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Tron & Tron: Legacy Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray 2D + DVD + Digital Copy 5-Disc 2-Movie Collection Review

Tron (1982) movie poster Tron

Theatrical Release: July 9, 1982 / Running Time: 96 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Steven Lisberger / Writers: Steven Lisberger (story & screenplay), Bonnie MacBird (story)

Original Songs: Journey - "Only Solutions", Journey - "1990's Theme"

Cast: Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn/Clu), Bruce Boxleitner (Alan Bradley/Tron), David Warner (Ed Dillinger/Sark/voice of MCP), Cindy Morgan (Lora/Yori), Barnard Hughes (Dr. Walter Gibbs/Dumont), Dan Shor (Ram), Peter Jurasik (Crom), Tony Stephano (Peter/Sark's Lieutenant), Craig Chudy (Warrior #1), Vince Deadrick (Warrior #2), Sam Schatz (Expert Disc Warrior), Jackson Bostwick (Head Guard), Dave Cass (Factory Guard)
Tron: Legacy (2010) movie poster Tron: Legacy

Theatrical Release: December 17, 2010 / Running Time: 125 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Joseph Kosinski / Writers: Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz (story & screenplay); Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal (story); Steven Lisberger, Bonnie MacBird (characters)

Featured Songs: Journey - "Separate Ways", Eurythmics - "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"

Cast: Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn/Clu), Garrett Hedlund (Sam Flynn), Olivia Wilde (Quorra), Bruce Boxleitner (Alan Bradley/Tron), James Frain (Jarvis), Beau Garrett (Gem), Michael Sheen (Castor/Zuse), Anis Cheurfa (Rinzler), Daft Punk (Masked DJs), Cillian Murphy (Edward Dillinger - uncredited)

Buy Tron & Tron Legacy from Amazon.com: 5-Disc 2-Movie Collection / Limited Edition Collection with Identity Disc
Buy just Tron: Legacy: DVD / Blu-ray + DVD / Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray 2D + DVD + Digital Copy
Buy just the original Tron: New 2-Disc SE DVD / Blu-ray + DVD / 2-Disc 20th Anniversary CE DVD

The Walt Disney Studios have never been as daring and adventurous as they were in the early 1980s. At no other time would they have made an original film like Tron, employing the language of geeks and a sparse canvas of primitive computer graphics.

For nearly its entirety, Tron is set inside the world of software company ENCOM's computer system. Programs are personified in the likeness of their "users", i.e. their human creators,
wearing helmeted lightsuits and exploring a world where they must participate in dangerous games as dictated by the Master Control Program (MCP) and its enforcer Sark (both played by David Warner).

The film opens in this universe of little color, taking practically no effort to ease viewers in or establish stakes to care about. Before long, it takes a step back to do this, picking up greatly with its human content. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a programmer recently fired from ENCOM who now owns an arcade, is determined to hack into the company's mainframe and find evidence to prove that nasty executive Ed Dillinger (also Warner) stole his work and took the credit and royalties on what are now the hottest video games around. Seeking Flynn's assistance are two of his old co-workers, ex-girlfriend Lora (Caddyshack's Cindy Morgan) and her new beau Alan (Bruce Boxleitner), both of whom are frustrated by access-revoking Dillinger hindering their work.

Such real-world interaction is short-lived, as Flynn gets caught snooping around and is digitized into the computer system, where, disoriented, he assumes the properties of a program but retains his human identity too. Inside, he teams up with Tron and Yuri, the programs of Alan and Lori likewise played by Boxleitner and Morgan, in an effort to take down the MCP and free programs of its tyrannical reign.

Former co-workers and current acquaintances Alan (Bruce Boxleitner), Flynn (Jeff Bridges), and Lora (Cindy Morgan) break into ENCOM after dark in Disney's original 1982 "Tron." Computer world authority Sark (David Warner) hands out and explains an identity disc.

There is no denying that Tron is founded upon a hokey premise and half-baked plotting. Writer/director Steven Lisberger tries to mold the worlds of gaming and engineering into some epic parable of pursuing freedom in the face of oppression. It just doesn't work. Maybe the intricacies and jargon make perfect sense to Lisberger, but to the typical viewer who wasn't developing software thirty years ago, the leaden film plays like a routine adventure burdened throughout by the weight of meaningless exposition. It looks different from other films and the pioneering use of computer animation holds historical value, but as a piece of storytelling and entertainment, Tron is garbled and only rarely investable.

Released in the summer of 1982 four weeks after E.T., Tron grossed $33 million on a substantial $17 million budget (E.T., by comparison, cost $10.5 M). That modest performance was still the highlight of a slow year for Disney, which included only two small additional live-action movies (Matt Dillon's Tex and the hot air balloon drama Night Crossing) and unremarkable reissues of two animated favorites (Bambi and Peter Pan). Tron was no hit and certainly no industry-changer, but over time it has developed the reputation of a cult classic. For some children and young adults of the early '80s, it represents a visionary milestone. That generation is largely in power now, which might explain why 28 years later, the franchise-minded Disney of today released Tron: Legacy, a big budget tentpole sequel.

Whereas most studios time a fancy new DVD edition (and now Blu-ray as well) of an original film to the theatrical release of a sequel or remake, Disney chose to hold off reissuing Tron (which had been taken out of print in anticipation of the sequel years earlier) to stores. Rumors emerged over why the studio made it difficult for the public to visit or revisit the predecessor prior to Tron: Legacy's much publicized debut. One explanation which spread was that Disney didn't want the original Tron to turn moviegoers off from seeing the sequel. It's easy to lend credence to this theory, to which no official alternative was offered. After all, only those who saw Tron in a 1980s youth could view it as being anything but crude and dull. Visually striking it may be, but the film is dramatically lifeless and perhaps most notable as a serious adversary to insomnia.

Your reward for enduring "Tron": this soothing climactic blue light show.

A sequel to a 28-year-old film unfamiliar to much of the general public was a risky and curious project to spend over $200 million on between steep production and publicity costs. Tron: Legacy wouldn't have had much to live up to if not for that investment and what it was founded upon. Under the management of Robert Iger, the 21st century Disney is an enormous believer in branding. "Tron" was not a household presence, but the hope was that it could be. Utilizing the premium-priced formats of 3D and IMAX 3D, the sequel was only the central part of the plan; soundtracks, video games, toys, and an animated series were all developed in conjunction with the film for maximum impact. Disney's 2010 schedule was full of big films costing $150 million or more. Following Alice in Wonderland, Prince of Persia, Toy Story 3, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Tangled, Legacy was the culmination of the year's costly strategy.

The film opens in 1989, with Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) as ENCOM's CEO. A widowed father to a young son, Flynn disappears while in enthusiastic pursuit of some big mysterious breakthrough. We jump to the present day, where Flynn's orphaned son Sam is all grown up (Garrett Hedlund). Beyond being ENCOM's biggest shareholder, the cocky 27-year-old has nothing to do with the management of the company, a leader of technological industry. Still, he can't resist breaking into the company tower and embarrassing the board of executives during an important new product launch. The stunt results in a brief arrest for Sam and a subsequent visit from family friend Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), the creator of the program from which the first film inexplicably took its name. Alan encourages the young man yet again to consider taking on a leadership role at the company. Though he is rebuffed, Alan also reveals that he just received a page from the long-disconnected office phone at Flynn's long-shuttered arcade.

Sam follows up on that tip and, finding a secret passage, he ends up getting zapped (like father, like son) into a computer world. Treated like a miscreant program there, Sam fights for survival in deadly disc-throwing games and winds up meeting a man who looks like his father did twenty years ago. It's not Flynn but Clu, the program he wrote and entrusted with overseeing this virtual world. Evidently in power, Clu challenges Sam to a light cycle race in which the young man is sure to be "derezzed" (the Tron equivalent of death, here represented by shattering into little disintegrating pieces). From that close encounter, Sam is rescued by Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a spunky young woman who takes him to Flynn's peaceful hiding place of the last two decades.

Questions and answers flow at this father/son reunion, but they, Quorra, and the real world remain at risk in the ruthless plans of Clu and his allies (including Michael Sheen as the David Bowieish Castor).

Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) gets a welcome from four Sirens, who strip his clothes with their lighted fingers to dress him in the fashion of the alternate world. Jeff Bridges doesn't look a day over 30 or the slightest bit human as gone-bad program alter ego Clu.

Tron: Legacy builds upon its predecessor in every way. A simple wireframe arch aircraft in the original becomes an intricate three-dimensional entity here. The vaguely gladiatorial disc-throwing games of 1982 become dazzling sports spectacle in 2010, performed in an arena the size of a medium metropolis. The basic color beams representing light cycles racing along a grid become state-of-the-art self-building vehicles that traverse in all directions and in a dizzying translucent, multi-layered terrain.
Steven Lisberger's quaint institutional representation of computer components' relationships gets paved over and replaced by an alternate reality of reality that's vast and self-contained like a Pandora with no escape.

Though it emulated Avatar in release timing and marketing strategy, Legacy takes its aesthetic more from the second highest-grossing film in recent history, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, especially in its promising real-world opening. The virtual setting where the bulk of the film occurs won't be confused for Gotham City, the world of the first Tron, or anything else, but it recalls countless modern spectacles including, Gladiator, The Phantom Menace, The Matrix, and Blade Runner. There is much more going on in Legacy than its predecessor, which it improves upon in just about every way. There are characters with arcs, personality, clear motivations and intentions. The sillier aspects of the first Tron, like those ridiculous lightsuits and the whirling giant red head that was MCP, are nowhere to be found. Legacy's serious tone is much easier to take seriously and yet the movie isn't without ample levity and excitement.

As a sequel which holds reverence and intimate knowledge of its forebear, Legacy inevitably comes with some problems. Its plot doesn't really stand up to scrutiny. The breakthrough discovery of isomorphic algorithms (ISOs), a humanity-bettering alien race that has since been dealt near-extinction, doesn't make sense. Nor does Flynn's hiding, Clu's mutiny, or the explanation for the world's inescapability. Ideas arise either to supply or confront conflict and the logic of this established order weakens with every thought you give it. Fortunately, you are easily distracted from this by the sensory thrills of this cyberpunk universe. The sleek design is complex and convincing, the action dispensed with restraint (except for the final act, which overextends a little), the effects are all they should be, and the score by electronic duo Daft Punk creates fitting wonder and intrigue (much like Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard do for Nolan's stylish neo-noir).

The film respects the heart and rationale of the original Tron, but brings its own ideas to the table. This is to its benefit, freeing the heroic adventure of most of the restrictions from Lisberger's dank world and appealing to both ancient and contemporary storytelling sensibilities. Not every notion is great or even good. The biggest lapse in judgment may be the futile attempts to de-age Jeff Bridges to his late thirties. It creates a creepy video game character feel, which may be acceptable (albeit distracting) for the more prominent Clu but is especially egregious in scenes of Flynn set in the past. If nothing else, this reminds us of the exceptional work of the effects team on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Flamboyant other world figure Zuse a.k.a. Castor (Michael Sheen) tries to cash in on an important identity disc. Quorra (Olivia Wilde), who's been like a surrogate daughter to Flynn in his Grid captivity, jumps to action in a nightclub raid.

My gut reaction to the announcement of this project (whose earliest working title was Tron 2.0, like an underperforming 2003 video game sequel) was that it would not appeal to the general public. Tron's fan base may be sort of passionate and vocal, but it does not comprise a significant part of the population. As release date approached and Disney amped up marketing efforts taking pages from James Cameron's playbook, I began doubting my negative predictions. The studio was trying hard to make Legacy the moviegoing event of the season. Between Disney's wide-reaching marketing muscle, a slow marketplace hungry for a huge holiday season hit, extensive online hype, and the financial boosts of format gimmickry, maybe this could be 2010's Avatar.

That didn't happen. Legacy performed quite well for an unpunctual sequel to a not quite popular film. Still, the domestic gross, which will pass $172 million this weekend, just barely cleared the reported $170 M budget. Foreign earnings, which usually make a huge difference on effects-driven action, only pushed this to almost $400 million worldwide. By comparison, the slightly more expensive Prince Caspian, whose underperformance led Disney to abandon their partnership with Walden Media on the Chronicles of Narnia series, grossed $20 million more worldwide. Legacy's numbers pale next to the second National Treasure, all three Pirates of the Caribbean, and three of Disney's 2010 movies.

Box office, however, is only one piece of the puzzle for assessing Legacy's success or failure. Daft Punk downloads, sales of video games, this week's assorted home video editions of both movies, and other merchandise all must be factored in, as well. Iger's franchise-minded reign stresses the value that a well-received property brings all the divisions of the company, from consumer products to the theme parks. Though there has been plenty of talk and buzz, a third Tron movie has not yet gotten an official green light. At this point, I think it could go either way. Legacy clearly didn't meet Disney's expectations in theaters and a third film would likely supply even smaller returns. But the movie definitely generated a lot of money, a third film would be a much easier sell than this one, and with a smaller budget, revenues could conceivably offset costs without much difficulty. With more Pirates and National Treasure on the way, not to mention the acquired Iron Man and other Marvel Studios series being developed, Disney could easily to stand to let an action franchise die.

Brace yourself for the excitement of a light cycle race in the original "Tron." Now do the same, minus the irony, for the equivalent sequence in 2010's "Tron: Legacy."

For its return to DVD and premiere on Blu-ray this week, Tron has been rebranded Tron: The Original Classic on packaging expecting little of potential customers. It might not help that the sequel's subtitle has always appeared in thin, small print, as if Disney didn't want anyone to realize it was a sequel, until now, when the two movies are released side by side and also bundled together in two of the seven available editions. The subject of this review is one of those two bundles, a 2-Movie Collection ($79.99 SRP) that includes different presentations of Tron: Legacy on four of its five discs, supplying a Blu-ray 3D, a Blu-ray 2D, a DVD, and a digital copy alongside the original Tron's single Blu-ray disc. The same five discs are also gathered in a Limited Edition ($99.99 SRP), which adds only collectible identity disc packaging. Your other five purchasing options: Tron in a new 2-Disc DVD ($29.99 SRP) and a Blu-ray + DVD Combo (consisting of the same Blu-ray and Disc 1 of the new DVD; $39.99 SRP), both branded Special Edition; and Tron: Legacy in a single-disc DVD ($29.99 SRP), a Blu-ray + DVD ($39.99 SRP), and Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray 2D + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack ($49.99 SRP) which drops only the original Tron's Blu-ray from the 5-disc set and yet currently sells for $25 less.

Tron: Legacy & Tron: 2-Movie Collection Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray 2D + DVD + Digital Copy -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

Widescreen; Tron: 2.20:1; Tron: Legacy: 1.78:1-2.35:1 (DVD Anamorphic)
Tron Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
Tron: Legacy: BD-only: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English) / DVD-only: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) /
Both BD & DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, DVS)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Tron Only: English, Portuguese
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: April 5, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $79.99
Five single-sided discs (3 BD-50s, 1 DVD-9 & 1 DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Wide Blue Keepcase in Embossed Lenticular Cardboard Slipcover
Both movies also available in Limited Edition 5-Disc, 2-Movie Collection ($99.99 SRP) with Identity Disc Packaging
Tron also available in 2-Disc DVD ($29.99 SRP), 1 Blu-ray + 1 DVD Combo ($39.99 SRP), and Amazon Instant Video
Tron: Legacy also available in DVD ($29.99 SRP), Blu-ray + DVD Combo ($39.99 SRP), Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray 2D +
DVD + Digital Copy Combo
($49.99 SRP), and Amazon Instant Video


Wow! The picture quality on the original Tron's Blu-ray makes it look like a brand new film. The 2.20:1 widescreen image is nearly flawless. The only drawbacks appear to be part of the original design (slight grain and rare flickering), some of which is incorporated as computer activity. It's easier than ever to admire Tron's largely monochromatic visuals here. Unfortunately, little of it stands out as aesthetically pleasing: a couple of bits of animation and the time-lapse closing shot. The rest of the film is simply different, which does count for something, but doesn't exactly make it marvelous demo material, in spite of the stunning restoration. Though quite satisfying for its time, the film's 2002 DVD doesn't compare to this Blu-ray, with its grainier visuals and more compressed sound.

Expectations for Tron: Legacy are sky high. Fortunately, this dark film still meets them with its sharp, vibrant, pristine, incredibly detailed transfer. In an effort to recreate the IMAX viewing experience, Legacy alternates between the 1.78:1 and 2.35:1 aspect ratios, with the more action-packed scenes opting for the narrower ratio, effectively expanding the canvas and beautifully filling the now-standard 16:9 screen. I barely noticed and definitely didn't mind the ratio change, though your mileage may vary.

In 1982's "Tron", Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a rebellious young programmer, excited by the computer world he finds himself in. By 2010, Flynn (a now grizzled Jeff Bridges) has mellowed, having spent the equivalent of 1,000 human years inside a more Earth-like alternate universe.

Both films also make a grand impression aurally. Tron's 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is highly engaging, with the movie boasting more directionality, atmosphere, and bass than most of its contemporaries while its quiet dialogue remains ever intelligible (and both dubbed and subtitled in three foreign languages). Still, that mix doesn't hold a candle to Tron: Legacy's 7.1 DTS-HD MA track. Even given only 5.1 channels, this packs a remarkable punch. Hearing this, it's no surprise that the film's only Oscar nomination came in the category of Sound Editing. Such a loud presentation could easily come across as overbearing (I can only imagine enduring IMAX's decibel levels), but home video lets you find a comfortable zone, which afterwards, you shouldn't have to adjust inordinately.

Tron: Legacy's standard DVD serves up its own kind of perfection, although anyone watching it on a home theater will want to change the audio from the default 2.0 Surround to full 5.1. Featuring the same aspect ratio changes, the picture amazes and the dynamic sound engulfs potently (a tad less potently than the Blu-ray's knockout mix).

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Reviewed April 9, 2011.