Disney has invested quite a bit of money into promoting “Tron: Legacy” – $150 million, to be exact. I’ve been watching as they’ve hyped this movie for the past three years with a fair bit of skepticism. I’ve wondered why they need such a massive push for a big-budget visual effects spectacle for quite some time, so over the fall, I decided to look for answer in “Tron,” its 28-year-old predecessor.
I found one pretty good reason to promote “Tron: Legacy” so excessively: the original “Tron” is TERRIBLE! And not even terrible in the sense that you can step back and laugh at it; it’s just terrible!
Sure, the visual effects are obscenely outdated, and that’s reason for a few giggles. It’s also dated by kids playing games at an arcade. I mean, who does THAT anymore? I guess you could say that watching “Tron” certainly gives you an appreciation for the flawless integration of FX into movies, and it sure makes you want to bow at the feet of “Avatar” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”
With its extensive use of computer graphics for visual spectacle, “Tron” is considered by many to be a pioneering film in technological development and a window into the future. Well, I can tell you know from a 2010 perspective that the future came and left “Tron” in the dust a very long time ago. Plenty of movies have done similar things, and watching “Tron” is like sending a telegram when you could just send a text message: that’s to say extremely antiquated and a futile waste of time.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s something very cool and novel about seeing how things were done in the past and seeing our progress. But it’s brutal when that movie doesn’t have any value other than its depreciation to offer. ”Tron” has a completely incoherent plot that baffled moviegoers back in 1982 because it dealt so much with the unfamiliar computers. The filmmakers claimed that it was misunderstood back when the movie came out largely to cover the movie’s lackluster box office receipts. (To be fair, there was also a little science-fiction movie called “E.T.” dominating the market at the same time.)
Yet even now, in a generation of overexposure to computers, the movie still doesn’t make sense! All I could discern from that plot was that Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn invented the TRON program, his intellectual property was stolen, and he beams himself inside the program to prove his creation. From then on, it’s a total mess of seemingly unconnected events inside the computer that have little going for them other than the retro ’80s appeal.
The movie has managed to become a cult hit over the years, and I’m a little flabbergasted that people actually love this movie. I don’t see anything other than effects that are funny for a few minutes, and then when the novelty wears off, we are left with nothing but a snooze of a movie with a strange plot.
So I’m honestly shocked that Disney would throw so much behind “Tron: Legacy” when the original is so pathetic. I think they know it and are starting to fret that people like me would see the 1982 movie; according to a report in The Los Angeles Times, the DVD of the original is pretty hard to find since Disney is hardly releasing any new copies to meet the demand. Most studios release some new edition of a predecessor when a sequel comes out, and a special edition of “Tron” is nowhere to be seen.
“Tron: Legacy” is being built as the cinematic equivalent of Wall Street’s “too big to fail” companies. The commonly held theory is that if enough money is poured into a production, moviegoers will recognize the investment and go see it on blind faith. While the fanboy hype is high on this release, reality may be setting in that this might not have been such a smart move (which I could have told you the second I finished the original). According to The Hollywood Reporter, tracking indicates an opening weekend of a low $35 million, which would mean the movie would probably only net about $150-$175 million in the United States.
Given that the film will cost the studio $320 million by December 17, these numbers would be catastrophic for Disney. Just as when the “too big to fail” firms sunk led to change on Wall Street, /Film reports that if “Tron: Legacy” were to bomb, the impact on Hollywood could be enormous. My prediction is that if the sequel is anything like the 1982 “Tron,” the road to failure has already been paved.