Directed by first-time film director and long-time commercial director Joseph Kosinski, Tron: Legacy is the sequel to the ground breaking 1982 science fiction film Tron, which featured some of the very first computer generated imagery in motion picture history. The 2010 sequel takes viewers back to the world of The Grid, this time with almost 30 years of technology and artistry under its belt.
The stars of the original, Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner return to the followup, playing both their human (Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley) and digital (Clu and Tron) counterparts, and are joined by Garrett Hedlund (Sam Flynn) and Olivia Wilde (Quorra), the next generation of characters in the world. Sam is Kevin Flynn’s 27-year old son, who has begrudgingly inherited his father’s Microsoft-esque empire after his disappearance 20 years prior. He soon gets sucked into The Grid, a creation of his father’s, and is faced with several new facts of life. The movie does well enough to get new audiences to the Tron world up to date with characters and story, so it fairs well as a stand alone film for those who haven’t seen the first.
Jeff Bridges brings a bit of The Dude into his role which is always appreciated, and Olivia Wilde is so energetic and precocious in playing her character that it brings a great spark to what is otherwise a fairly dark and serious film. There are hammy characters and corny bits that attempt to balance moods, but thankfully they are few and far between. I had initially written off Garrett Hedlund as a teen hearthrob casting choice before seeing the film, but he pulls his weight well in the role. He is appropriately reactant as someone who is thrown into such a wild and alienating situation.
Primarily, Tron Legacy succeeds most as an experience, an audio visual treat that some have likened to a feature length Daft Punk music video. However this may be undercutting its virtues, as Legacy has enough meat in there to make the trip worthwhile. There are several minor logic issues that could be brought up, but then you realize that it’s a movie in which a laser can blast you into a digital universe, so there’s not much point in getting hung up on it. The film can slow down in several exposition-laden and scenery-chewing sections, and by the end motives start to become less clear. In the second half of the film you’re carried along more by the strength of the overall themes and character relationships than specific plot points.
The art style can’t be ignored, and the overall aesthetic is absolutely spot on and never distracting. It all feels appropriate and strangely authentic. You spend less time thinking about how much of it is CGI than you do just getting immediately immersed in the world’s rich detail and splendor. The only part of that which suffers, and might take some people out of the film, is the digital facial recreation of a younger Jeff Bridges for the character of Clu. This could have been easily explained away due to the Clu’s digital nature if it wasn’t for the fact that a younger Kevin Flynn also makes appearances in the same way. It’s hard to fault the artists for not being perfect, when so much of it is still done very well, but the face just straddles the line of realism and the uncanny valley to be taken as seriously as it needs to be.
Overall the journey’s worth the price of admission.
Tron: Legacy was shot on digital video, in 3D, on the Phantom HD Camera. I’m generally a bit unimpressed by movies shot on video, which usually have an over-smooth look to them, in addition to the fast-motion/shutter-speed issues. Thankfully this isn’t the case for Tron: Legacy.
Likely owing much to the setting and the direct digital-to-digital video transfer, everything looks extremely sharp, natural and brimming with detail. The entire movie has extremely fine digital noise layered over it that’s akin to the type of minute grain seen in a lot of modern day movies shot on film. This adds a bit more of a filmic texture to the movie without being too noticeable or distracting, and keeps everything from looking over-sanitized and smooth. The art design and visual effects of The Grid lend to a very high contrast look with great black levels and bold colors that makes everything pop. No signs of edge enhancement or digital noise reduction are evident.
The film’s standard aspect ratio is 2.35:1, but several scenes open up to 1.78:1 to replicate the theatrical IMAX presentation. The film was not shot on IMAX print like The Dark Knight or Transformers, but this isn’t a case of after the fact open matting or side-cropping either. Similar to Avatar’s release on home video, the director and cinematographer have shot scenes with both aspect ratios in mind, and have decided to showcase it as their preferred version. Because high definition video was their intended method of shooting, they were able to utilize the native 1.78:1 screen space from the get go. There are more “open” scenes than The Dark Knight, but there is a sense of empty space in the framing more often than not. Regardless, it all still looks extremely good, and adds that extra impression of scale, but it would have been nice if they could have offered a choice of watching it fixed 2.35:1 via seamless branching as well.
I imagine the compression job on this title must have been a nightmare due to nearly every frame being loaded with lens flares, gradients, flickering lights, the aforementioned digital noise and high detail imagery. So it’s a job well done as I didn’t notice any major compression artifacts or banding. Note: The 3D and 2D Blu-ray discs are on separate discs for maximum bit-rate and video quality.
Tron Legacy owes a lot to its visuals, and this high definition transfer truly does it justice. It’s nothing like you’ve seen before.
Tron 2 was one of several 3D films blessed with a theatrical 7.1 surround sound mix by Disney, and now is brought to disc as a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. There is no 5.1 track, but it will downmix on 5.1 systems appropriately. The team at Skywalker Sound called Tron: Legacy “the loudest film they’ve ever mixed.” Loud does not always equal better as we all know, but in Tron Legacy’s case, it worked out very well.
Dynamic range is high, from the quietest whispers to the loudest fireworks. Detail is pleasing and varied, with really fantastic and inventive sound design from Steve Boeddeker and Christopher Boyes. Light Discs hum with low roars, Recognizers cut through the air like fighter jets and game power-ups infuse you with nostalgic energy.
Surround mixing is ever-present. Spatiality, directionality and dimension in the side and rears are all utterly flawless. There are a few scenes that take place in arenas, with crowds chanting, music escalating, and announcements echoing throughout the stadiums. I guarantee that you will feel like your room grew one hundred times larger. The sound is so filling, booming and natural that it immediately gets you as exhilarated and enthusiastic as any of the many spectators in the scene. Dialog volume can sometimes dip to “lean-forward-in-your-seat” levels a few times, but intelligibility does not become an issue.
LFE is always thumping, almost like the ground has its own bass-tone, and it’s gloriously supplemented by the music. Oh the music. By now everyone is aware that Daft Punk has scored the music for the film, and that alone has a large amount of hype that’s likely to eclipse the movie itself. As a soundtrack fan, a film fan and a Daft Punk fan, it doesn’t disappoint in the least. Blending classic orchestra with electronic synth, the music is one of the primary driving forces of the movie. Brilliantly spread across all eight channels, it envelops and intensifies the action on screen with pounding punctuation. I wish more soundtracks were this well mixed. There’s even some great classic 80′s tunes thrown in, courtesy of a time-capsuled Flynn’s Arcade. Even with the dominant music, dialog and clarity never get overwhelmed, and there are plenty of moments of quiet reflection to complement the bombastic.
I for one am glad to be continuously surprised and pleased by many of the audio offerings we’re hearing as time goes on. Tron’s audio matches its picture perfectly. This is the A/V experience to beat this year.
Special Features/Bonus Content
- First Look at TRON: Uprising, the Disney XD animated series.
- Visualizing TRON – How did the filmmakers bring to life the gorgeous world inside the GRID?
- Installing the Cast – Hear from all the stars of TRON: Legacy and their experience in making the movie.
- The Next Day: Flynn Lives Revealed (Blu-ray Disc Exclusive) – What happens immediately following the end of the movie? What is Flynn Lives and who is responsible for their efforts? An interactive bonus piece.
- TRON: Disney Second Screen (Blu-ray Disc Exclusive) – Using your iPad or computer, watch the movie with exclusive interactive elements available on your 2nd screen. An interactive bonus piece.
- Launching the Legacy – Beyond the amazing visuals is a rich story filled with an entire world’s history and mythology. Discover how the writers and filmmakers created this complex fiction.
- Disc Roars – Watch director Joseph Kosinski use the raucous crowd at Comic-Con to record actual ADR for the disc game stadium crowd.
- Music video – “Derezzed,” written, produced, and performed by Daft Punk.
With a killer audio visual presentation and a fairly involving storyline, Tron Legacy is brought to Blu-ray with the utmost care. It’s a technical marvel, a recharge to an old film, and the beginning of a promising franchise. A unique ride not to be missed.