A TRON “Legacy”?

There will be a new TRON movie out this year and no one could be happier than I. I loved the first TRON movie when it was released back in 1982. While it was not a great movie, it came out at the exact right moment for me, smack-dab in the middle of the golden age of classic video games and arcades. Along with movies like War Games and Cloak And Dagger, it helped form a fantasy world of computers and video games that colored my childhood, and help lead to a successful career as an adult. At the same time, the associated arcade and console video games created to tie-in with the movie stand out as great game designs. They came from a more creative age when licensed games were more than just re-skinned platformers.

However, notice I emphasized for me up there in that last paragraph. That is because, TRON was not very popular at the time. I know this for a fact, because I sat in the near empty movie theater with my brother and my mom, watching the movie with none of my closest friends. In fact, I recall a couple of my friends flatly refusing to go, because it was a “Disney” movie they thought it looked “lame”. Yes, there was a time, not too long ago, when the Disney name was associated with CRAP movies, and TRON did not escape this. While TRON was awesome for me as a 12-year old, that was not the general consensus at the time. No one talked about it. No one bought the trading cards, or the toys, and certainly no one else (that I knew of) wanted for a sequel. While my brother and I were able to convince one other friend to play “Tron Light Cycles” on our bikes, we would never admit to anyone else that was what we were doing.

The movie ended up making money that year (it cost $17 million and grossed $33 million), but that was peanuts in 1982, the year E.T. made $425 million. It was #22 on the box office list , and came in behind such “classics” as The Toy ($47 million), the Sword And The Sorcerer ($39 million), Best Friends ($36 million) and Friday The 13th Part III ($34 million). Even for a Disney movie, this was not a great total. The mostly forgotten Disney movie The Black Hole (seen in poster on the wall of the second trailer below, BTW)  from 1979 managed to make $35 million.

The fact is, for many years after TRON was released, people talked about it being a failure. That is why it has taken 28 years to see a sequel.

The original “Tron,” released in 1982 and loaded with computer-generated effects, was a hit with the young male crowd, who quickly turned a related arcade game into a success. But the movie failed to attract a wide audience. The story — a man is pulled inside a video game and is forced to play space-age gladiator games — turned off mainstream moviegoers.” – New York Times

However, I’ve noticed that there has been a lot of fan-fare for the new TRON or (TR2N) movie coming out in December. This weekend there was a very well received new trailer shown at Comicon in San Diego. However, before you see that one, watch this original trailer for the 1982 version of TRON:

And Now The New One for Tron Legacy

It looks really cool, but juxtaposed with the trailer for the first one, and the knowledge that it was pretty much failure, what kind of “Legacy” does the movie really have? The fact is, TRON was a victim of the same video game crash that destroyed the golden age of video games. While this new version has all the trappings of a blockbuster (CGI, 3D, hot young stars) will it really work? The upgraded graphics are cool, but do they make sense? There has obviously been a massive hardware upgrade since 1982 in TRON’s world, but does that change the way things look inside a computer? Why is “Flynn’s” arcade still in the same location with all the games still inside? Hasn’t there been a bit of urban renewal in that location in the past 30 years? If not, why not? That story might be more interesting than a guy sucked inside a microprocessor.

I just don’t believe there is any real “Legacy” for the movie TRON in the general public. It’s simply “The next big thing” that will soon replaced with another. Up until a few tears ago when the PC game Tron 2.0 was released, no one even talked about it. In fact, I’m sure you could find it as the butt of video game movie nerd jokes more than the object of any kind of praise or reverie. You see, TRON was paved over. It was trashed an forgotten like so many other great little gems from the 80′. Pushed aside in a disposable decade that now appears to have influenced far more than many people are willing to admit.

Of course, I’m going to go see the new movie. I’ll be there with the everyone else, donning 3D glasses after paying $14 a head (x5) for the privilege. It will probably be a fun time too. However, just like most modern movie experiences, the sensory red-bar will probably hit max on every level, but the effect will be short-lived. A cotton candy sugar-high that disappears shortly after lunch. One thing is for certain though, several times that day I will think about the original movie, and how much it meant to me when I saw it so many years ago. The “Legacy” for me was that day with my mom and brother, sitting alone at the Mann Theaters at the Olde Towne mall, eating red licorice and enjoying TRON as if it was the greatest movie ever made, no matter how many people told me otherwise.


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