13 December 2010

The Original Tron Is Still Great

Earlier this year, I marched stolidly at the front of a phalanx to defend the original Clash of the Titans right before its re-make was about to hit theaters. I found the re-make more palatable than I expected, although I have since gotten frosty about it after watching it a second time when the DVD came out; the sucker just doesn’t hold up. Although a sequel to the re-make is now in the works, I think the status of Harryhausen’s 1981 film remains secure. It may even improve.

Now I am facing a deceptively similar situation with this Friday’s looming release of Tron: Legacy. I am here to defend the 1982 film Tron, a movie that balances on a triple-edged knife’s tip of nostalgia, prescience, and ridicule.

However, my position with the new Tron is different than that of Clash of the Titans. The forthcoming Tron: Legacy is not a re-make, but a sequel, and this puts me less on the defensive and instead rezzes me up. The early reviews are lukewarm, but at least Tron: Legacy isn’t trying to override the memory of the first, and it has brought back the original star Jeff Bridges as well as director Steven Lisberger (this time in the role of producer).

During the early stages of the “New Tron movie” development, Disney did consider doing a re-make, but thankfully someone in the Mouse House realized that a sequel was a better plan. Developments in computer technology between 1982 and 2010 provide an opportunity to explore how the world of computers from the original film have changed—how the grid and the primitive Internet have expanded to rule the world and transform into a reality parallel to our own—and that is fertile grounds for a sequel. A sequel almost seems a necessity.

But that Tron: Legacy got made at all is a celebration of one the weirdest, long-term success stories of science-fiction cinema: how a “video-game craze” movie that got a lukewarm reception on its original release turned into a piece of technical prophecy, an oracle of the modern hi-tech zeitgeist.

Yes, but is it a good movie?

I shall answer that question at the full review at Black Gate. . . .