Tron: Legacy and Tron the Original Classic (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 16 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

It’s been nearly thirty years since we saw the original “Tron”, one of the earliest (if not the earliest) adaptations of a video game into a feature-length film. Granted that’s somewhat common practice today ranging from everything like “Mortal Kombat” to the recent “Resident Evil” films. However this wasn’t a proven commodity back in the early 80’s. Times have changed, as has the technology and even Jeff Bridges won a long-awaited Oscar for his work in “Crazy Heart.” Admittedly I don’t know the road that “Tron: Legacy” took to get to the screen, but the name alone does bring back echoes of my childhood. The game “Tron” was one of the wave of video games back in the early 80’s when people actually had to venture outside their house to go play them. Games like “Pac-Man”, “Space Invaders” and “Galaga” were all well-known but “Tron” got the nod for the movie. Still, that was then and this is now and we’ve got our coverage of the original movie here as well (included in the five disc set is a Blu-ray of the original).

Though it’s been nearly thirty years since the original “Tron”, the new film starts things off in 1989 and we see a digitally altered, younger Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and we know what happened to him. This story follows his son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) who’s the majority stock holder, yet still rebellious. He wants to give away the newest operating system, yet the board of directors will have no part in it. After receiving a mysterious clue, he ventures back to the same old arcade seen in the first film, crawls back behind the “Tron” machine and, *poof* he’s zapped into the same digital world that his father was in the first film. Obviously it’ll take some getting used to and after reuniting with his much older, he meets Quorra (Oliva Wilde), a book-savvy devotee of Kevin. Will Sam manage to do what his father couldn’t and escape the digital prison or will he suffer the same fate?

It was a big summer day in the year 1982. The family wanted to go out to a movie over the bridge in New Jersey. All were enthusiastic to see a big movie they heard about called “Poltergeist”. Although one 6 year old out of the bunch was one of the less enthusiastic ones. As luck would have it, they arrived to the theater in Woodbridge to find out they arrived 45 minutes late for their appointed flick. One window usher noted that a little movie called “Tron” had just started. The family went to go see that instead, setting a key moviegoing experience in that six year old’s memory for years to come that was only replicated by the last two Matrix movies.

Once upon a time, there lived two worlds. One being the computer world where battle tanks, recognizers and game grids were a common thing for programs in the machine playing video games for survival. These programs were controlled in the other world, the real world, by computer programmers commonly referred to as “users”. One such user is Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a video game designer who’s been desperately trying to hack his way into the computer world to find evidence of his missing files that resulted in his termination. Meanwhile, a fellow programmer named Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) has been setting up a security program called “Tron” that would help his company in the computer world. Thanks to Flynn’s hacking, Alan had been cut off before his program could even get started. After confronting Flynn, Alan and his girlfriend Lora (Cindy Morgan) set Flynn up to break into the system with alternate access. Little does he realize, that the Master Control Program is onto him and sucks Flynn into the computer world. While in this world, he forms an alliance with the Tron program to take down the MCP. Can a user and a program succeed before it’s too late?

Tron was a groundbreaking movie of computer animated effects combined with live action and backlit animation. The story is a little thin and it’s not the most hookable, but the visual look and exciting sequences with solar sailers, lightcycles, and disc battles along with the charming performance of Jeff Bridges keep this movie from becoming a disappointment. As Flynn, he will go to any grounds to get the evidence to prove that he designed all the games and almost sacrifices himself to a great extent in both worlds.

Bruce Boxleitner, as the title character, is good and brings himself to life once Flynn gets to the computer world. Cindy Morgan provides good support as both Lora in the real world, and Tron’s love interest Yori. It is David Warner, who steals the show as the nasty conglomerate Dillinger and the even more sinister computer world villain known as Sark.

The costumes combining the warrior look with backlit animation are unique and eye popping, although it did lose in 1982 at the Oscars to a little film called Gandhi. Despite all that, looking at it years later, it is still a satisfying visual ride that was the start of the computer revolution in visual effects and one not to be missed in the great movies of the 1980s.

Video: How does it look?

Tron: Legacy
Visually “Tron: Legacy” is second to none. As we might figure, the 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer looks amazing and with the majority of the film relying on CGI, the result is a very unique-looking appearance. The “live action” part of the film looks good with sharp detail, contrast and black levels on par and a very film-like look and feel to it. The movie really delivers when they enter the digital realm. Colors are bold and solid, black levels are impeccable and detail is stunning. Take, for example, when someone is “killed”, they shatter into a million pieces of digital debris. I felt like I could see each and every fragment of what remained of the person. This is one of those movies that you pretty much know what you’re going to get visually and it delivers.

The original “Tron” has also been included in this set and its initial release on Blu-ray does look impressive. Given the age of this film, the 2.20:1 AVC HD transfer does look impressive, but there’s a different look and feel to this movie as compared to its sequel. There are a lot of reds and blues that emit a glow of sorts and it gives the humans’ faces a very “neon” look and feel to them. The computer animated segments still look impressive and it’s a testament as to how far we’ve come, visually, in the past thirty years. The live action sequences look a bit dated, but with contrast and black levels on the mark, the transfer doesn’t show its age that much. Fans of the original “Tron” will be happy with how this looks.

Audio: How does it sound?

Tron: Legacy
Both versions of the film have been given new DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks with the newer movie sounding far superior to the original. “Tron: Legacy” sounds amazing in some parts, especially the opening battle in the digital world. Surrounds are very active, the LFE are very involved and every speaker seems like it has something to say. The entire feel of the movie seems to radiate something from every scene and I’d have to say that I was very impressed with how this sounded.

As for the original “Tron”, the previous DTS mix has been scaled up and the result isn’t as bad as we might think. The movie has never sounded bad, but pretty much anything in comparison to the new film will sound second rate. That said, the surrounds do get a workout, though the majority of the movie is dialogue. While the original doesn’t hold a candle to the sequel in regards to the audio, it does sound better than it ever has.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Tron: Legacy
Naturally we can’t have a five disc set without some supplements and we start out with “Tron: Legacy.” Starting off we get “First Look at ‘Tron: Uprising'” a Disney series which we get a brief promo for. “Visualsing Tron” that shows the visual elements of the film, how they created the “young” Jeff Bridges character, the design of the motorcycles (lightcycles) and all other aspects of the “digital world.” This is a great little piece and it gives you a glimpse into what it took to bring this to life (pardon the pun). “Installing the Cast” takes a look at the cast as they pat one another on the back. Moving onto the Blu-ray exclusives we get an extensive photo gallery as we look at some of the props from the original movie. “The Next Day: Flynn Lives Revealed” takes a look at the world when Flynn disappeared. We see the formation of the underground movement that subsequently happened. This one was interesting. “Launching the Legacy” shows the creation of the film from the get go and the trailer that premiered back at Comic Con in 2008. “Disc Roars” is an art imitates life segment as the crowd noise from Comic Con was recorded and used in the film itself. There’s a music video “Drezzed” by Daft Punk as well as Disney’s Second Screen in which you can use your iPad or laptop to sync to content at key times during the film.

Moving onto “Tron” it seems as the supplements from the original two disc standard DVD were ported over for this Blu-ray release. Since we’ve already covered that in our review, no sense in re-creating the wheel. All of these supplements appear in their original standard definition format. We begin with the commentary track with director Steven Lisberger, producer Donald Kushner, Harrison Ellenshaw and Richard Taylor. The four reflect on filming, some good anecdotes about the production with some laughs and not agreeing with some of the resulting decisions of the film and discussing some of the special effects and their origins along with an interesting tale of a famous actor that was almost cast in the film. A entertaining and informative track. There is more extras mostly from around the time the film was made in most sections such as the Digital Imagery section and in the Development section. They are not fluff pieces but are there for an interesting watch. One of my favorites in the Development section is the early Lisberger Studios Studio Animation. I do recall one of the rock radio stations in the NY area at the time using the same animations for an ad and it did bring back a memory or 2. Another thing about 1982 footage is the inside of the offices with the figurines and the Star Wars memorabilia.

In the Storyboarding area we are treated to some galleries and a storyboarding scene. Like most storyboarding sections on DVD, the scene is played audibly while the storyboards are shown in place of the scene. The Music section goes into 2 alternate scenes. One is the lightcycle race with an elaborate score that does a little but not a lot to the scene. The other one is the end credits which I prefer over their resulting choice (no disrespect to Journey, but it plays better leaving a theater than the song). The Design section has a present day intro, as does Storyboarding, and shows more designs in gallery form. There are 3 deleted scenes with an present day intro and no commentary. The first love scene could’ve had a place in the final cut but the other 2 are good separate additions but one viewer can see why they were not in the final product. “The Making of Tron” is a brand new documentary chronicling the events of the filmmakers and the cast from development stage to the finished product and looking back in retrospect today their feeling towards the movie and beyond. It’s a great watch and some great comments are given by all, especially Jeff Bridges when speaking about his costume. Finally, in the publicity section, we are treated to 4 trailers, a 5 minute NATO reel and a work in progress trailer along with more photo galleries.

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