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'Tron' tries to build a stronger legacy

September 30, 2010 | 10:00 am

When "Tron" came out 28 years ago, it was hailed as a visual spectacle and a technological marvel, but was written off on storytelling and entertainment grounds.

Disney wants to make sure that doesn't happen again.

In a presentation on the studio's lot Wednesday afternoon, "Tron: Legacy" director Joseph Kosinski showed more than 20 minutes of footage from the alternate-reality adventure that's being released Dec. 17, a straight-up sequel to the flash-heavy original.

In the new film, Jeff Bridges reprises his role as computer programmer Kevin Flynn, who disappeared into a virtual universe back in 1982. The movie treats real time and cinema time as the same, and now, his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) has slipped into that world to find him. (The film also offers the sight of a modern-day Bridges playing against his younger self; when we caught up with him at Comic-Con, Bridges said he starred in it because of that challenge, and because "it's a modern-day myth, and we need more of those.")

Disney is intent on broadening the movie's appeal beyond the sci-faithful, an impulse very much in evidence at Wednesday's presentation. In the pre-screening introduction, Kosinski made his case that the film would appeal to more than just a narrow band of fans. In a turn of phrase that could easily have been used to describe "The Social Network" or "Catfish," he said his film was really about "finding human connection in a digital world."

The scenes did show plenty of visual pizazz as Flynn the younger is thrust into a sleek world that has him dodging Tron's famous discs and engaging in light-streaked chases (you can see the trailer below). But the footage notably included a reunion scene, another indication the studio wants this story to be thought of as much for its emotional pleasures as its visceral ones.

Disney has a lot riding on the 3-D film (not yet rated), which features plenty of cost-intensive effects and goes outside the studio's sweet spot of tweens and children that turned films such as "Alice in Wonderland" into blockbusters.  ("Tron: Legacy" producer Sean Bailey is also now Disney's president of production, adding a layer of consequence.)

But even with the movie's populist ambitions, those involved in it say a philosophical aspect is unavoidable. "It's a story about what's authentic and what's inauthentic -- it asks the question 'Is technology going to get between me and my loved ones or is it going to help me get closer to them?'" Steven Lisberger, who wrote and directed the original and served as a producer on this one, told 24 Frames at Comic-Con.

Kosinski, meanwhile, told us that he thought the idea of "Tron" had more relevance than ever. "The notion that people have a digital alter ego is not something I think people understood in 1982," he said. "Now it's something we take for granted. The real world has caught up with 'Tron.'"

We'll see if audiences do too.

-- Steven Zeitchik



Preview review: Tron: Legacy

Comi-con 2010: Jeff Bridges returns for Tron: Legacy (both of him)

Photo: Tron: Legacy. Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Comments () | Archives (4)

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Um, excuse me but Steve Lisberger did not write TRON - Bonnie MacBird had the original idea and wrote it, perhaps with Lisberger's help? I believe he then took the script for himself and changed it. MacBird did her original research with computer scientist Alan Kay, who is now her husband. Lisberger ultimately is to blame for issues with storytelling on the first TRON - my understanding is that it was not the original story MacBird wrote.

And shame on the LA Times for not crediting MacBird in the story.

Now films don't have to have a story so this one should do well.

I can't believe these wonders of movie making reached this superb level of 3D
graphics and animation. After watching this trailer, I don't know if ever new movies in this caliber can ever be produced again!

I love the original Tron. I was there in the theaters when it opened in 1982 and I remember being blown away by the animation and yes, I even enjoyed the story.

I hope this is going to be a worthy sequel that will not ruin the nostalgia of the original. I still watch Tron whenever I get a chance. It's one of my top 10 all-time favorites.

I'm so glad they got Jeff and Bruce to reprise their roles. It wouldn't be the same with any other actors.


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