back when 'tron' was cutting-edge sci-fi

I've heard some rumors about it since last year, but I wasn't really sure until today when I finally saw the preview. Tron Legacy, the sequel to the 1982 Disney cult classic Tron, will be coming in December 2010 (So that means it'll show in Manila sometime January due to the annual Film Fest. Arrrgh).

Interesting that this sequel maintains not just the original characters but much of the original cast.

Seeing the Legacy trailer stoked my childhood memories. I told my brother that Legacy was coming in December, and he likewise got excited. I suggested that he torrent the original Tron so we could revisit it before Legacy comes out. Naturally he found comments from several gen-X geeks who were downloading Tron and were pretty much thinking the same thing.

was all the rage for a while. I recall being in kindergarten when it came out. There was so much noise about it because it was so high-tech and was the first ever of its kind. I never saw it on the big screen, but I watched it with my brother several times on Betamax.

Tron '82 poster

It had quite an amazing story: a computer hacker got transmitted into an electronic world threatened to be ruled by a Master Control Program gone wrong. In his quest to defeat the MCP and save his own skin, he interacted with personified programs and took part in digital gladiator games. Back then, that was unique and edgy, served in what was considered to be a fast pace.

The predominantly electric blue animation was considered top-grade, visually stunning effects; the most unforgettable scene must have been the lightcycle battle. The innovative, cutting-edge graphics laid foundations for visual effects in movies and video games to come.

Trivia: Wiki says that Tron was denied an Oscar for visual effects, because it "cut corners" by using computers. Imagine that. That of course sounds ludicrous now since any and every movie with a hint of fantasy these days is expected to use CGI. I mean, there just isn't any other way to do it anymore.

For some reason, Tron was forgotten and buried within a few years. Possibly because computer-generated visual effects rapidly developed, leaving Tron far behind in such a short time. Still the film was held valuable by fans and geeks and movie lovers.

Almost thirty years later, the lightcycle race doesn't seem too impressive anymore - it's essentially a basic 2-d game with 4 directions and 90-degree turns, pretty much like a two-player game of Snake. The pace previously perceived as fast is now considered leisurely - even boring - in comparison to what crowds are used to these days. I won't even have to get into how primitive the animation already is.

1982 lightcycles (top) and a 2010 one (bottom)

In the Legacy trailer, I see that lightcycles and the light walls are still around - but with a wyckid, multilayered, 3-dimensional twist.

It's apparently an altogether different game by now. And oh - it seems darker, more sinister and not-so Disney pixie-dust family-fare.

I'm still curious though how the conflict would work, I mean without seeming too simple. It may not even be helped for viewers to identify its concepts with those in The Matrix (e.g., users getting sucked in and out, the personified programs, the quest to destroy a megalomanic electronic entity, and so on). I wonder of course how it would turn out - what's new, what's different, how would Disney repackage a very dated classic, what would be the kickarse gladiator game this time. I guess I'll have to wait until December to evaluate it for myself. The geek in me is pretty excited. I hope the movie won't disappoint.

Just another bit of trivia: The animators of the original Tron snuck a hidden Mickey in the background terrain. It wasn't that obvious since it went on for only a fraction of a second. Image from here.

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