In Defense Of: TRON: Legacy (2010)

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Let’s get it out of the way: 1982’s TRON is a perfect example of a film wherein style completely trumped substance to its lasting detriment. That’s not to take away from its importance as a groundbreaking piece of work, one undeniably laced with rich iconography, but instead to point out that on a narrative level, TRON certainly left a lot to be desired, too caught up – and understandably so – in exploring its own world to focus on giving us a solid story with which to truly support itself. As a result, with several decades now under its belt and its once incredible effects and animation now painfully dated, it’s even easier to see that there’s no real meat on the film’s bones that has allowed it to truly stand the test of time for most people outside of its own loyal fanbase.

In essence, TRON is a movie rife with ideas and full of potential left unfulfilled thanks to the constraints of its time, and even if it did manage to tread new ground, its core concept left a lot on the table just waiting for someone to come along and pick up. As years went on and technology and computer animation evolved by leaps and bounds, it’s easy to see why the film’s most ardent fans were wondering if they’d ever be able to revisit the world of TRON on the big screen. If anything, the movie seemed destined for a modern reboot like so many other older properties have undergone over the last decade alone, and in 2010, after 28 years, TRON: Legacy arrived, giving the original film a proper sequel instead of wiping the slate clean to start the franchise anew.

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Despite a split response from critics, Legacy made a healthy chunk of change at the box office, but for one reason or another, it just didn’t seem to catch on, at least not in the way that Disney had hoped it would. With a third film in the franchise looking more and more like a pipe dream with each passing year, the sequel seems destined to a fate similar to its predecessor, supported by loyal, loving fans but forgotten by the rest of the world. As always, I’ll argue that TRON: Legacy deserves more credit than it gets, but before I get into that, I feel it’s important to also give Disney a bit of credit for even allowing the film to exist in the first place.

As I mentioned, another TRON film could have easily been a reboot, and considering that nearly three decades had passed since the original film, it would’ve been a pretty understandable choice on Disney’s part to do so. Instead, they gifted us with a sequel that didn’t shy away from its roots; a follow-up that brought back Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn and Bruce Boxleitner’s Alan Bradley, and even involved their fellow co-stars from the original film, Cindy Morgan and Dan Shor, to reprise their character in the film’s extensive viral marketing.  Simply put, Legacy is a love letter written to TRON from people who clearly love it, their passion shining through in every way, and it’s commendable that Disney didn’t take the easy way out in bringing the franchise back.