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TRON: Legacy 3D: “The Digital Frontier” Approaches

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The geeks are gathering as the wait time narrows between now and 12:01 a.m., December 17th. Circling the Internet, watching for signs of TRON: Legacy news to devour, fans were not disappointed, this weekend, as several new featurettes were released by Disney.

As if this weren’t enough to make us squee with excitement, the TRON: Legacy soundtrack was released today, an enticing teaser for those slavering for more. Recorded by Daft Punk, a versatile group on the forefront of the pop/house/electronica scene, the score includes elements of both an 85-piece orchestra and an intense electronic, techno vibe that blends seamlessly into the digitized action.

Although the first TRON film was an innovative imagining of the interior world of early cyberspace, its simplistic depiction of an evil CPU poised to take over a company and eventually the world moves with all the speed of a late 1970s PC. The original TRON set the stage for many of the technology films that followed, such as Wargames (1983) and Terminator (1984), and perhaps even The Matrix (1999). Yet, given the sophistication of the modern digital generation, the creators of TRON: Legacy knew they would have to work hard to bridge the gap between the original TRON and the world of today’s high-tech video games.

Says Co-Producer Justin Springer, “We made the disc game multi-dimensional and gave it much more velocity and created just a more complex gaming experience.” From the featurette, it appears that several games go on at once in clear-sided, revolving rooms, adding to the intricacies of the disc battles (in which lighted, frisbee-looking discs are thrown between competitors, in an attempt to hit and kill, or “derezz”, an opponent). But the film will have to be structured around more than a dazzling game experience to reach a high score. (The original film, though visually stunning, suffered from a lack of plot elements.)

There also appears to be an emphasis on creating more of a tangible “space” within the cyberspace depicted here. “There’s a grander sense of geography; there’s the lightning and the weather,” says Garrett Hedlund, who plays Sam Flynn in the film. The “geography” of The Grid, as the TRON universe is called in the film, appears to be the result of one man’s imagination: Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), Sam’s father, who disappeared without a trace when Sam was a young boy. When the now-adult Sam receives a message from his missing father, he is thrown into the world of TRON and must help to overcome his father’s digital (and younger-looking) twin, Clu.

“The digital frontier,” as it is described in the film, is “a place of infinite possibility.” Emphasizing that distinction, Production Designer Darren Gilford points out that the present day sequences that open the film are in 2D, while the TRON universe is in 3D. “How we…go from 2D to 3D is a very dramatic moment,” says Gilford.

By what means that shift will take place without losing narrative momentum remains to be seen. I can’t imagine it will be as smooth a transition as the shift from black-and-white to color in The Wizard of Oz. Will there be a break in the action to warn viewers to put on their glasses? Or an on-screen notice prior to the start of the film? Suspension of disbelief is, after all, the hallmark of a well-crafted film. There is a delicate balance between thinking about the popcorn bag in my lap and completely forgetting myself in the thick of the action. The last thing I want is to be pulled back to reality under ugly, 3D glasses.

Be sure to order your opening weekend tickets soon–the film is expected to be a sell-out. Remember, the young techno-weenies are competing with 40 year old “kids” like me who can’t wait to relive the excitement of the original TRON experience.

Once you’ve watched the featurettes, be sure to check out for some great behind-the-scenes footage (including video of Bridges in his motion capture head gear). Especially excellent for film enthusiasts and budding filmmakers!

Now, if only I could have that timeless, in-game physique… Jeff Bridges, you’re my hero.

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About A. McCarthy Orr