Monday, January 10, 2011

TRON vs. TRON: Legacy

So you've seen TRON, Disney's 1982 sci-fi classic. Maybe you've seen TRON: Legacy, the 2010 follow-up; maybe you're hesitant to see it because of Hollywood's nasty habit of sullying the memories you treasured when they resurrect your favorite movies decades later. Either way, the question is the same: How do the two compare?

Though TRON: Legacy is, plot-wise, a sequel, the film itself is in many ways a remake of the original movie, updated for modern audiences. I'm no TRONaholic--I enjoyed the original movie well enough--so diehard fans of the first film should take this with a grain of salt: TRON: Legacy is on par with the original TRON, something that can't be said of many remakes and belated sequels.

TRON is a very dated classic, and TRON: Legacy is a worthy successor that improves on certain parts and doesn't deliver as strongly on others. It's suffient to say that I enjoyed them both about equally. Rather than give you a full-out review, which you can get from plenty of other sources who are more interested in the material, I'd like to compare a few of the elements that are present in both movies.

Retro or modern--who'll come out on top?


Seems like as good a place to start as any. I give credit to the original Recognizers for being ominous in their simplicity, and for neatly coming apart in pieces as though they were made of easily disassembled blocks. However, the new Recognizers are sleeker and, more importantly, more obviously functional. The original design always seemed like there was a lot of wasted material under the cockpit, but the new version shows that there's a use for all that excess.

Winner: TRON: Legacy

-Disk Arena-

In both movies, the Disk Arena serves as an introduction to the computer world's games. I like that there's a chance for character development in the original--Flynn doesn't initially realize the gravity of the situation, and the audience learns with the character what this place is all about. The sequel, however, capitalizes on the full action potential of the Light Disks, and wastes no time in doing so. I am easily won over by cool weapon battles and big explosions (or disintegrations), so there's really no contest here.

Winner: TRON: Legacy


The orignal Lightcycle battle was a simple video game concept translated onto film. The sequel updates the visuals, of course, and adds an extra layer of complexity with multiple levels of the playing field, but this time the opponents play dirty. I respect the creativity of, say, whipping out your Light Disk to sneakily take out another racer, but in a way that felt like a corruption of the simple exhilaration of what a lightcycle fight should be (which was probably the point). Both versions are cool, but I think I'd rather stick with all those tricky right angles.

Winner: TRON

-Solar Sailer-

I'm looking at two things here: the Solar Sailer itself, and the things that happen while the characters are on it. In both movies, the vehicle provides a respite for the characters, but there's a gorgeous sky for them to look at in the sequel, while the characters find themselves being chased in the original and need to execute a track switch and a high-speed getaway. Though I'm a sucker for a beautiful sky, the danger User-powered creativity in the first Solar Sailer scene win me over.

Winner: TRON


Though there's some overlap with the characters betwen the two films, there's a fundamental difference between them: TRON has a slew of minor and supporting characters, whereas TRON: Legacy has only a handful of people and programs with names. Not only does the sequel have more time to focus on characterizing the most important players, but it also has anything that was developed in TRON as a starting point. And, frankly, I was more interested in watching the somewhat dynamic characters of the sequel than the basic computer programs and annoyed-at-their-boss-counts-as-characterization humans of the original.

Winner: TRON: Legacy


The sequel has a score by Daft Punk that's part Inception, part modern video game with retro sensibilities. I'm pretty sure the original had music.

Winner: TRON: Legacy


I don't know if this counts as an "element that [is] present in both movies," but the original movie got pretty slow in some parts, mostly because (the way I see it) the film was really more of a chance to show off cool ideas and technology than anything else--if a scene wasn't building up to, showcasing, or cooling down from a snazzy visual feast, then it probably wasn't too interesting.

The sequel has a leg up on the original in this department because, at least on a first viewing, it's interesting to see how things have changed since TRON, even when nothing is blowing up. Plus, there's a lot less time spent watching people get from place to place, which is what slowed down the pace in The Hidden Fortress.

Winner: TRON: Legacy


OK, now I'm officially making up categories. The biggest selling point of the sequel is that it's flashier than the original--its charm is primarily in its dazzling special effects. The original, however, is an exploration of what a video game or the inside of a computer might look like if it were to come to life--its charm is in its creativity.

Yes, the graphics are heavily outdated, but they're true to the technology of the time, and there's something about the honesty and simplicity that helps to make the movie a classic. TRON: Legacy is a good movie because it builds on its source material in a stylish way; TRON is a good movie because it's unique and just plain fun. In an age where every action movie has state-of-the-art visuals, the original film, no matter how dated it may be, has more staying power because of its charm.

Winner: TRON


...So there you have it. TRON: Legacy wins, right? Only if the categories above are of equal weight. Charm goes a long way...but not enough to call this any more than a tie.

There's more to compare, and there's plenty to argue about, but these are the things that caught the attention of a guy who almost unprecedentedly enjoyed a movie sequel as much as the original. As someone who can scarcely be considered more than just a casual fan, that's good enough for me.

However, I do admit I missed the tanks. Those were pretty awesome.


Anonymous said...

This is my first posting, and yet I feel like I know the two primary hosts.. almost like sons! Those that know this writer know that I don't write and yet this past Saturday I was able to escape into the movie theater and take in TRON Legacy via IMAX and upon reading the first posting on this subject I felt that it needed a response. Yes this response will not be as witty, insightful or spelled as correctly, but reading the original post by a youngster who happens to select the original TRON as the winner warranted a response. I agree that TRON had its slow parts and I also agree that the directors of the time were setting the stage for the technology. Take it from someone who saw TRON on the really big screen.. not those little ones they have today (IMAX excluded) or that little TV screen that the original posty saw TRON on, the ORIGINAL TRON, was the film of the day. All futuristic, cool and AMAZING. However, it's not better than TRON Legacy! I must admit I have never responded in a BLOG or posted a comment rebuttal online, as I don't see a lot worth my time or energy. I understand that some people consider it FUN! Sorry, to anyone if you're actually reading this! Anyway, I felt moved to respond to the amateur review of the two TRONs and even though I loved the 1982 TRON..TRON Legacy BLOWS IT AWAY! That’s right someone who is older than the two hosts of this site together, has seen both on the BIG screen and TRON Legacy wins. First the 3D was really good! Until I see holograms it'll only be good 3D.. but I was really surprised at the quality. The depth of field was the difference.. not to mention seeing it in IMAX was cool as well, I was at the POV level for the characters. The glasses almost covered my large head and didn't keep falling off.. Yes I remember the first 3D glasses ever used at a movie theater.. Told you I was old! Anyway, I love movies that suck me in and I want them too.. let them earn their money! I loved the cross movie connections, there were MANY little elements that helped me to buy into the new movie and the replacements. I also was impressed by the CGI.. of course it should have been easy to beat the CGI of the early 80's, but they did a remarkable job, what I saw back then came to life now! If you want the real comparison, then watch them both! But if you want to enjoy a movie on its own that just happens to be a sequel.. TRON legacy will stand on its own. Please understand that unlike most of you.. if anyone is reading this.. readers I am old and perhaps my eyes are not as good or my reaction times are slowing.. but TRON Legacy is really a great movie and deserves being seen on the big screen.

Flashman85 said...


So glad you commented, and it's great to see a fresh perspective on these movies! Super awesome all around. :D