SFX was lucky enough to be invited to see 23 minutes of Tron Legacy . Here’s what we saw.
A line of blue text dots its way character by character. It says that this is TRON DAY. And that we are the very first people in the world to see 23 minutes of footage from the forthcoming Disney film Tron: Legacy. (We’re not entirely sure this is strictly true.) And thanks for coming. Yours, Joseph Kosinski. Nice. It fades.
Then there is an amazing 3D Disney logo. It’s the familiar Disney Magic Kingdom logo. Only it’s in Tron-o-vision ice blue and white. And it’s VERY 3D. Whoa. Fade to black.
Internal scene. A basic warehouse room littered with the artefacts of a lazy, transient existence. The furniture is battered, various dusty objects and random ephemera line the walls. Only the gleaming black Ducati bike clearly visible in shot gives an indication that the apartment’s occupant gives a damn about anything.
It’s full colour – nicely washed out like a CSI episode and – importantly – not 3D AT ALL. We lower our glasses to check. Nope. This is not 3D.
Curiously one wall of the apartment is missing altogether… Seems the “apartment” is actually a wharf side warehouse overlooking a modern day bridge and city skyline. The view is impressive.
We see Alan ( Tron veteran Bruce Boxleitner) berating an unseen combatant. Half joking, half serious he chides and yet complements his foe. “That stunt you pulled at the board was quite something,” he smiles. It’s nice to see Bruce again. He looks good. Glasses, overcoat. He works hard, but y’know, he’s still a fun guy.
We see Sam (Garrett Hedlund) slumped on the sofa. He gives as good as he gets. “Look, the surrogate father thing was cool for a while, but why are you here?” he demands.
The two exchange harsh words. But not too harsh. This is Disney. It’s clear that Sam has had the opportunity to “run a Fortune 500 company” – no doubt his father’s legacy – but has chosen to live in warehouse with a motorbike. Oh, and a very cute Boston Terrier that sits scared, watching the exchange from his basket.
Alan pulls out a pager and goes to speak. “Still rocking the pager!” laughs Sam. Alan explains that he had a message from Sam’s father. From his office. That no-one has been in for 20 years. “What, you expect me to go there and find him sat at his desk?,” says Sam. “Wouldn’t that be something?,” smiles Alan and throws Sam a bunch of keys. Alan leaves. Sam and his dog stare at each other. There’s a pair of close-ups. It’s clear that the dog wants him to go and investigate. Don’t ask how. This is Disney.
We see Sam pulling up on his black Ducati bike outside the Flynn’s arcade from the original film. It still has the Space Paradroids billboard on the roof. It’s clearly deserted. Sam turns the key and enters and clearly knows where to go. He makes his way to the switchbox, and flip the “Sign”, “House” and “Arcade” switches. The building starts into life. A hundred or so arcade machines instantly ping on, shining through clear plastic covered in dust and grime. ’80s music plays. Not Daft Punk. It’s clear that the intention is to convey that this place has been untouched since the ’80s.
Again, it’s also very clear that this scene is totally NOT in 3D.
A single Tron machine sits at the end of the row. It’s irresistible. Sam approaches, feeds in a coin that drops straight through. The machine starts nonetheless, showing the original light cycles arcade game. For reasons that aren’t particularly clear Sam pushes on the side of the machine and it swings open like a door to reveal another door. Sam enters.
Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” plays. Sam descends a flight of stairs. There is another door at the bottom. He opens it to reveal a small, dank subterranean “office” with a desk, filing cabinets, notes pinned to walls and a large metal cannon pointing at the back of the chair…
Sam conveniently doesn’t notice this however and sits at the desk. He brushes the thick dust away with his hand and it sparks into life! It’s a large desktop touchscreen computer. From 1982? There’s a keyboard. Windows. Programming gibberish. Sam types “backdoor”. He’s looking for a login. He types more. He’s getting nowhere. He’s clearly skilled at coding himself and the exchange grows more unintelligible. Suddenly a box pops up. “Aperture Clear? Yes / No”. Sam is clearly on the point of giving up here. He flippantly selects yes… Close up of cannon. There’s an incredible digital sound. And blackness.
Sam is on the grid. This is in 3D. At last. A large flying “H-shaped” ship flies in almost vertically from above. Its spotlight holds Sam rigid as he looks up baffled and afraid. It lands and guards step off its “feet”. “This program has no disc,” says one. “Another stray,” says another. They bundle him aboard the strange open platform craft. He’s elevated up to the central body of the “H” and strapped to a chair alongside other “strays”. “He actually did it,” wonders a bemused Sam out loud.
First impressions are that this looks incredible. The 3D is clearly very well calculated to be jaw-dropping and yet very restrained. There’s great depth of field between the close character’s expressions and lots of sweeping pulled focus with the vast digital city that seems to extend in all directions.
The craft flies – in long tracking shots – across the city and lands in a “clearing” in the blue and black detail. It’s interesting that there is so much detail here – very much opposed to the starkness of the original film. It looks pretty much as busy and complex as any helicopter tracking shot of a busy city. Only in blue and black.
The 10-15 captured “programs” are lowered to the ground and a guard examines them face to face. “Rectify” he says to one. “Rectify” he says to another. “Games,” he says to another. The guy is mortified. He breaks from his binding and runs forward. The guards go to get him. “Games,” he says to Sam. “Games?” asks Sam as he is taken over to a round panel on the floor. Meanwhile the escapee runs and very deliberately flings himself from the platform, into the void. We see him fall, 50 metres or so before being struck by a huge rotating fan blade below. Shades of Titanic there. Only this guy is shattered into millions of glass-like cubes. It’s clear that “Games” is not a good thing.
The panel below Sam suddenly descends hundreds of meters at breakneck speed. Sam is – predictably – surprised. He emerges suddenly in a large featureless dark, square room. There four identically dressed in white sexy ladydroids approach from the corners and – with laser cutters at the end of their outstretched index fingers – cut away Sam’s clothes from neckline to ankle. “Hey, it’s got a zipper,” protests Sam but by now his clothes drop away. Thankfully his pants are laser proof.
A black sci-fi suit spreads from his ankles up his body, unfurling and becoming more detailed Ironman-style as it moves upwards. “This can’t be good,” he mutters and in a few seconds he’s encased in a full-on Tron suit.
“If you lose this disc you will be subject to deresolution,” warns a lady. She approaches with a glowing Frisbee and inserts it into an identical aperture on the suit’s back. It glows. “Disc activated and synchronised,” she says. “Proceed to games.”
The ladies return to their start positions and cleverly melt into the walls. “What am I supposed to do?” asks a bemused Sam?” “Survive,” says one, and disappears.
Sam appears to be in a lift. It’s moving up. Only it has no front. We see a glimmers of a huge crowd through the machine that’s propelling the lift upwards. The lift emerges in the centre of a huge arena. There are more lifts. 20 or so. They fly upwards and around each other and begin to clip together, some are empty, some have someone inside. “All combatants prepare for disc wars!” booms a voice.
The 3D is great here. You successfully get the impression that this place is huge. Twice Wembley Stadium with crowd shots extending into infinity. And it’s a capacity crowd.
By now each “combatant” is inside a large “box’”made of clipped together “lifts”. They’re about the size of tennis court. Sam is not alone. As the box finishes construction it’s clear that he’s been joined by an angry looking, lithe Japanese gentleman. “I have a three-inch version of you on my shelf at home,” says Sam. The Japanese man says nothing but reaches behind him and plucks his disc from its housing. Instantly a visored helmet extends from his suit – again – Iron Man-style.
He throws the disc at Sam. Some amazing 3D here as the disc approaches, flies just under the camera, then hurtles on towards Sam. Not too tricksy. Just right.
Sam dodges the disc. Just. He reaches for his disc and get the same inst-o-helmet. By now both are on the move. The discs bounce off the walls creating some real deathtrap moments as they zing and re-zing past Sam.
We see multiple battles taking place simultaneously. The court-sized boxes fly around affording the audience the best view. We see guys struck with the disc and are treated to Matrix -style bullet-time shots of men “derezzing” into a million ice cube-like digital shimmers. It’s an amazing effect.
By now Sam’s fighting back but it’s clear who the master is here. A disc is thrown at an acute angle. It misses Sam but hits the “ground” just in front of him so hard that it smashes a hole through. Sam falls through the glass floor and grabs the edge. He dangles for a while to show off the 3D then quickly hauls himself back through. The fight continues. Sam’s enemy jumps up impossibly high and flies down for the kill. Quickly Sam breaks the floor immediately below him and the bad guy pathetically falls through to his doom, “de-rezzing” as he hits the floor miles below.
Sam is in a car with a mysterious helmeted character. They are driving. The car is a two-seater open top sporty number. It’s essentially two light bikes joined in the middle. And it’s being pursued by two orange-lit light bikes.
It’s becoming obvious by now that in the Tron: Legacy world – aka The Grid – “blue” means evil, but “orange” means really evil…
Sam appears agitated by the chase but the helmeted driver appears ice-cold calm. They flip a switch on the dash – this thing appears to have a gear stick, stereo, cup holders – and two jewel-like bombs made of crystal tumble out of the back. As the bikes approach the bombs explode. We see one bike blown to pieces. From a vertical shot we see its rider sent spinning in slow-mo up into the air, they flip end over end and begin falling back to earth. Incredibly as they approach the ground again another bike begins to materialise out of the ground. It’s complete just as the rider falls onto it and the chase goes on unabated.
But the car has another trick up its sleeve. It fires missiles from the front that smash a hole in the wall that’s rapidly approaching ahead.
By now it’s becoming apparent that everything on The Grid is either solid, or can be de-rezzed with an impact or explosion into a billion icy glass cubes. It’s a neat effect.
The car approaches and it’s clear that there’s a vast chasm on the other side of the hole. Sam is scared. The driver isn’t. “You’ll never make it!” screams Sam but by then it’s too late. The car flies through the hole and the bikes pull up sharp, too scared to follow. As the car “flies” a metamorphosis takes place. The wheels widen and thicken and the car takes on an altogether more 4x4-like appearance. It lands with a might thud on a new terrain.
“Made it,” says the driver and their helmet folds away to reveal… A woman! “I’m Cora,” she says.
The land beyond The Grid is a black, coal-like rocky mass and the car winds its way up a mountain trail at blistering speed, leaving the blue shiny city behind. “Their vehicles can’t function on this terrain,” she says. Sam is confused. Again. “Patience SamFlynn,” she says, SamFlynn being all one word. “All your questions will be answered soon.” The car hurtles higher and higher, round precarious hairpin bends driving to a point of light at the top. There it zips into a Batcave-like tunnel and stops.
We’re inside a large white, bright room. It’s very much like the room at the end of 2001 . A figure is seated with his back to the camera. He’s a man. With grey long hair. The furniture is a mix of classic and modern. The floor has gaps in it and the whole room appears to be made of white glowing cubes. In the corner there’s a perfect, slightly modified, immaculate white version of the original Tron lightcycle.
Sam and Cora enter. The man doesn’t turn around. “Cora, my dear apprentice,” he says. “I dreamed of Tron ,” he starts. “We have a guest,” interrupts Cora. “There are no guests,” corrects the man, sadly. Suddenly he senses a presence. He turns. It’s Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges). He’s panicked, excited. He clearly can’t believe his eyes. He approaches. “Sam!” he gasps. Sam is as amazed as Kevin. “It’s… been a long time,” he stammers. “You have no idea,” says Kevin. “You’re here! You’re… big!” he smiles. “You’re…” starts Sam. “Old?” finishes Kevin.
Cora watches on confused but happy. She’s clearly never seen Kevin like this with anyone. She’s beguiled by the exchange.
“I got your page,” says Sam. “Page?” asks Kevin. “Oh! The page…” he remembers and turns away. Sam’s eye moves to the gleaming lightcycle. “He never thought he’s see you again,” says Cora, stating the obvious. She sees Sam staring at the bike. “That’s a vintage bike. Still the fastest thing on the grid.”
Next we get 10 minutes of the soundtrack by Daft Punk, which is an excellent mash of blistering techno and see-sawing orchestra. It’s hard to imagine any soundtrack working better for this film.
This is followed by a video for the single “De-rezzed”. This video is all over the net right now. However, it’s not so much a video as another trailer. Many of the scenes from the 23-minute preview above pop up momentarily alongside Michael Sheen as the over the top bad guy, Daft Punk playing the parts of his DJ-like court jesters and the amazing looking Clu: AKA the evil Jeff Bridges smouldering away. This black and orange suited 20-something digital recreation of Jeff circa 1982 Tron looks incredible. Slightly plastic. And – dare we say it – boss-eyed. But incredible.
House lights come up.
It might get a little tedious watching two hours of blue and black. And orange. Is there enough visual variety and character interplay (all the exchanges we’ve seen are predictably robotic so far) to sustain an entire film? But surely this is exactly the same scenario the original film found in and that’s a “classic”. Isn’t it?
The live action bits are not 3D at all, which is a bit disappointing. But clearly the intention is to amaze the audience Wizard of Oz -style when the movie pops into 3D.
Is the whole film one big chase? Man enters The Grid, locates father, escapes. With a plethora of amazing 3D craft and glass-shattery explosions en-route? We’ve seen bikes, cars, fighter jets. Any speedboats in there? Parascending? Snowboarding? Anything can happen.
Michael Sheen, in the fleeting glimpse we’ve had, seems like he might be rather over-cooked and annoying. A stick-twirling camp Bond villain rather at odds with the doomy David Warner of the first film. But then every long-awaited sci-fi re-run needs its Jar Jar Binks…
The mix of detail and featureless computer landscape is interesting. The city at time appears so detailed as to be rather commonplace. The featureless glass “plains” where the vehicle chases occur seem much more sleek and arresting. And what’s with the smoke, particles and wind in The Grid? Go too far down that route and you’re essentially watching a black and white film.
There’s plenty of 3D trickery to make it well worth donning those glasses. The sharp interplay on the sparse sets (character up close, enemy far away) means that it’s always obvious that you’re looking at a 3D image. But there’s non of the lush complexity of Avatar. Avatar enveloped the viewer. Tron is like watching through a window.
Clu (the young Jeff Bridges) has the potential to be the talking point of the film. It’s amazing that Jeff himself has matured from brazen roughneck to world-weary sage, which is exactly what the two characters require. If they can pull it off it’ll be genius. Shame that Clu was conspicuously absent from the 23 minute preview.