that much away when I say that Kevin Flynn wasn't still trapped inside an ENCOM mainframe when the end credits rolled on Tron. No, Flynn not only escaped but was handed the reins to the corporation afterwards. Over the next few years, Flynn had it all: a devoted wife, a cute kid, who knows how many millions of dollars in the bank, and the resources to bring to fruition his most ambitious
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visions. At the same time, the allure of The Grid never really faded. Flynn dreamed that his technology and software someday may make the world a better place, but that sort of change was slow in coming; in The Grid, he could realize perfection instantly. More and more of his time was spent inside this new digital realm he'd secretly created, and one day in 1989, he stopped coming back. Flynn's sudden disappearance caught everyone off-guard: what was left of his family, the suits at ENCOM, and untold legions who looked at Flynn as the gateway to a brighter tomorrow. Flash forward twenty years. ENCOM is now a cold, heartless corporate behemoth. Flynn's son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is a bitter and detached college dropout, worth a fortune but content to while away his time in a rusted garage, poking his head out only long enough to torment ENCOM's board of directors with his annual pranks. A vocal cult still chants "Flynn lives!", but in the two full decades that have passed, no sign whatsoever of Kevin Flynn has surfaced.

...and then Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) notices that his old pager has started to buzz. He recognizes the number too: the call's coming from a line in Flynn's Arcade that's been disconnected for decades. Sam pokes around, half out of boredom and half out of eye-rolling obligation, and underneath the cobwebs and inches of dust, he stumbles upon his father's secret lab. The mainframe is still whirring away, and as Sam starts taking a look at the last few commands that were punched in, he quickly discovers that the laser disassembler behind him is still up and running too...

The technology driving this version of The Grid may be worlds removed from what Kevin Flynn had first encountered in 1982, but the song otherwise remains the same. The Grid continues to be ruled with an iron fist. Programs that deviate from these laws are still forced into gladiatorial games to the death. All contact with the outside world was severed decades ago, and The Grid has evolved in the many years since in total isolation. Like his father before him, Sam is almost immediately thrust into a fight for survival in the arena, and...well, also like his father before him, Sam isn't in it alone. Not being locked into the same predictable routines as the Programs attacking him helps Sam dominate the competition, but when the odds are stacked impossibly against him, Quorra (Olivia Wilde) swoops in to pull him out of the fire. She spirits him away to a sanctuary far out of the reach of The Grid's current master, and Sam learns precisely what happened to his father all those many years ago. It's soon revealed that there is a gateway back to the real world, but the door is closing, and any attempt by Sam to escape could allow an army of malevolent Programs to storm into our reality.

Tron was produced when computer-generated imagery was first starting to truly take shape, and with as ambitious as the movie was, more than a couple of compromises had to be made to work around the limitations of the technology at the time. Tron: Legacy, on the other hand, is the product of an era where anything is possible with CGI, given enough time and money. With a
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staggering $170 million budget and several years devoted to developing its visuals, Tron: Legacy has no shortage of both. Like a lot of sequels, Tron: Legacy has that "like the original, only more" mentality. All of the most memorable moments from the original movie -- the lightcycle chase, the dueling discs, the Recognizers in flight, and even the solar sailer -- are all recreated here on a scale that Tron creator Steven Lisberger never could've dreamt of thirty years ago. The backlit animation in the first Tron required the massive 65mm camera to be bolted to the floor and entirely static for many of the shots in The Grid; Legacy's camerawork, meanwhile, is exceptionally fluid. The brief spurts of action from Tron are greatly expanded on in the sequel, with a scope, intensity, and acrobatic flair that eclipse what we'd seen in years past. Why settle for three lightcycles when you can have a dozen? If the audience has gotten used to lightcycles anyway, why not throw in an ATV to steamroll over everything in its path? Legacy even adds in lightjets and an aerial dogfight when the climax rolls around. The action sequences straight across the board are phenomenal. They're intense, they're creative, they're exceptionally well-staged, and...well, they're completely coherent too, and that last one is more than I can say for a lot of movies anymore.

The visuals are consistently astonishing as well. Director Joseph Kosinski comes from a background in architecture, and perhaps that's why the sense of design throughout Tron: Legacy is so incredible. The Programs throughout the original Tron generally floated above the backgrounds and computer-generated environments -- they didn't seem to be physically connected to the world around them. The production design of Tron: Legacy is more tactile. It's a difficult balancing act, to be sure, but I felt as if I could better escape into Legacy since its characters feel as if they're a part of their surroundings, and the production design still looks wonderfully strange and otherworldly. Even with as much as its aesthetic has been polished to a gleaming sheen in the sequel, the integration of strips of light into seemingly everything ensures that the design is still distinctly Tron. This is a movie where I can just drink in its sights -- a visual spectacle of the highest order. Daft Punk injecting their trademark cyberfunk into the soundtrack ensures that Tron: Legacy sounds as amazing as it looks too.

The downside is...well, just about everything else. Tron only had as much of a story as it needed to string its ambitious visuals together. Its screenplay was there to serve the backlit animation and CGI, not the other way around. Tron: Legacy doesn't seem to understand this, becoming too distracted by the mythology of the original movie and setting out to explore it in excruciatingly complete detail. It lacks that sense of forward momentum that the first Tron has. Time and again, Legacy stops dead in its tracks so its characters can stand around and talk. It repeatedly gets bogged down by reams of
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exposition, explanations, and flashbacks. I completely understand and appreciate the drive to not settle for an empty effects spectacle, but Tron: Legacy is determined to flesh out the least interesting aspects of this world. The original Tron has its darker and more intense moments, sure, but it still feels so infectiously fun to me. Tron: Legacy takes itself much too seriously -- too stone-faced, dour, and joyless. The pacing is wildly uneven too, and I can't help but think twenty minutes probably should've been gutted out of this lumbering behemoth.

The two brightest spots in the cast are Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen. Wilde is, as ever, impossibly gorgeous, and she gets to sink her teeth into one of the less conventional characters in the movie. Quorra isn't some helpless damsel in distress. She isn't a smirking, one-liner-spouting ass-kicker. She isn't just some standard issue love interest to put a pretty face on the poster. Quorra is intelligent, a fierce fighter who still radiates a youthful innocence, and has a wide-eyed fascination with a world she knows exists but has never had any hope of seeing. She's the only character in the movie that doesn't fit neatly into an off-the-shelf genre cliché. Michael Sheen goes completely off the rails channeling his inner Ziggy Stardust, and his complete lack of restraint jabs a syringe of adrenaline straight into the heart of Tron: Legacy. Sheen and Wilde are two of the only actors on the bill who seem like they actually want to be there, and I'm sure that's why they're such a blast to watch. Garrett Hedlund, on the other hand, is completely inert in the lead, hailing from that Sam Worthington class of good-looking, physically-capable actors with no screen presence whatsoever. Maybe that's unfair seeing as how Hedlund really isn't given much of a character to work with here -- just a gravelly-voiced, angry, angsty kid -- but the central role of a $170 million blockbuster really shouldn't be this forgettable.

Jeff Bridges pulls double duty as the megalomaniacal Clu2 and as a sixty-something-year-old Kevin Flynn, and both fall flat. Clu is a limp and generic badnik, and he's less menacing than the Master Control Program from the first movie. In Tron, an artificial intelligence arrived at the conclusion that it was a perfect intelligence and is better suited to oversee the world at large than the imperfect humans that were holding the reins. That's a threat: a computer program scheming to overtake the networks of computers that govern the identities and controls of an entire civilization. In Tron: Legacy, Clu is a
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moustache-twirling black hat who wants to sail his giant spaceship and his massive army into our reality because...I don't know, because. Legacy does a lousy job setting up the stakes. Even though it's Jeff Bridges' performance that powers Clu, his face has been motion-captured and recreated in the computer to de-age him twenty years. The end result falls into that Uncanny Valley of looking not quite human enough, and the artificiality of it all is pretty distracting. As far as Kevin Flynn goes, it seems as if Bridges forgot what the character was like, so he went for Jeff-Lebowski-bought-a-book-about-Buddhism-at-Borders instead. The name and actor behind him are just about all these two Kevin Flynns have in common between Tron and Legacy, going from Luke Skywalker to a stoner-zen Obi Wan, I guess. Everything that made Bridges such an engaging presence in the first movie has been drained away.

For anyone who's curious, the actual character of Tron is barely in Legacy, hiding behind a mask for the entire movie and even going by a different name for a sizeable chunk of it. Tron has something resembling a character arc, although almost every last trace of it takes place off-camera. Was that in the script or lazily thrown together during reshoots or something? The emotional core of Tron: Legacy is the bond between a son and the father he barely knew, but that doesn't resonate even a little bit. Then again, not much does. Don't get me wrong, though: all in all, Tron: Legacy is okay. The screenplay is a couple hundred pages of missed opportunities, and the movie as a whole is too awkwardly paced and ponderous -- right, right, we've been through all that -- but first-rate action, a tremendous visual sense, and...okay, Olivia Wilde buoy Legacy enough for it to still be worth seeing. I'd probably like the movie more if I weren't reviewing it -- and definitely more if I hadn't watched the original Tron immediately beforehand -- since I could just lean back on my couch and immerse myself in its sights and sounds. I just wish I wouldn't have to pull out that sort of switch-your-brain-off cliché and could give Tron: Legacy more than the marginal recommendation it deserves.

Tron: Repackaging
Tron and Tron: Legacy are being released in a slew of different configurations:
  1. Tron - The Original Classic: A two-disc set that features this high-definition remaster of the 1982 film as well as a DVD of the movie
  2. Tron: Legacy - 2-Disc Combo: Same idea, different movie: Legacy on both Blu-ray and DVD in the same package
  3. Tron: Legacy - 4-Disc Combo: The sequel in pretty much every format you could name: Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD, and even a digital copy for good measure
  4. Tron: Legacy and Tron - 5-Disc Combo: The same as the 4-disc combo only with a BD of the original Tron as well, all packaged with a lenticular animated slipcover; this set is what I'm reviewing here, for anyone keeping track at home
  5. Tron: Legacy and Tron - 5-Disc Combo in Identity Disc Packaging: All five discs -- again, four for Legacy; one for Tron -- are stacked inside an Identity Disc that lights up when holding down a button. The Identity Disc comes with a display stand as well.
I guess what I'm saying is that you have options. It might be worth nosing around and seeing what deals you can find by combining them, though. For instance, at least as I write this, it's actually cheaper to get the four-disc Tron: Legacy set and the two-disc combo of Tron at Target than the regular five-disc combo. Go figure.

My fellow conscripts!...we have scored. This Blu-ray release of the original Tron looks phenomenal. Its live-action sequences were shot on 65mm, and particularly in the framing scenes outside of The Grid, there are plenty of moments in this thirty year old film that look like cameras were rolling last Thursday. Case in point...?

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The original Tron almost has to be reviewed as two separate movies. The segments in the real world hold up the best just because they're so pure and untouched. Its colors are consistently robust. I'm floored by just how crisp and detailed the photography is; the fashions and computer terminals scattered around Tron date it, sure, but otherwise, the sequences on this side of the screen look sparklingly new. The imagery inside The Grid looks terrific as well, although the nature of the extensive effects work means they're generations removed from the segments in the real world. Since Tron really does grab hold of live-action elements and animate them -- breaking the image into as many as thirty different layers and photographing them all again -- there's enough generation loss for detail to take somewhat of a hit. The image is still remarkably crisp throughout the backlit animated scenes, though, and the level of detail eclipses anything I'd expect DVD to be able to deliver. Film grain is more pronounced inside The Grid, and it's appreciated that Disney didn't go nuts with noise reduction to artificially smoothen all that out. The purely CG sequences are obviously limited by the technology available thirty years ago, but those only make up a portion of the scenes in The Grid anyway.

If I were reviewing Tron on its own, I'd have to rate this high definition remaster at least four and a half stars, if not a perfect five. Its AVC encode is given enough headroom to creep onto the second layer of this BD-50 disc, leaving plenty of room for its many hours of extras. The image is letterboxed to the somewhat unconventional aspect ratio of 2.20:1.

Even though the set that washed up in my mailbox includes a 3D version of Tron: Legacy, I have to admit that I don't have the hardware to take advantage. (Sorry, it'll take something pretty incredible to get me to give up my Kuro.) This isn't the hokey red/blue or red/green anaglyph 3D, of course; you'll need a 3D-capable television, active shutter glasses, and all that fun stuff. This is also a natively 3D production, so it's not a lazy upconvert the way a lot of studios are going these days. I missed out on catching Legacy in 3D theatrically, but by a lot of the accounts I've read, the 3D effects are often pretty subtle, and they apparently don't kick in until Sam is zapped into The Grid. If you're holding out for a whiz-bang tech demo for your shiny new 3DTV, I'm not sure if Tron: Legacy is the best place to start.

...although if you want to show off what your 2D set can do, Legacy would rank pretty high up there. The digital photography is dazzlingly crisp and clear, so richly detailed that I felt as if I could even make out the texture of the stage makeup. Because of the quantum leaps in technology over the past thirty years, there isn't any gulf in quality between the sequences in our world and in Flynn's mainframe. I'll admit to being a little let down by the palette, although that's very clearly a deliberate aesthetic choice. The dusty browns that dominate Legacy's first half hour make way for a cold, frigid teal inside The Grid. Outside of the cyber-badniks' orange stripes and a few drips of Sam's blood, there really aren't any other traces of color: teal, white, and black are essentially it. I did settle into the look pretty quickly, though, and that's more than I can say for a lot of genre movies that drench the screen in a single color. As long as you can deal with the nearly monochromatic visuals, Tron: Legacy looks incredible on Blu-ray, greatly heightening the visual spectacle of it all.

If you want to get a sense of how vastly improved detail and definition are over the DVD release, I snapped a couple of comparison shots:
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The aspect ratio of Tron: Legacy varies, depending on the scene. The bulk of the film is presented at 2.35:1, while the most mammoth effects sequences are opened up to 1.78:1 to come at least a little closer to replicating the IMAX experience. Because there's so much black in the background anyway, the transition between aspect ratios really isn't jarring at all. Like the original Tron, the AVC encode for Legacy spans both layers of this BD-50 disc.

Both Tron and Tron: Legacy are bolstered by lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, with the original film remixed to 5.1 and the sequel belting out eight thunderous channels of sound.

In the
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same way that so many scenes in the first act of Tron look like they could've been filmed a month and a half ago, its audio sounds remarkably polished and new as well. Inside The Grid, synthy bloops attack from every direction. Lightcycles, cars, and aircraft overhead all pan smoothly from one channel to the next. The deadly discs also ping-pong across every available speaker, and the mix even takes care to ensure that there's a strong sense of directionality to the dialogue. Bass response is more robust than I'd expect as well, and there's frequently a throbbing, low-frequency hum inside The Grid. I'm really impressed by how clean and clear Tron's dialogue is, not sounding nearly as dated as I was expecting it to be, and the rendering of the score is perfect. There's one scene with Alan in the laser bay where the reverb to his dialogue sounds really artificial, and there are a few chaotic stretches where a few lines are a little too low in the mix for my taste, but those are fairly minor gripes overall. This is in the running as the best sounding Blu-ray disc to date of any film hailing from the 1980s.

As you'd probably expect, the lossless, 24-bit, 7.1 audio on Tron: Legacy easily gets the nod as reference quality. The low-end in particular snarls with intensity, from the aggressive crowd stomping at the gladiatorial games to the thud of staffs against the ground as Clu2 rallies his troops. The surrounds flesh out a remarkable sense of immersion, with the lightcycle chase in particular standing strong as one of the most exceptionally designed action sequences I've heard in quite a long time. Tron: Legacy's dialogue is flawlessly balanced in the mix, and there aren't really words to describe how effective Daft Punk's score is.

The original Tron features a barrage of other audio options too, including Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Subtitles are offered in English (traditional and SDH), French, Spanish, and Portuguese as well. Tron: Legacy serves up Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in French and Spanish, a lossy stereo downmix in English, and a descriptive video service track. Its selection of subtitle streams is a little less extensive, limited to English (SDH), French, and Spanish.

  • The Tron Phenomenon (10 min.; HD): Most of the extras on Tron are carried over from previous releases, but there are a couple of new additions, beginning with this retrospective. It skews promotional, admittedly, heavy on the cast of Tron: Legacy gushing about how forward-thinking and wildly influential the original film is. It's a decent introduction to some of the main talking points -- backlit animation, the public perception of computers at the dawn of the 1980s, the early use of computer-generated imagery -- but it's pretty cursory. Everything touched on here is explored in much greater detail elsewhere on the disc, and this just feels like an excuse for a "See Tron: Legacy -- in theaters now!" sort of plug.

  • Photo Tronology (17 min.; HD): In
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    Tron's other newly-produced extra, writer/director Steven Lisberger takes Disney up on an invitation to visit their archives. The appeal really isn't in what he uncovers in all those binders of photos and film strips; it's about Lisberger connecting with his son who tags along for the trip -- a son who's now the same age that Lisberger was when he first stepped onto the set of Tron -- and the conversations this trip sparks. Even with as many hours of other extras as there are on this Blu-ray disc, some of these stories aren't covered anywhere else, such as how Tron was such a power hog that the shoot blew every fuse in Burbank. This is a really terrific extra, and I appreciate the fact that it feels so unique.

  • The Making of Tron (88 min.; SD): This documentary from 2002 on the making of Tron runs nearly as long as the film itself, and needless to say, it's exceptionally comprehensive. One thing that really shines through is how impossible it is that a movie like Tron even exists: experimental animators dreaming up expensive, ambitious, and time-consuming visuals that had never been executed on anything approaching this scale...partnering with a studio like Disney that was near its lowest point and wasn't seen as much of a risk-taker...its premise oriented around computers in an era when having a PC in every home seemed like a pipe dream. It's also mentioned how difficult a movie Tron was to cast since the story and the studio behind it scared off a lot of potential actors.

    There's something very...human about "The Making of Tron". The emphasis isn't blindly placed on the nuts and bolts of the visuals, instead balanced effectively with the effort and manpower required to realize them. A lot of retrospectives treat the studio as some kind of amorphous entity, but this documentary highlights the people behind Disney and why they had the strong reactions they did for and against various aspects of Tron. It's just bursting with personality overall, littered with wonderful stories about the casts' reaction to their skintight jumpsuits, some of the hiccups working with Korean animators who were a little too overeager to pack their work, and the ridiculousness of Tron's visual effects being scoffed at by the Academy since at the time the use of computers had to be considered cheating. There's something pretty intriguing too about seeing concept art for Tron 2.0, a very different project than what Tron: Legacy would prove to be.

  • Audio Commentary: This discussion with writer/director Steven Lisberger, producer Donald Kushner, associate producer/visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw, and visual effects supervisor Richard Taylor has been ported over from Disney's 1995 Laserdisc. As you could probably guess from the fact that half the participants have "visual effects" next to their names, this is an intensely technical commentary: how the 3D animation impacted storyboarding, color-processing the computer-generated imagery, how the backlit animation was pulled off with 600,000 cels that filled ten industrial-size trailers, and the staggering number of visual effects shots in the finished film. Even when not tackled on a purely technical front, the look of Tron understandably remains the dominant topic of conversation. Among the other highlights are some very surprising choices for actors that were considered for key roles and notes about where the names of these characters and corporations originated. Though this track is less essential than the feature-length documentary, I enjoyed it enough that it's still very much worth a listen.

  • Deleted Scenes (6 min.; SD): Steven Lisberger explains why a 'love scene' and its aftermath wound up being snipped out of Tron, prompting some pretty heated debates behind the scenes. These scenes were cut out so late in the game that they're fully scored and have all of their extensive visual effects work in place. The first -- a conversation with Tron in Yori's apartment that's much tamer than the 'love scene' title suggests -- would've stood out as one of the most visually memorable sequences in the movie if it had been left in, even. It clocks in just shy of two minutes in length, and the aftermath, the audio for which is gone, runs right at 45 seconds. The expository text from later issues of Tron is also included in this section. Disappointingly, none of this footage has been retransferred in high definition.

  • Development (8 min.; SD): Most of the extras carried
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    over from earlier releases of Tron are grouped into a few different headings, the first of which delves into developing the movie's visuals. Early effects tests on both VistaVision and anamorphic 35mm film have been unearthed, and the same goes for a thirty second TV spot for a radio station that featured a very early incarnation of Tron. A four and a half minute excerpt from a 1982 documentary offers up a sneak preview of Tron and touches on how groundbreaking its visuals are, and a second featurette further explores how the look of the film took shape.

  • Digital Imagery (12 min.; SD): The micro-featurettes here take a look at just how manual a process the backlit animation throughout Tron really was, the hurdles in melding together computer animation from several different companies that each had their own profoundly different techniques, and some of the software innovations that had to be developed expressly for the film. The two computer animation studios that did the bulk of the heavy lifting on Tron get some additional facetime, including a peek at some of their other early work.

  • Music (8 min.; SD): The lightcycle chase in the final cut of Tron is aurally driven by dialogue and sound effects, but it was fully scored at one point. That scene is presented here with Wendy Carlos' original score, as is an alternate version of the end credits with more of Carlos' music.

  • Publicity (13 min.; SD): The publicity section includes the promotional reel that was used to pique the interest of theater owners at NATO while also serving as a trial for its ambitious visual effects work. Also of interest is a minute and a half long mock-trailer using the still-in-progress footage the Tron crew had handy, including black-and-white production footage and early CG tests. Finally, there are also four trailers.

  • Design (4 min.; SD): Following a brief introduction by Steven Lisberger, this section serves up animation tests of the lightcycles, Syd Mead discussing how the original concept for the lightcycle manifestation wasn't technologically feasible at the time, and two versions of the Recognizer bearing down in the "Space Paranoids" arcade game.

  • Storyboarding (9 min.; SD): Showcased here are Moebius' storyboards behind the Tron title shot, a storyboard-to-screen comparison from the lightcycle chase, a peek at storyboards for a couple of CG-driven sequences, and a runthrough how the production team communicated their vision to the computer techs.

  • Galleries: Tron's image gallery is endlessly sprawling, grouped into Design, Early Concept Art, Publicity and Production Photos, and Storyboard Art. Getting a final count is a little tricky because the images are grouped into "sheets", with up to four images per sheet. If there are fewer than 700 individual images spread across these, though, I'd be really surprised. The bulk of them are weighted towards design, in case anyone's curious. There isn't a way I could find to view a single picture at full-size -- the screen is always shared with the other images on the same sheet -- but maybe with the sheer volume of photos and artwork, Disney felt that'd be too overwhelming. They've certainly gone to impressive lengths to make these image galleries as navigable as possible. Viewers can rate each sheet of images and mark certain pages as their favorites for easy access. It looks like there's even a search interface of some sort.

Tron: Legacy
Considering the staggering size and scale of this movie, I'm kind of surprised there aren't more extras here. At least what's offered is generally pretty great.
  • Second Screen: If you're game for watching a movie with your laptop or iPad handy, Disney has a shiny new feature to show off. After downloading the app and syncing it with the movie -- which is done over the network, not just pressing a couple of buttons at the same time -- you can take a peek at conceptual art, rotate 3D models around in real-time, and check out progression reels of the extensive visual effects work at key points. I don't have a tablet, and my desktop PC is on the complete opposite end of my house, so I've gotta admit that I didn't really give this one a try. I personally dislike futzing with things while watching a movie, but I can see the appeal, and I think this makes more sense than having a little window in the corner of the screen.

  • The Next Day: Flynn Revealed (HD): There aren't any deleted scenes in the usual sense, no, but Tron: Legacy does feature a new sequence shot exclusively for this Blu-ray disc. It serves two purposes, really. One, it further explores what had happened to ENCOM in the years since Kevin Flynn vanished off the face of the earth. As the title suggests, it also picks up where Legacy leaves off, hinting at what one character's next move might be. All of this is framed around the "Flynn Lives!" movement along with a pretty surprising reveal for fans of the original Tron. After this footage draws to a close, a high score screen on an arcade game pops up. Punching in "ALL" as the initials unlocks two more clips that tie Legacy even more tightly to the first film.

  • Launching the Legacy (10 min.; HD): The first
    [click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
    of the disc's featurettes takes a look at how Tron: Legacy got off the ground, complete with storyboards, test footage, hammering out a screenplay that draws deeply from the mythology established in the first movie, and roundtable discussions with several different flavors of scientists and philosophers. The standout is the inclusion of the full presentation trailer that debuted at Comic Con a couple years back and ultimately got Tron: Legacy its greenlight.

  • Visualizing Tron (12 min.; HD): Every facet of Tron: Legacy's ambitious visual style is explored here, including the geography of The Grid, the emphasis on light elements that Tron and its sequel share in common, costume design in a world devoid of buttons and zippers, and the drive to have as much of this realm be tactile rather than rendered purely in the computer. Among the other highlights are the construction of the elaborate suits, the 3D photography, the digital recreation of a young Jeff Bridges, and even tours of a few key sets.

  • Installing the Cast (12 min.; HD): This is a decent but routine casting featurette, running through each of the most prominently featured actors and the particular demands of their roles.

  • Disc Roars (3 min.; HD): Why settle for simulating a crowd scene for Legacy's gladiatorial games? During the Tron: Legacy panel at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con, Joseph Kosinski directed 6,500 fans in Hall H to chant, stomp, and cheer. I was part of that horde too, so I guess I get to say I'm in a $170 million Disney blockbuster. Whee!

  • First Look at Tron: Uprising (1 min.; HD): There's also a 75 second preview of the upcoming Disney XD animated series, Tron: Uprising.

  • Music Video (3 min.; HD): Last up is a video for Daft Punk's "Derezzed" which draws more deeply from the iconic imagery of the original Tron rather than this sequel.

The Final Word
Nostalgia might have more than a little bit to do with it, sure, but I had a blast revisiting the original Tron on Blu-ray. Really, I think I may have enjoyed it too much, and the jarring transition from that sort of wide-eyed fun to the slower, talkier, and ponderously serious Tron: Legacy made this review kind of a drag to write. Tron: Legacy makes the same missteps a lot of sequels do, heaping on more of everything but it all somehow adding up to less than the movie that inspired it. The funny thing is that I think I'm looking at this Blu-ray set backwards. Four of its five discs are devoted to Tron: Legacy with only the fifth for the original Tron. Still, I look at this as a Blu-ray release of Tron with Legacy tacked on as an added bonus. If you wind up with that kind of mindset, this five-disc collection is absolutely worth seeking out. On their own, I'd rate Tron as Highly Recommended with Legacy falling anywhere between Rent It and hesitantly Recommended. Since the original Tron is such a polarizing movie and the sequel has been getting even more mixed reviews, you might be better off renting each film first before shelling out for a purchase.

A Few Leftover Screengrabs...
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