Now that we've had a couple months to wrap our minds around the Tron Legacy concepts shown at San Diego Comic-Con, we can start thinking about what this actually means for the upcoming live-action 3-D sequel to the classic 1982 movie. Producer Sean Bailey brought concept images and clips to D23—the Disney fan expo in Anaheim, Calif., this weekend—and offered us a few new hints about how the new movie takes the mythology of Tron to the next level. (Spoilers ahead!)
Tron Legacy takes place mostly in 2010, the year of the film's release, in a world that has progressed beyond the events of 1982's original. In particular, the digital world has evolved in the last 28 years to become something new: photoreal, sleek, dark, shiny. Sam (Garrett Hedlund), the son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), must return to the digital world of lightcycles and gladiatorial disc games to solve a mystery.
Here are five ways Tron Legacy will take us into a new digital realm. The film, directed by Joseph Kosinski, opens Dec. 17, 2010.
1) Thank Brad Pitt for a retro Jeff Bridges. Tron Legacy will feature a 1982 version of Bridges thanks to the technology that de-aged Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It won't just be a gimmick: Bailey said that young character has a major role in the film. "He's in the movie a lot," Bailey told fans. "We've just seen the first shots of it, Jeff kind of around 30 years old, and it's spectacular. I'm really, really excited by the first signs of what we're up to."
2) Double the Bridges, double the Dude. Not only does Bridges appear as his younger self, he also plays a second, older character as well. Bailey would not reveal who the other Bridges is, but said he did learn a lesson about handling the Dude actor on the set. Original Tron director Steven Lisberger said that when told about the sequel, Bridges said, "Far out!" just like his character in The Big Lebowski. It turned out Bridges was enamored of video games, too, obsessing over his Battle Zone score in between takes. Bailey added of the sequel, "A couple of the Disney guys who were around in '82 came up to me, pulled me aside one day and said, 'You have no idea on some days how behind we fell because we couldn't get Bridges off of Battle Zone. No video games on your set.'"
3) The Tron world trumps the Internet. So after Kevin Flynn and Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) beat the Master Control Program in the first movie, the digital world continued to evolve. You may have seen the shots of Tron City from Comic-Con. Meanwhile, our real-life digital world of the Internet came about in the early '90s, so the Tron world would have begun evolving more than a decade earlier. But does the one have to do with the other? "This isn't a movie about the Internet," Bailey said. "We're going to say that this system of Tron, this universe that Steven [Lisberger] created, existed and evolved on its own, somewhat like the Galapagos Islands. So this is a universe unto itself. We're going into another world. This isn't a movie about the World Wide Web at all." By the time our world embraced the Internet, the world of Tron had already suffered its own kind of 9/11. "Something very big happened in our world, in our narrative, in 1989," Bailey said. "Kevin Flynn disappeared, and that event, which you will learn in the movie, is tied to something that happened inside the system. So there is a corollary."
4) Taking light vehicles off road. A highlight of the 1982 movie, of course, were the lightcycle races. As evidenced by concept footage screened at D23 and Comic-Con, they've been significantly enhanced. But there are more "light" vehicles in the sequel: Tron Legacy will also feature "light runners," four-wheel off-road-style vehicles that are used in the "Outlands" of Tron's digital world. The cycles, meanwhile, have gone through several iterations since 1982: Expect to see a 1989 model, a sleek white number (pictured below), in the film. "If you look at a Porsche 911 from 1968, and you look at one now, you can tell they're the same vehicle," Bailey explained. "There's no reason to mess with the fundamental DNA of the design. So things like the lightcycle, our understanding was that the original design of the lightcycle had an exposed rider, for example. They just didn't have the computing capability, the rendering power, to do it at the time. Well, that's what we're doing."
5) Even the title evolved. The first time the test sequence screened at Comic-Con in 2008, the title of the movie was TR2N. That was just a temporary name with a cute, clever twist on the vowel. Bailey said the final title, Tron Legacy, speaks much more to the plot of Sam Flynn's having to live up to his father's legacy. "Also to the point of 1968, 1982 and 2010, we felt that there was a great legacy of technical innovation and concept," Bailey said. "These guys in 1982 said, 'What would it be like to live a virtual, alternate life?' We really tested ourselves and tried to come up with a plot, saying something new about an environment that is now so familiar."