Jay Maynard, aka Tron Guy, reveals his very emotional reaction to Tron: Legacy.
I've been waiting 28 years to see if the other shoe would ever drop on the Tron universe. It has, and the result is visually stunning, intellectually engaging and emotionally exhausting.
As you might imagine, Tron: Legacy, which opens Friday, was a must-see movie for me. When the original Tron came out in 1982, I had just begun working as a mainframe systems programmer. I'd been working with computers for a decade, first in school and then professionally, so I knew a fair bit about them. Tron fascinated me because it was the first attempt to show what happens inside a computer. In doing so, it pushed the boundaries of filmmaking, both technically and artistically, in just about every way imaginable.
The original movie was seen as a flop, mainly because Disney pulled its marketing efforts shortly before the theatrical release. Tron made money, eventually, but not in blockbuster numbers, and most folks forgot about the film.
It sat in the back of my mind for many years, until my Tron costume - patterned after the illuminated suits in the movie - became an internet sensation, earning me the nickname Tron Guy and landing me on TV shows and even a South Park parody.
That fame had the world asking if I would be involved with Tron: Legacy the moment the sequel became more than just a persistent rumor. Unfortunately, Disney seemed to take great pains to separate the new film from the original, leaving me out in the cold. I'm not the only one; Cindy Morgan, the wonderful lady who played Yori and Lora in the original, was left out of the movie, although she did get to do some promotion.
Even so, I was really excited when Wired.com arranged for me to see an early screening of Tron: Legacy. Here, at last, was the result of all the hard work, massive computing resources and money spent on bringing the Tron universe to a new generation. I walked in, expecting to be blown away both from what I'd seen before and from what I knew about the production.
I was not disappointed.
Jeff Bridges (left) reprises his role as Kevin Flynn in Tron: Legacy, and digital trickery slaps his reverse-aged face on Clu.
The motion picture industry has undergone several revolutions in the past 28 years. All of them have been brought to bear on Tron: Legacy. The result is a truly fantastic experience.
From the moment Disney's trademark Sleeping Beauty Castle rezzes up at the beginning of the film, it's obvious this is not the same old movie. The graphics take a back seat to nothing, but they light cycles and other powerful visuals look natural with actors in them. The 3-D is not overpowering, either: It was done gently, understatedly, lending a subtle sense of depth to the scenes without the usual in-your-face excess. There's plenty of eye candy for even the most jaded addict.
The score by Daft Punk is outstanding. I'd heard of the French duo before, but knew little about their work. After seeing Tron: Legacy, I'm going to search out more.
The score, like Wendy Carlos' music in the original film, isn't just electronica. It makes use of a full orchestra, in ways that never detract from the action on the screen, just as a movie score should. I've already bought the album.
For the geeks among us, Tron: Legacy serves up plenty of references, both to the original movie and to modern geek culture. They're not obvious unless you're looking for them, and they fit in well, but there's an extra little bit of fun there when Sam Flynn says, "Now that's a big door!" as he breaks into Encom headquarters.
During one incredibly well-done dogfight scene, I half expected Kevin Flynn to say, "Great, kid! Don't get cocky!" after Sam shoots down a fighter chasing them. That scene could easily have been used in Top Gun. Despite the setting, it was entirely plausible as a 5-on-1 jet fighter furball. The filmmakers even go so far as to show a (mostly) accurate re-creation of a SunOS 4.0.1 X console. (The only blooper was that the machine type was an i386.)
With all of this, many folks would expect the story to suffer. It doesn't, unless you're a movie critic. It's a logical continuation of the original, although you need not have seen Tron to understand what's happening now. Strong performances by Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen should prevent the kind of complaints about wooden acting that surrounded the original movie. The result delivers an unexpected emotional impact, especially at the ending.
Perhaps the emotional ending influenced my final reaction. As the credits rolled, I had to fight off tears. I would have been deeply honored and pleased to have my name associated with Tron: Legacy in some way, even if the sequel had stunk up the theater. With the film as outstanding as it actually turned out, that would have been an experience like no other. Instead, I walked out of the theater to my cold truck, determined to not let my feelings show. Nobody there would have understood.
Disney's marketing machine has pulled out all the stops for Tron: Legacy. I believe this one will escape being thought of as an expensive flop, the way the first one was. It deserves to. It's enough to make me really, really disappointed Disney didn't ask me to have anything to do with the sequel's production or marketing.
There's already talk of a third Tron movie. Disney, could you throw me a bone for being in some part responsible for awakening the franchise from the dead in the minds of the public? Please?
Maybe an official Tron: Legacy costume of my very own so people who ask me to make appearances get the new film in their heads. That would give fans a much more direct connection to the movie.
Plus, that way I'd be all ready to appear in the next one.
Photo credit: Jim Merithew/Wired.com