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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Tron

April 4th, 2011

Tron: Legacy - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack, or 3D Blu-ray / Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack
Tron - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray / DVD
Tron / Tron: Legacy Double-Shot - Buy from Amazon: 3D Blu-ray / Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack or Collector's Gift Set

According to Amazon.com, there are 280 DVD and Blu-rays being released or re-released this week. Of those, 273 are related to Tron and Tron: Legacy. I'm exaggerating, obviously, but there are so many Tron releases that I may has missed one or two in the list above. The key release for me is this one, as it's the one Disney sent over my way. Tron: Legacy was the biggest hit of last December, at least so far. (True Grit is inching its way along and it has a slim chance of eventually topping it.) It might be the biggest, but the correlation between box office revenue and quality is sadly rather weak. So is it worth checking out? Perhaps it is worth picking up. If so, is it worth spending the extra cash for High Definition?

The Movie

Tron: Legacy starts with a prologue in which Kevin Flynn tells his young son about the events of the first movie and what happened shortly after that. Kevin continued to travel into the computer to build the perfect system. He needed help, so he created Clu, a program that was a representatation of himself, and he, Clu, and Tron worked tirelessly to improve the grid. He had recently found something wonderful that would change the world. However, before he could tell Sam about it, he disappeared.

20 years later, ENCOM International is about to release its latest operating system. The corporate atmosphere has gone downhill since the days of Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley and now it's all about the money. Sam, now an adult, more or less, is not interested in that philosophy, but the big release is enough to get him to come in for his annual prank. Afterward, Alan visits him and congratulate him on his prank, encourages him to do more with his life and tells him of a strange page he received. It came from his father's office at the old arcade, from a phone number that had been disconnected shortly after his father's disappearance. Sam investigates, finds his father's secret lab and faster than you can say, "quantum teleportation laser", Sam is zapped into the digital world.

This is where the plot takes a turn and arrives at the corner of "Huh? Street" and "Spoiler Avenue". To sum up briefly... and there are spoilers...

The world Sam is teleported into is a little different from the one we saw in the original Tron. There are still the games, including the Light Cycle races, but Sam soon learns that Clu is in charge and his father is gone. The something big Kevin was talking about with his son before he disappeared was the appearance of "isomorphic algorithms". What are those? I'm not entirely sure. Best I can tell, once the system was sufficiently complex, these "isomorphic algorithms", or ISOs as they are called, spontaneously appeared. Kevin saw these as miracles, but Clu saw them as imperfections, and since he was tasked with creating the perfect system, he staged a coup to overthrow Kevin and become the new ruler of the system. Tron sacrifices himself so Kevin to get away, but the portal to the outside world closed and Kevin is trapped. Shortly after the takeover, Clu eradicated all of the ISOs and began his plan to... Well, that's far too large of a spoiler to get into.

The rest of the movie is equally divided between trying to resolve the plot and looking at the cool visuals. Most people agree that the latter is more intriguing than the former, and depending on who you talk to, that may or may not be enough to give the film an overall positive grade.

In my opinion, both parts are true. I didn't find the plot too incomprehensible, certainly not to the extent a lot of critics seem to be complaining about. There were certainly logical flaws I noticed. For instance, when Sam and Kevin are reunited in the digital world, they have a meal together. How do you eat in the digital realm? Why would you need to eat? On the other hand, it did take a while for the plot to get into gear. While we were waiting, there were some cool visuals to check out (light cycle battle) but there wasn't much reason to be emotionally invested in the characters at that point. That battle was still awesome to watch, especially if you are a fan of the the original Tron, but it didn't have the same emotional impact this time around. On the other hand, by the time we do get invested in the characters and the climactic end battle occurs, it is that much cooler as a result.

Continuing the comparison between Tron: Legacy and Tron, I would argue that the sequel is not as good as the original. Mainly because the original Tron's biggest asset was its originality, not only in terms of visuals, but also in terms of its story. This time around, the film had to navigate a very narrow passage between paying homage to the original and avoiding feeling like a carbon copy. There are plenty of callbacks to the earlier film, including major ones like the disc game, the light cycles, the solar sailer, as well as minor ones, like the tanks that are only briefly seen. The production design also maintains continuity while updating the quality.

Is Tron: Legacy as good as Tron? No. But it's close enough that if you liked the first film, it is very likely that you will like the second one.

The Extras

There are a lot of releases, so lets get right to the extras.

The DVD has two featurettes, the first on the look of the film and the second on the cast. Plus there's a 2-minute preview for the upcoming animated series. That's not enough. Call this version a rental.

The Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack has those extras, plus several exclusives. These start with The Next Day: Flynn Lives Revealed, which is a faux documentary on the world's reaction to Kevin Flynn's disappearance, as well as a follow-up to the events in the movie. Launching the Legacy looks at the process the filmmakers went through to get Tron: Legacy into production so many years after its predecessor came out. Crowd Roars shows the ComicCon 2010 event where crowd noises for the movie were recorded. Finally, there's a music video. It costs 25% more than the DVD, but the extras make it worth the upgrade.

The 3D Blu-ray / Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack comes with all of that, plus the 3D Blu-ray. If you have a 3D HDTV already, it's a must have. If you don't have it yet, but are planning to upgrade before the end of the year, then the 25% premium is likely worth it.

Up next is the Tron / Tron: Legacy Double-Shot 3D Blu-ray / Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack. Here you get everything from the previous release, plus the original Tron Blu-ray. Given how awesome the original is, and how many extras there are on the Blu-ray, this is clearly the ideal choice, right? Maybe. The list price for the Combo Pack is $10 cheaper than the two releases separately, but over on Amazon.com, buying them separately costs $5 less, so keep that in mind.

As for the films' technical spec, I have good news and great news. Tron looks about as good as one could expect a film from the early 1980s that relies so heavily on computer animation. Live action shots look excellent, if a little too dark at times. Meanwhile, the computer animation shots look, well, primitive, but as good as one can expect, given the age of the film. The audio is strong with clear dialogue, good use of the surround sound speakers, etc. It's not as dynamic as a movie made today would be, but it's still strong. On the other hand, Tron: Legacy is beyond strong. It's reference level material. Everything about the audio and video is near perfection and if you want to show off you home theater system, this is the disc to grab.

The Verdict

Tron: Legacy is better than its Tomatometer Score would indicate and its a visual feast as well as fun ride. It's not quite as good as Tron, but both movies are worth owning. Add in the stunning high definition treatment and the ton of extras and this is Pick of the Week material. Just make sure you check to see whether or not the Combo Pack is actually cheaper than buying the two movies separately.


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Filed under: Video Review, Tron, Tron: Legacy