In 2010, Disney released the long-anticipated sequel to the 1982 sci-fi classic, Tron
. Nearly thirty years after the release of the original, Jeff Bridges returned to the role of Kevin Flynn in Tron: Legacy
, an ambitious, special effects-driven film that introduced the character's son Sam and the Isomorphic Algorithm known as Quorra. The hope was that Legacy
would kick off a new tent pole franchise for the studio but a disappointing box-office reception put a halt to that. However, with news that a third film
is finally in the works, let's look back at Tron: Legacy
and why, despite its critical and financial failure, the movie was ahead of its time.
Tron: Legacy is, on its own, a great film. Not only does it work as a sequel to the original, but it also manages to stand on its own. If you have never seen the first Tron, it wouldn't even have to be required watching because all there is to understand about the world of this sci-fi franchise is re-introduced and reinvented in the 2010 sequel. The production design of Legacy is also astounding. The costumes are sleek and cool, and the designs of The Grid, from the architecture to the overall aesthetic, are the perfect blend of realistic, futuristic and digital.
Even if the film was released ten years ago, the visual effects still hold up great. Sure, the visual effects of Clu 2, who is a de-aged version of Jeff Bridges aren't all that great in 2020, but it still somehow works in the film's favor. After all, Clu is the villainous double of Kevin Flynn, a program who lives in a digital world. He may look like he belongs in a video game cinematic sequence, but that actually helps in making the character look even creepier, and appear all the more villainous (and hey, he still looks better than Henry Cavill's mustache-less Superman from 2017's Justice League). And, of course, the soundtrack by Daft Punk is legendary.
However, those strengths aren't even what makes Tron: Legacy a film ahead of its time. No, what helps the sequel stand apart is that it checked all of the boxes of genres that would become all the rage in the next five to ten years. First of all, Legacy largely tapped into the nostalgia of the '80s (complete with retro-techno music). Films and television series such as Stranger Things, Ready Player One, It, Blade Runner 2049 and the upcoming Ghostbusters sequel are just a few examples of the rebirth of the '80s in recent years of entertainment.
What's more, even the story itself features elements that are now popular in 2020: in Legacy, Clu was a villainous artificial intelligence program who dreamed of reaching the real world and correcting the mistakes of human life. Today, Westworld, Devs, Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery and even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have all featured recent storylines that tapped into the menace of A.I.s, and the type of hell they could unleash.
And that's not even mentioning the opening of Tron: Legacy that takes place in the real world. The sequence may ultimately be brief, but it had a dark retro feel fueled by the powerful Encom company and its ominous board of directors, which had the overlord qualities of Silicon Valley and big tech companies we know all too well now from the likes of Mr. Robot.
Tron: Legacy arrived at a time when the world just wasn't ready for it. The interest in everything it touched upon would peak in another five to seven years, which means it might have been a certified hit if it had been released in that time window. And perhaps this is why a third movie is finally in the works again. The powers that be may have realized the timing is just right to bring Tron back.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski, Tron: Legacy starred Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen and original Tron cast members Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner. The films is available to stream now on Disney+.