A “Tron: Legacy” Night At The IMAX

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I don’t remember much of the original movie beyond Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) being sucked into the system and the special effects that were pretty cool back in the early 1980s when computer animation was still in its infancy. The original movie is no longer available on DVD or even Netflix Instant for viewing. That will probably change when the marketing for the new movie kicks into high gear. I kept an open mind about the half-dozen scenes that I saw, which was a challenge since I’m not a big fan of Hollywood forsaking new ideas to recycle classic movies and TV shows from the last 30 years.

The segment starts off in the real world that’s in 2D, where Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is informed by his father’s close friend, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), that he received a page from a phone number that’s been disconnected for 25 years. Why someone would keep a working pager in the modern era of cellphone texting is something that I hope the movie will explain. Sam heads down to the old arcade where his father’s office is located and turns on the circuit breaker that brings the arcade alive with the familiar sounds of multiple video game machines and a jukebox playing 1980s music. A Tron arcade machine stands alone against the wall in the back. He puts in a quarter that falls out on to the floor since it’s not an arcade token, discovers heavy scoring marks on the concrete floor, and pushes back the arcade machine to find a secret passage to his father’s lab. A still active virtual touch screen comes alive. He enters the command line, guess the password, enters the whoami command to discover that this was father’s account, and runs the last command that was executed. A camera laser sucks him into the 3D virtual world of Tron that his father had made.

The arcade scene was genuinely authentic. I used to crawl the arcade scene when I was a teenager in the early 1980s. My parents gave me a $30/week allowance. I blew half in the arcades and the other half. My parents thought that this was a strange combination, but they were relieved that I wasn’t involved in sex and drugs like too many young people in my generation. (I was really fat and nerdy back then like most of the people watching last night). I recognized Dig DugMissile Command and Pac-Manfrom the cacophony of arcade game sounds. I never played Tron that much back then. Star Wars was the hot arcade game that put you in the seat of a X-Wing fighter flying over the Death Star trench in all its vector graphics glory.

When Sam appears in the virtual world, he is immediately picked up by a recognizer, the iconic machine that picks up stray programs (people) that shouldn’t be running around lose. I don’t remember the original version at all. This one had two guards, a pilot, and about eight prisoners. Sam is locked down without any explanation and frighten by the person next to him who has only half a head. After the recognizer flies across the virtual world, it lands and the prisoners are sorted out. One prisoner runs off to jump over the side and asunder into a thousand electronic bits when hitting the next level. Sam is slated for the games. He is escorted into a room where four women stripes him of his clothing and dress him in his virtual clothing with a security disc that is also his weapon. One of them notes that he is a different kind of program before sending him off into the arena.

The next set of scenes are the virtual highlights that we expect to find: the laser disc fight to the death, the light cycle competition to create a wall of light that forces the other light cycle to crash into, and the extended cycle chase through the virtual world when Sam is rescued by the mysterious Quorra (Olivia Wilde), who reminds me of Trixie (Christina Ricci) from “Speed Racer”. She takes him to the safe house where his father has been in hiding for 25 years, where father and son are reunited. The segment blends into the trailer for the movie and comes to an end.

“Tron: Legacy” appears to be a worthy successor not only to the original movie but also to “The Matrix” series. Every decade needs to have a signature film that looks ahead to the future in both the real and virtual worlds. The 2D virtual touch screen currently exists on the Apple iPad/iPhone/Touch family of mobile devices, and one exhibtor at the 2010 MacWorld Expo demonstrated the Mac OS X desktop being projected on a desktop surface that could manipulate things. The 3D virtual world overall was very beautiful with a deep monochromatic background and bright neon colors. Some of the newer video game engines like id Software’s RAGE are becoming more photo realistic. Unlike all the other recycled movies coming out in recent years, Disney got this one right.

Howell and I turned in our 3D glasses and retrieved our cellphones. A free movie poster and a card for an Asus video card (who sponsored this event) were available. We also got coupons for to see any movie that night for $5 USD and a free drink-and-popcorn combo for our next visit. There were no good movies to watch that night. Besides, unless it was free, we couldn’t see it anyway. The combo coupon happens to expire the day before the new Harry Potter movie comes out. Bummer, AMC!