Review by C.J. Bunce
Tron is one of those franchises that has barely been tapped for its universe of potential stories about the Grid. The original movie Tron followed Jeff Bridges’ character Flynn as he became sucked into the computer sphere, into the video game, Tron. The graphic novel Tron: Betrayal smartly covered the events after the original film, to provide a segue into the new Grid universe in Tron: Legacy, a strange, cool, new world of the Grid on the big screen. Tron: Legacy met Flynn again, this time an aged hermit-slash-guru, trapped for years as an outcast rebel leader, and his son, who enters the computer world to find him. We got a brief glimpse of Tron’s real-world equivalent (Bruce Boxleitner, Chuck, Scarecrow & Mrs. King), but didn’t see much of Tron himself. The excellent updated role play video game Tron: Evolution features even more of the new world, but not until now do we get what we’ve wanted all along, more Tron, and specifically more Boxleitner as Tron. Unfortunately Tron isn’t the lead of the new animated weekly half-hour TV series on Disney XD, Tron: Uprising, but he gets an important key role as Jedi-like mentor to Elijah Wood’s young Padawan-esque character, Beck, years after the events of Tron: Legacy. The story is one of persecution and revolution, and the whispered message across the Grid is “Tron lives.”
You’ll find plenty of parallels to Star Wars and other good science fantasy and science fiction, even cool references back to the original Tron movie itself, like the little floating diamond that repeated the word “yes” with nice comic timing. And you’ll be hard pressed not to try to compare it to the Clone Wars animated series. I think the art, sound, story, music, color, depth, movement and vibe leaves not only Clone Wars behind, but any other animated series that comes to mind, after watching the first three episodes broadcast yesterday and last Tuesday. If there is any drawback it may be characters and producers still getting comfortable with the dialogue and techno-babble, but this may just get ironed out over the course of the series. The other drawback is getting used to the string-bean thin and tall hero characters of this universe. But those items are easily dismissed for all that is very cool in this series.
The best part may very well be the band Daft Punk’s soulful, hopeful, sometime dark, sometimes bright techno music that is borrowed from their unique and stunning score for the film Tron: Legacy and carefully and expertly edited into this series. The thumping base line and synthesized strings at the right movements take you into this new world to the point you find the art direction and sound together creating a complete universe–and you will question whether this is a movie or a video game or an animated series. Imagery of a classic Encom light cycle has glass-like mirror reflections of animated characters that looks like it could exist in the real world. Water flows like real water, yet nicely done with a computerized edge to it as in the original Tron film.
And then you have Bruce Boxleitner as not an elder Tron so much as a mature Tron, leader and icon of this new uprising. His character looks a bit like Boxleitner without the need for motion capture technology. Elijah Wood’s Beck is young and impulsive. Emmanuelle Chriqui’s Paige and Kate Mara’s Perl are cool, tough villains. Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica, Burn Notice) provides the perfect voice for the voiceover introductions as well as the voice of the Grid. Lance Henriksen’s (Alien) Tesler is a slicker villain than Jeff Bridges’ motion capture computer-generated character Clu from Tron: Legacy. And Paul Reubens’ voice is perfect for Tesler’s henchman.
You can’t forget the animation itself, and Disney has outdone itself here. it looks like it must have taken years to developed this type of imagery. Some scenes look they come from the best of Pixar’s achievements, including some that just establish setting, with little or no action, although the light cycle chase scenes are seemless and exciting as you’d hope for.
A great start for a great franchise!