Tonight Disney held a special event for TRON Legacy, by giving audiences a 23 min. preview of the upcoming film for free in select IMAX 3D theaters. Being a big TRON geek, I made sure to snag a ticket and I took my brother along for the ride – in part to get a sneek peak at the movie but also to figure out what all this IMAX fuss is about. I hadn’t seen anything in IMAX before (and the last “movie” I saw in 3D was Captain Eo at Disneyland when I was a kid) so it was a nice way to get a preview of it all without spending anything.
On top of that there was some “schwag” to pick up – a stock card featuring a mysterious character from the film called Rinzler and a sweet movie poster made just for this event. I’ll be hanging that up in my arcade tomorrow. They had movie posters draped over every other seat and where the theater I went to wasn’t fully packed (although it did have fairly good turnout) my brother snagged one too.
The preview itself consisted of a few select scenes from the first half of the movie. So while giving us 20 min or so there is still plenty of space for the movie to fill in. If you’re curious to hear more about the scenes (including more from Flynn’s arcade), click below. Early advance warning however – SPOILERS
UPDATE: I added some extra thoughts and a pic of the posters that they gave away.
The first scene is “Sam’s Apartment”. It’s not much an apartment, it’s a makeshift place located on some docks somewhere but there is a classic TRON reference as you’ll see DUMONT Industries printed on the side of one of the shipping containers. There you see Sam Flynn and Alan Bradley talk for a bit about Sam’s life and Kevin Flynn, in a more extended fashion than the trailers. Sam gives Alan a ribbing and doesn’t seem particularly enthused by his presence there but Alan rolls with the punches and convinces Sam to go to the arcade and check out the page that originated there. Sam goes and we get an extended look at Flynn’s – dusty, with spiderwebs all over the place and the games covered. When he powers everything up you are able to notice a few games right off the bat – Mario Bros., Make Trax and Donkey Kong. I also caught a glimpse of a fake, Encom made arcade title that a postcard was sent out for a while ago called Arc Wars. It looks like Mortal Kombat to me but it passed by so quickly that it’s hard to say if I got the marquee to the right game. Plenty of classic arcade sounds fill the air but one really nice touch was the jukebox – it immediately bursts out with a tune from Journey(Separate Ways I found out afterwards), although not the same one that played in Flynn’s from the first movie. It is sad to see the arcade run down as it is – I hope that whenever they get back to the real world they will fast forward to a time where it’s all up and running again. Anyways, Sam checks out the apartment upstairs for a moment, looking much like it did in the original, but covered in plastic and cobwebs. He then goes to the TRON machine where he discovers the secret passage and after navigating some tunnels finds an office of his Dad’s. He checks out the desk which is running some kind of program and as he investigates it, trying to discover what it was his dad was working on before he disappeared, he activates the laser. We aren’t treated to the laser effect though, that will have to wait for the full film.
I guess it’s worth noting that this scene was entirely in 2D although the text at the beginning said to put the glasses on for this scene anyways. With the glasses on it didn’t have any pop to it so I kept them off and it looked a little better since you had the higher contrast without the glasses. Maybe they’ll come up with a perfectly clear pair of 3D glasses soon.
Next scene: Sam on the Grid (in 3D)
This takes place right after he ends up in the virtual world and a recognizer craft has already landed to discover the disturbance he caused. There he is loaded onto the recognizer as a confused prisoner with some other unlucky programs. One thing I noticed right off the bat was that some programs behave as you would think programs should – without emotion. Their voices are different too. This creates a different vibe from the first film, which attempted to do that same thing at points (such as with Clu) but gave it up shortly after starting. It appears that the more sophisticated the program, the more emotion they output, which is interesting and helps create a contrast in who is who.
Anyways, Sam is trying to figure out what is going on but his fellow prisoners aren’t very talkative – one guy is missing part of his skull which plays to the 3D effect well. They also play on the 3D effect further as the recognizer lifts off and you can see the city below through a transparent floor. We get a quick but distant look at a Grid Tank on the ground (they do seem to have changed slightly but overall have a similar shape to the originals) and then it’s a flyover the city. When they get to their destination a program walks up to the prisoners and says either “Rectify” or “Games”, you can guess what happens to each from there. One guy is terrified of going to the games and offs himself quickly, leaving Sam more confused and probably a little scared and he is then taken to an area where he is put in the center of a room. There four women come out of the wall, marching in a pattern, unclothe him in a digital fashion and give him his new virtual armor. It’s a really cool effect as it forms around his skin. When he is given his identity disc, a voice gives off the exact same speech that Sark did in the original which was a great touch. The sirens (I guess that is what they are called) notice that Sam is different but don’t make any guesses as to his nature and only offer him one word of advice beyond that – survive. That’s when we go to the next scene:
They obviously jumped over a small part here but we are then treated to same being put into a hovering arena where he has to play a game that he is not familiar with – Disk Wars (He should have played Discs of Tron there in his fathers arcade). The arena effect is full of eye-candy and instead of two video warriors playing to the amusement of a few, they are now in front of gigantic crowds. It’s not clear from this scene if the crowds are programs written just for the arena or if they are something more but it creates a gladiator scene that is more intense to watch then we got in the originals. The warriors are in these transparent shells where the disc can bounce off of the walls but will destroy the floor beneath them. Clu shows up to watch and then same faces his opponent – a character he recognizes from his toys bookshelf. He is lucky enough to avoid the first shots that his opponent takes at him with the disk – his opponent is obviously trained well in these games and is no pushover. Sam still doesn’t get what to do other than dodge until he sees a pair in another arena and one of the opponents there is derezzed with his digital guts spilled all over the place. He then tries to battle although he’s quite awkward at it and almost drops his disc when it returns to him. after a short battle his opponent jumps towards Sam and he makes a lucky move and survives to live for another fight.
After watching this, I still have a hope that we could see a Discs of Tron arcade game again. My hopes might be too high for that, but it would be awesome. Either way the scene injects a level of action that while intense enough to keep you interested, also isn’t so in your face that you can’t keep track of what is going on. Overall – it was completely awesome.
Next scene: Escape from the Grid
They skipped several scenes to get here it appears but when the scene starts Sam is already in a light car with some stranger who has saved him from a light-cycle race. She isn’t talking much yet and she is masked so Sam just sits along for the ride as they make an escape somewhat similar to the escape scene in the original movie. Once safe they are in some badlands off of the grid – a desolate place dominated by dark crystalline structures. This might be once place where the dark scenery suffers a tiny bit from the tinted 3D glasses but you can see enough. They even go into a structure that looks a lot like a crystal place we saw in the original movie. At this point we also see that the character who saved Sam is Quorra (played by Olivia Wilde), a more sophisticated program based purely on her emotional responses alone. They race along through some canyons and eventually end up in a lair that at first makes you think of the BatCave as the outside face opens up to a secret tunnel below(the light-car certainly has enough features and utilities to give the Bat-Mobile a run for it’s money). They get onto an elevator and rise up into an apartment where an old man is sitting in the center of the room facing away from them. Quorra begins talking with the person and at first he thinks she is alone but she lets him know that she brought a long a visitor. The man gets up, turns around and it’s Kevin Flynn(played once again by award winning actor Jeff Bridges). Here we get a scene where father and son meet each other after twenty years, not knowing how to react properly as they never could have imagined their reunion happening like this. Sam shows a bit of well-played emotion and it’s a great scene that I’ll leave for you to see when the full movie comes out. There are some nice little 3D effects here too(particularly when they are driving and there is a POV shot from the vehicle or some glowing pixels rising up around Flynn) but I’m not sure if I’m totally sold on this 3D fad yet. No headache or anything to report but I would need to see more to be convinced that this really adds something to the film.
After this it ended with a slightly different trailer than that which was just released showing Daft Punk, that showed off some aerial fighting scenes with some new craft, a green cyclist and a few other things. In case you want to hear what Daft Punk has put together for the film (then you’ve probably heard this already), here’s a video featuring one of their new tracks. It’s not what they showed last night but there are several clips from scenes described above
So overall we have a great film to look forward to, something that carries it’s own unique vibe from the original but from what I saw I’m happy with. I really have been worried about it as a long time Tron fan but so far everything looks great and the storytelling gets into a little more emotion than I expected. That’s not to say it’s a touchy-feely-goodie sort of movie but rather by getting into the human side. From what I saw they seem to be balancing everything quite well and in a manner that the original didn’t exactly achieve. As it is, I am more excited to see the full thing than I was before(and I’ve been excited to begin with) and I have confidence that it will be worth the money to go see multiple times.
One question some might have is whether it’s an AVATAR killer. I can’t answer that question yet and maybe it’s a silly one to ask. In part, I still don’t fully understand why AVATAR did as well as it did. Was it just because of the lush scenery, puppy-dog eyed aliens and a manipulation of the heart strings? I don’t know. I saw it once, was amazed at first but as I thought back on the movie, I didn’t have a desire to really watch it again. As far as TRON goes, with only 20 min to go on, you can’t make a full judgment on the movie but you can tell that the two are very different films. It seems to me that TRON Legacy has more depth to it but that’s really something we’ll have to wait and see on. The CG in the film is stellar but the eye candy in TL is much different from the eye candy in Avatar; one is a cold, dark but alive virtual world the other is an alien fantasy planet. It did seem like TL relies on live sets for many things and the CG is so good that it’s hard to tell at times that something is computer generated instead of real. And so far no ridiculous terms like “unobtainium” or ridiculous situations like natives beating out a super-advanced military just because they have a Willpower of 20.
I look forward to seeing the whole thing on opening night, December 17th. Until then, I’m trying to contain myself from having to big of a fanboygasm.