Tron: Legacy Ultimate Preview

It's nice to have connected friends. Last night, I got to attend a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) screening of Tron: Legacy, which opens in theatrical release tomorrow, as a guest of member Nina Goldin, a talented voice actress and singer/songwriter. The screening was held at the Fantasia Theater on Disney Studios' back lot in Burbank, CA, where security was pretty tight—metal-detector wands to prevent any cell phones or cameras (or sound-level meters) in the theater.

I've been eagerly awaiting this movie since I first saw a trailer months ago. So how was it? (Don’t worry, no plot spoilers here, other than what's generally known.) Visually astounding, as expected, and the basic story is a clever sequel to the original, with Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their roles as Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley 30 years after the events depicted in Tron. And the "de-aging" of Bridges for his second role as the evil leader-program Clu is amazing.

Unfortunately, other aspects of the movie don't fare so well. I found the dialog to be weak and the acting to be overly melodramatic yet lacking in real emotion. The plot is quite slow, despite all the fights and fast lightcycle chases, and the exposition of what has happened over the past 30 years is pedantic to say the least. Finally, the comic relief provided by the obsequious Jarvis (James Frain) and flamboyant Zuse (Michael Sheen) is quite annoying and out of place.

As you've no doubt heard, Tron: Legacy is in 3D. (The presentation I saw used Dolby 3D.) However, you might not have heard that some scenes—quite a few, actually—are in 2D. A note to that effect appeared on the screen just before the movie began, advising audience members to keep their 3D glasses on the entire time.

You might think this a bit weird, and it is—jumping between 2D and 3D was momentarily distracting—but the filmmakers used this technique primarily to distinguish between the real world (2D) and the Grid (3D), a computer-generated environment created mostly by CGI (computer-generated imagery) combined with live actors. In this regard, switching between 2D and 3D was actually very effective, enhancing the visual impact of the Grid. It reminded me of The Wizard of Oz with Kansas in sepia-tone and Oz in full color. Also, the use of 3D was quite nice, with lots of depth and virtually no gimmicky shots.

Using a single projector—in this case, a Christie CP2000SB on a 42-foot-wide 2.35:1 screen—the image was pretty dim, and the color in non-CGI scenes looked a bit strange, but that could have been the director Joseph Kosinski's intent. I plan to see it again in Imax 3D with my sister, who worked on the original movie all those years ago. I'll also measure the sound levels, since I was unable to bring my SPL meter into the Disney theater.

Tron: Legacy is not great filmmaking by any means, and it definitely emphasizes style over substance, as befits its video-game roots. But, like Avatar, the visuals alone are worth the price of admission. Two notes of caution—if you've never seen the original, try to before seeing the sequel, which will make more sense if you do. And with all the loud explosions and musical score by Daft Punk, be sure to bring earplugs!