The Pros and Cons of Tron: Legacy
We jump into the MCP to discuss whether this film is awesome or not.
"Tron: Legacy" (2010) - Walt Disney Pictures
Oh, I know Gulliver's Travels will probably make a boatload of money, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader will make a brave show of it. But both are decidedly holiday movies -- safe for grandma, grandpa, and the kids! -- whereas Tron: Legacy is the kind of film that comes with 7-Eleven cups and a lot of articles in mainstream periodicals talking about how geeks rule the multiplex and this Tron resurrection is proof. No one writes that about Jack Black.
I digress in my justifications. The point is, Film.com has decided to get a jump on the publicity machine and discuss the pros and cons of Tron: Legacy and whether or not it will be awesome. We're doing this because the Internet is all about arbitrarily judging a cinematic product on its trailers and stills alone, and also because you'll probably be sick of all things Tron by December. This is our best chance to talk about Tron: Legacy and not be drowned out in a million newsfeeds, retweets, and blog posts.
Now, let's hack our way through the code...
The Cons of Tron: Legacy
1. Well ... it's Tron
Let's be brutally honest -- has anyone truly cared about Tron for at least 20 years? Yes, it's often referenced as a landmark of CGI and a startling predictor of modern computer gaming. (Still waiting for an XBOX game that's immersive 3-D, though.) But let's be honest -- it didn't spawn the fandom of Star Wars or Star Trek. It was a one-shot deal. Even those late night Disney Channel showings failed to spark the kind of cult fandom that would later find mainstream expression in collectibles and conventions. Your average moviegoer knows who Darth Vader is, but I doubt they remember Tron was a character and not just the world everyone was sucked into. I'm willing to bet few can recite the plot. It feels like a hard cheese of a sell any way you look at it. For older audiences, it's going to provoke groans of "Tron? Really? Where's the original ideas, Hollywood?" For younger audiences, it will cause confusion. "What's Tron? Why does it have a Legacy? Wait, is that The Dude?"
2. The new (old) Tron fans
I was born in 1982, the year Tron came out. This was also the same year E.T. came out. It was a year before The Return of the Jedi. It was a year after Raiders of the Lost Ark. These films were all formative parts of my childhood though I was but an infant when they hit theaters. Tron wasn't. The first I knew of a movie called Tron was when I went to Disneyland and rode the People Mover. I was thrilled to see R2D2 and C3PO -- Star Tours was full of references for me -- but what was this Tron thing? My interest died when I saw it. I thought it was boring. I may have fallen asleep. I may have confused it with Starman later on.
Obviously, my own perspective and taste is showing. But I know what films were referenced among a wide range of geeky friends, and our formative sci-fi experiences were very similar. Movies like Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Terminator, and Predator loomed large. We referenced Tron whenever we played laser tag under a black light, but it was a relic. We laughed at poor Tron Guy for holding onto that relic. We wondered when the hell they would update the People Mover.
But now? Now everyone is a Tron fanatic and always has been. It's like the indie Star Wars. If you were a really cool nerd (an oxymoron) in the 1980s and 1990s, you were rewatching Tron, not subscribing to The Star Wars Insider. Star Wars was for dweebs, Star Trek was for ultra-dweebs, Tron was for genre cineastes. Even if you were so unfortunate as to be carrying a torch for James T. Kirk or Luke Skywalker by the days of Star Trek: Generations or Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith, you've since seen the error of your ways and now subscribe only to the doctrine of Kevin Flynn.
There's even merchandising! Nothing so crass as Hot Topic, you understand, just cool underground places selling Tron t-shirts gently riffing on this beloved film. I'm sure someone out there will claim these products (and this intense fandom) existed long before Tron: Legacy debuted at ComicCon 2008. I'm cynical. I suspect they're all a retcon that launched just early enough so that they could lord it over those who discover Tron by way of its Legacy. The t-shirts will even be suitably faded.
I don't deny there were always fans of Tron, or that they occasionally and privately longed for a sequel. But ask the next geek you overhear chattering about the coolness of Clu when he or she was born. If it was after 1989, smack them.
3. Tron: Legacy has been marketing itself before there was even a film
I was there in San Diego in 2008, shivering inside the nearly empty Hall H when the first Tron: Legacy footage debuted. Now everyone (see above) was there on that fateful day when their Tron dreams were realized -- but I can only say that hall was basically empty. The footage debuted to a lot of excitement, though (especially thanks to Bridges' cameo), and was a puzzle for months until it was revealed to be a teaser that director Joseph Kosinski cooked up to warm Disney on a sequel. Since July 2008, Tron: Legacy has been a persistent feature of movie sites (Rumors! New Stills! Footage! Set Visits!) and has been a presence at no less than three ComicCons (including 2008).
Now, tracking this stuff is my job. I live in a myopic online universe where 2008 might as well be in hieroglyphics. I'm jolted out of this mindset when my dentist will say "Did they make an Iron Man 2?" when Iron Man 2 has been in theaters for three weeks. Chances are, someone like my dentist is still unaware Tron: Legacy exists. But the trailer has been playing pretty incessantly at the multiplex, and ComicCon coverage has been seeping into mainstream news for several years now. It may be that even my dentist will say "I'm sick of Tron Legacy!" and it will only be November.