Tron Legacy. This post isn’t a film review. Not entirely. Because I didn’t view an entire film. It’s about my experience at Tron Night, which happened at GSC Mid Valley on the 28th of October.
OK, a brief explanation. Tron Night was a preview screening showcasing 23 minutes of 3D footage from “Tron Legacy”. This was a global marketing effort by Disney to drum up hype for the film. I had been following the reports that it would be happening in the US, but I never expected it to happen here. Luckily, GSC has been pretty aggressive in their advertising and promotions, so kudos to them for doing this. Basically, I had to redeem a coupon off their website and exchange it at their box office to get 2 tickets. Usually, free screenings get a lot of response, but in this case not only was I the first one in line to redeem the tickets, I was the ONLY one. Which was sweet, since I got the best seats in the house.
True enough, the turnout on the night was quite poor. There were less than 30 people in the audience. The GSC rep looked kinda glum, but the show had to go on. After a brief introduction explaining what this screening was about, the lights went down and a worded introduction from the director appeared on screen. It read something along the lines of:
Greetings programs, the footage you are about to see is from the first half of the film. Some of the sound and music is temporary. While the first scene is in 2D, the film was designed to be viewed in 3D so please keep your glasses on. End of line. Joseph Kosinski.
And over the next 20 minutes …
It. Was. Mind. Blowing.
I’ve always had a good feeling about this movie and based on what I witnessed, my instincts have been right. There was a sense of wonder and discovery in all the scenes that we were shown. How many films in this day and age can claim to achieve that? At least for me, I got the feeling that I was viewing something special and fresh. It was like seeing with new eyes.
Now let me try to break down what I saw. I’ll give my impressions rather than detailed descriptions because I don’t want to spoil your fun. Also there was a lot to absorb. There was a total of 7 separate scenes, including a montage at the end. The scenes were numbered but I can’t remember all of them. Here we go …
This is essentially the set-up, where we are introduced to the protagonist, Sam Flynn. Little details give us a fair impression of his character. Sam has just gotten home after a short stint in jail. He removes his shirt and we see recent injuries on his back, evidently from recklessness on the road. This is a nod to his biking skills, which will be essential later on in the film. He lives in a modified shipping container facing the river. The interior is spartan but cool, with kind of a shabby-chic design, complete with a cute Boston Terrier puppy. His father’s abrupt departure from his life has obviously left a lasting effect on him. Sam seems like a bit of a rootless and rebellious soul, not wanting to form any lasting relationships with the world around him. His father’s former colleague and friend Alan Bradley, played by Bruce Boxleitner pays him a visit, urging Sam to check out his father’s abandoned arcade. Some of the dialogue in this scene you will have seen in the trailer. I liked their interaction. It felt like there was a real history between them; an untold story lived off-screen.
The subsequent scene is at Flynn’s Arcade. Sam steps into a large room full of plastic-covered arcade machines from the 80’s. He turns on the power and the machines all come to life, and a song by rock band Journey blares over the PA system. Then the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” starts playing. An eerie, nostalgic vibe permeates the air. Sam ends up in a secret basement where his father had obviously been working on something big. The equipment in this room is far more advanced than the relics outside. Sam begins typing commands on a digital touchscreen keypad. Behind him, a device hums to life. Fans of the first film will recognise it as the “de-rezzing laser”.
The scene opens on a disoriented Sam trying to get a grip on where he is. He scans his surroundings and realises he is inside a digital world. A gigantic airborne vehicle lands before him. This is the Recognizer. Several guards dressed in those distinctive light-infused suits grab and secure him onboard, in a row of other prisoners. He tries speaking to them, but one of them tells him in a metallic voice not to speak. A guard identifies each captive as either “rectify” or “games”. Sam stares defiantly at the guard, and gets the latter.
He ends up in a room full of sexy women encased in body-hugging white armour. They look like futuristic nurses. They run their glowing fingertips down his body, and his clothes fall apart. A black pixellated skin forms over his body, and the women attach various bits and pieces to form his light-suit. Finally, he is given a light-disc, which he is told also serves as an identification device because each disc is unique to its user. The women walk and move in a surreal, herky-jerky manner, like video footage being played in reverse. Sam is still confused by everything that’s happening to him, but he appears to be going with the flow.
This is by far the most exhilarating scene. Sam emerges from underground onto a vast transparent platform, in the middle of a massive arena filled with screaming spectators. They all look human, but none of them are real. They are all programs. Sam has been thrust into the Tron world’s gladiatorial games. He quickly learns the stakes, as a player on the neighbouring platform is hit by a light-disc and disintegrates into millions of pixels. His opponent strides onto the battleground. He looks Japanese, and very nasty. He detaches his disc from his back and a transparent helmet forms over his face. Sam is totally outclassed by his opponent, who launches into a lightning-fast salvo of attacks, with the light-disc ricocheting off walls and destroying portions of the floor. But Sam is a sharp guy and shows a gift for on-the-spot improvisation. I won’t tell you how the duel ends, but I will say it is amazingly choreographed and very exciting to watch.
This scene is all about the vehicles. And what fantastic vehicles they are. You’ve seen the Lightcycles in action via the trailers, but this scene reveals new moves and new weaponry. In a way, it reminded me of the legendary Playstation game “Wipeout”. Here, we are also introduced to Quorra (Olivia Wilde). She is driving a four-wheeler, with Sam in the passenger seat. They are being pursued across the grid, and after a sequence of impossible maneuvers and near collisions, their vehicle ramps off the grid and past the limits of Tron City. The environment beyond the city limits are barren but clearly organic, with rock-like formations everywhere. Quorra drives them up a precarious mountain ledge, to a mansion at the pinnacle.
Inside, we see an elegant, almost classical theme to the room. It’s still very clean, minimalistic, and consistent with the whole Tron aesthetic, but there’s a warmth and humanity to the design here. The reason is because its inhabitant is none other than Sam’s father. Kevin Flynn is a weary old soul now, a god trapped by his own worshippers. Quorra interrupts his meditation, telling him they have a guest. Flynn turns around and stares at the young man for a moment, before realising it is his son. Flynn hugs Sam as if to confirm that he’s real. I liked the subtlety of this father-son reunion. It wasn’t overplayed or sentimental, yet had a sweetness to it. This scene is probably the most important indication that “Tron Legacy” won’t be just about cool designs and huge spectacle. The heart is what people ultimately take away from a film, regardless of how much eye candy there is on offer.
The final scene is a sizzle reel: a quick-cut series of shots from the rest of the film. Among them are the first dialogue scenes featuring Castor, a nightclub owner modeled after David Bowie circa 1972. Castor instructs the club deejays to “electrify the boys and girls”. Not hard to do, when the deejays are played by none other than Daft Punk, complete with their signature robotic helmets! We also see a totally digital version of the young Jeff Bridges, who is the villainous character Clu. The facial expressions seem to be a bit more realistic compared to the version in the trailer. Looks like they’re continuing to refine this digital actor until the film’s release date. Which can only be a good thing, since Clu will be a central character, and thus needs to be totally believable.
After the lights came up, I turned to my date with a huge grin. I haven’t felt this pumped for a movie in a long time. And I wasn’t the only one. She was also smiling, saying she really enjoyed it. The crowd may have been small, but the applause wasn’t. If this footage is any indication, “Tron Legacy” won’t just live up to my now-lofty expectations. It could conceivably be the best film of 2010.
“Tron Legacy” premieres on December 16th. To say I can’t wait would be something of an understatement.
Storyteller by trade and dreamer by nature, Wai has been deeply nuts about the celluloid world since the first time he discovered he could watch a story instead of reading it. But he likes writing about it. Wai goes by a single name because he likes to avoid any “Imperial entanglements” (a.k.a. “conflict of interest with the powers that be” for those of you who don’t speak Star Wars) in his employment. Plus, cool people use one-word names.
See also other views on the preview: