With the release of TRON: Legacy on Blu-Ray this past week (and the re-release of the original TRON from 1982 on the same day), fans of the cult Disney film-turned-blockbuster-success are jumping in joy to see both these films in HD for the first time. However, newcomers to the Tron franchise might not be as excited due to their lack of knowledge of what it’s about. With that in mind, allow me to compare the two films in detail as a way of explaining why this series is so famous. This article will be divided into three categories: Story, Visuals, and Music, with decisions made as to which of the two films does better in these areas. Without further ado, let’s dive into the Grid and take a look at Tron and Tron Legacy.
*Note: This article contains minor spoilers for both “Tron and “Tron Legacy”*
Round 1: The Story
TRON is the story of Kevin Flynn (Jef Bridges), a former video game designer for a company called ENCOM who believes the new head of his old company, Edward Dillenger (David Warner), stole his video game ideas and claimed them as his own. In order to get evidence of this act of plagiarism, Flynn, with the help of former co-employee Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), sneaks into the company’s HQ one night and tries to hack into their system. However, Flynn gets more than he bargained for when he is digitized by a malicious computer entity called the Master Control Program (or MCP, for short) and sent inside The Grid. The Grid is a beautiful, yet dangerous world set inside the computer mainframe, where programs look like people, humans (referred to as “Users”) are worshiped as gods, and video games are like gladiatorial battles for survival. In order to end the wrath of the MCP and his right-hand man Sark (both of whom also played by Warner) and escape The Grid with his life, Flynn teams up with Alan’s old program, Tron (also played by Boxleitner), and embarks on a dangerous quest for freedom. The story, while simple, brings forth a unique concept of digital worlds right in front of our own eyes, while the characters involved are fleshed out to a good degree and keep the viewer engaged throughout the entire film.
TRON: Legacy, on the other hand, serves as the sequel to TRON, taking place over 20 years after the events of the original film. Sam Flynn (“Friday Night Lights” star Garrett Hedlund), Kevin Flynn’s son, is sent on a search for his father, who disappeared sometime after the events of the first movie. Sam quickly finds himself on a new version of The Grid created by his dad, this time ruled over by Kevin Flynn’s rouge creation, Clu (also played by Jeff Bridges). With the help of Kevin Flynn’s protege, Quorra (Olivia Wilde), father and son find themselves in a race against time to escape The Grid and foil Clu’s plans for a hostile takeover of the world of the “Users”. The story here’s a lot more complex than the original TRON, bringing in concepts from famous stories like “Atlas Shrugged” and even the old format known as “The Hero’s Journey”. While certain characters like Tron and Alan Bradley play less of a role here, their presence is still felt through the film, and the ending is something most people won’t see coming. In the end, despite being superior to the first movie in terms of the themes involved, the story of TRON: Legacy is just as fun to see play out.
Round 2: The Visuals
While the original TRON is famous for being the first movie to use computer animation as effects in a feature-length film, they can be considered to be very dated by today’s standards. Some people might say the costumes look silly, and the CGI to be basic compared to most films that use them today. Despite this potential assumption, they give a very nostalgic feeling for the 80’s and filmmaking back then (it was considered to be the “Avatar” of its day, despite its cult classic status), so they’re actually watchable event to this day. TRON: Legacy, however, takes the look of the first movie to a whole new level. The Grid and its inhabitants look even more impressive than before, and the whole world in there is just beautiful to look at. Even the vehicles and disk battles are taken up a notch. When killed, or “derezzed”, if you will, programs shatter like glass, and the famed light cycles from the first movie control more like actual motorcycles. Overall, TRON: Legacy is the obvious winner here, but it does nothing to hamper the look of the original film, whatsoever.
Winner: TRON: Legacy
Round 3: The Music
Story and graphics are one thing, but you have to have the right musical score to help keep the feel of the movie. Both films succeed in this in their own way. Wendy Carlos’ score for TRON is memorable amongst fans for its use of light-techno music and the occasional song by rock group, Journey. In this case, the song used is “Only Solutions”; another Journey song, “Separate Ways”, is heard briefly in TRON: Legacy. The score for TRON: Legacy, like with the film’s visuals, is also taken to a whole new level. The music this time is composed by famed techno duo, Daft Punk, who bring a unique mix of techno beats and a 100-piece orchestra to give the film a edgy, intense feel to it at times. See my review of that particular soundtrack for more details. It’s a tough call, but in the end, TRON: Legacy wins in this category. I’d recommend both scores, but the score for Legacy is something you have to see to believe.
Winner: TRON: Legacy
While TRON: Legacy might be the overall winner here, I highly recommend watching both films. They’re both really solid even for Disney films, and are great additions to one’s film collection. If you want to get both films at once, I recommend picking up the Five-Disc Combo Pack, which includes both films in Blu-Ray, as well as Digital Copy, Blu-Ray 3D, and DVD copies of TRON: Legacy. Bottom line, this is one series that fights for the Users!