Of all the sci-fi released in 1982, few would have predicted it would be Tron, and not E.T. or Blade Runner, that would be ripe for reappraisal almost thirty years later. Now, in the shape of Tron: Legacy supposition has become fact. It’s a rebirth for the eighties curio that Disney are banking on now becoming a franchise. Similar plans to produce The Cabbage Patch Kids: Redux are as yet unconfirmed.
Casting bright young things Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde, the studio have said much that is boastful about the new film’s technical ingenuity. $150 million has been spent on marketing, the film was trailed by one of the most talked about viral campaigns of the year, while in pairing up craggy ol’ Jeff Bridges with his more spritely younger self, they’ve set a precedent for aging thesps to revisit former glories that will be either interesting or plain depressing to see play out from here.
Yet of all their technical achievements on screen, it’s within the cultural ephemera that Disney deserve most of their dues. Tron wasn’t a great sci-film in 1982, let alone laid out amongst the many genre triumphs of the era. It achieved a modest return at the box-office. It was widely viewed as a cynical attempt by Hollywood to cash in on the skyrocketing popularity of videogames at the time – and, while there’s a case for Frenchman Jean Giraud’s set design achieving iconic status the other side of New Rave, not to mention a lengthy Daft Punk career – beneath the visual bluster of director Steven Lisberger’s film laid a movie skeletal, inane and cold.
Despite all reason suggesting otherwise, Disney have succeeded in making you believe this is a film you want to see, yet cultural reinvention aside, Tron: Legacy learns little from its elder brother’s mistakes. Once again, despite some grubby 3D rendering in the faster paced scenes, the film is a delight to look at – new director Joseph Kosinski’s background lies in advertising, and as the crisp neon vectors testify to, it certainly shows. Yet the narrative is as formulaic as a budget XBOX Live game, the campery of the Michael Sheen character suggests Disney don’t really know whether they’re pitching this at children or adults, while Hedlund and Wilde bumble around looking like they know they’re supposed to be part of something incendiary, yet don’t know what that is – or indeed, what the word means.
Now it’s been rebooted, it is unlikely Tron fans will have to wait another three decades before they see a third instalment in the saga. Yet however quickly the third movie does comes around, by the time it does, the aforementioned fans might realise they’re not quite as keen on Tron as they might have thought they were.