The film, Disney and nerd blogospheres collided recently with a widely publicized story that Disney is planning to release its long-gestating sequel to the film TRON in 2011. Furthermore, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s to be produced in 3D.
For the uninitiated, TRON depicted a world inside computers where programs appear as electronic avatars of their real-world users. Jeff Bridges starred as Flynn, a down on his luck videogame programmer who is enlisted by Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) and his girlfriend Lora (Cindy Morgan) to hack into the mainframe of their employer ENCOM. ENCOM has been taken over by sinister middle-manager Ed Dillinger (David Warner), a bureaucrat who rose to power on the profits of game designs stolen from Flynn. Dillinger is using the MCP – his Master Control Program – to lock down access to the ENCOM systems and appropriate the work of others.
When Flynn breaks into ENCOM to hack its system, the MCP digitizes him and downloads him into the mainframe. There, he meets TRON (also played by Boxleitner), an electronic gladiator who is forced to battle other free programs on the game grid. You know, the typical sort of thing. Anyway, Flynn finds himself in an electronic version of Spartacus complete with disc battles and the iconic lightcycle races. Flynn and TRON must find a way to escape the grid, defeat the MCP and make the system safe for free programs once more.
TRON was brought to Disney by director Steven Lisberger, who had previously attempted to find funding for the film as an independent feature. Lisberger secured funding from Disney after providing a test reel demonstrating his intended techniques with a mockup of the disc sequence. The film remains significant for its combination of live action, backlit animation and an unprecedented amount of computer generated imagery. Its designs are iconic, benefiting from the contributions of legendary designers Syd Mead and Jean “Moebius” Giraud.
Disney has toyed with the idea of sequelizing TRON for several years; despite the fact that the original film made only marginal profits and received mixed reviews, time has made it a cult favorite and it remains a seminal inspiration for a generation of artists in the computer and entertainment industries. It’s usually acknowledged that the film was ahead of its time, and despite its flaws – its script needed a bit of polishing, it needed a touch more humor and personality and a smidge of tightening – it’s a fascinating film that deserves revisiting.
It was reported last Fall that Joseph Kosinski was in final talks to direct the new film, which would be produced by Sean Bailey and original TRON director Steven Lisberger and scripted by Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Kosinski, a commercial director, has also been signed to direct the Logan’s Run remake for Warner Brothers. Those concerned about an untested director taking over the reins on the film might be somewhat assuaged by a look at his previous work; he certainly shows a talent for creating mood and atmosphere, and his Nike promo might as well be an audition for TRON. In any case, I’d rather have him in the director’s chair than some hacky journeyman or – even worse – Michael Bay.
Hopefully negotiations will pan out this time; in 2005 it was announced that screenwriters Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal would be writing a remake of TRON, and prior to that Lisberger himself intended to film a sequel. Widely reported to be called TRON 2.0, Lisberger’s film was much talked about between 2001 and 2004 and had gone through several script drafts despite Disney’s cold feet in greenlighting it. Progress on the project allegedly accelerated due to the success of the original film’s 20th anniversary DVD release and the fantastic 2003 videogame sequel. Sadly, Disney never went forward with the project.
So now that production seems to be going forward again, will it actually pan out this time? Here’s hoping. But if it does, I have some suggestions. If you’re listening, oh wise ones in Burbank, this is what I would do to make TRON 2 a success:
- - Get Lisberger involved. TRON is his baby, and his credit needs to mean more than just a check in the mail. The studio apparently liked his sequel script, so have him active in the process. Get the visual designers from the original involved, as well.
- - Wendy Carlos must do the score. Carlos, the electronic music pioneer, created the iconic score for the first film. Don’t go cheesy techno, don’t go cheesy alt-rock. Don’t go with any of the generic staples of the genre. It must be Carlos.
- - Keep the vibe. It seems that Kosinski gets the moody, spartan aesthetic of the original. If this were to turn into a quick-cut, rapid-fire action fest it would totally ruin the weird and otherworldy feel of the first film. Don’t go Michael Bay. Don’t pander. Make a film to last, not a spastic regurgitation of the latest hacky trends.
- - I cannot emphasize this enough. Get Jeff Bridges. He has already indicated his willingness to take part in the project, which would be a fantastic tie to the original. Rumors about Lisberger’s film hinted at a storyline involving a programmer going into the mainframe to track down Flynn, who was living in the machine as a ersatz electronic Colonel Kurtz. One assumes this plot, if even accurate, has been abandoned, but Flynn must return. One would not object to seeing Boxleitner or Warner either; just don’t make the film about angsty, trendy tween offspring of the original characters.
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