TRON: Legacy (IMPACT Series)

Flynn’s arcade.

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 

The Grid. A digital frontier

The Backdrop

Tron: Legacy, isn’t one of those films that I consider “great.”

But, admittedly, I am a huge fan of it, because I changed my mindset about what films can be, and I’ve decided that, this wasn’t a film, it was a music video.

So with that mindset in place, I announced proudly to myself to the critics and audience that disliked it, that this film is the greatest music video ever made.

Coming out in relative obscurity, in 2010, Tron: Legacy was … admittedly always destined to fail. Almost no-one had any memory of the original made in 1982 (I know I certainly didn’t) and poor marketing ensured that this sequel was underwhelmed at the box office. The Tron fanbase was always niche, so effectively, this sequel felt like the first film for a lot of people.

So what captivated me to see it?

The directing, if I was honest.

Joseph Kosinski craftmanship, and cool colour grading to the “real world” grabbed me from the very start and hooked me in. The boys at my favourite Youtube channel, RedLetterMedia described it best, in their Re:View, “if David Fincher directed a corny Disney movie.”

I particularly remember the transition shot of Sam Flynn riding away on his bike, and the shot of him weaving through traffic and the brief chase sequence between him and the police.

Tron Legacy may not have the greatest plot, dialogue or character development, but its’ art style and world, film direction and music makes it captivating watching.

Just look at the art direction … disc wars, neon, gladiatorial arena, everything is so stylish compared to the original Tron in 1982.

The Impact.

The complete redesign of a lot of iconic aspects of the original Tron was for the betterment of the film. Recognizers, Light Cycles, even the actual suits underwent complete overhauls that truly made Tron a fresh and exciting film to see on screen.

Everything had such a unique sterile, clean and strong aesthetic, with the use of neon light blues and orange reds allowing vehicles, suits, and buildings to have a clear outline, while appearing slightly transparent.

The darkness that surrounded Tron‘s world was never too dark, the world achieving more character with clouds and fog, and allowing vehicles like the original Light Cycle to cut through cinematically.

Glass, and liquid seem to meld beautifully together, especially with the liquid like trail that shot out from behind the Light Cycles or how programs when they “derezzed”, seemed to shatter into million of pieces of glass.

CGI, in a film, tends to age horribly. Tron Legacy’s visual effects remain excellent even today, a trend I noticed that is common with a lot of music video films. Their score, art design, special effects and overall direction seem to last the ages. Look no further than Blade Runner.

However, what truly sold the film, was Daft Punk’s score. Easily one of the most anticipated aspects of the film, as it heralded the return of the legendary French electronic duo.

Simultaneously epic, orchestral and pulsating electronic, the score is phenomenal in how it handles the emotions on-screen, and accentuates action sequences.

Heavy use of non-traditional synth with sweeping orchestral sounds ensured that Tron Legacy’s score will never fade away into obscurity. To say that I’ve listened to this score over 500 times from end to end, is probably not an exaggeration. It has everything I’ve ever really wanted in a soundtrack.

Also equal importance is to note Disney’s role in this film, which was minimal, as they themselves, seem to know what a niche IP this was for them. Whilst, I am saddened by the news that this franchise never seemed to take off, (even with recent news that a Tron 3 is in development), the film itself warrants repeat viewing, my eyes often wishing they could soak a bit longer in the world.

Light cycles are simply right up there with one of the coolest movie vehicles ever designed.

The Enrichment.

Before Tron Legacy, I was never really into electronic music, the current trend at the time, being too generic and loud for my taste.

However, with the discovery of its’ score, I wanted to delve further into Daft Punk‘s work.

And what a source of music it was.

I ended up downloading every single album I could find of theirs, poring over Homework, Discovery, Human After All, and soon to be released was Random Access Memories.

I had no idea that the electronic sounds of the late 90s, early 00s, were so distinct and different to 10s of the 2000s.

There was a bit more funk, a bit more synth and retro to Daft Punk‘s music than I had previously heard in any of the remixes by the current disc jockeys and I absolutely loved it.

Without Tron Legacy, I wouldn’t have discovered the amazing discography of Daft Punk.

I still haven’t quite gotten in more electronic music though. Something about EDM, is just not to my style. Although, that being said, I am still a sucker for the nightclub music in Grand Theft Auto V.

What I’ve also noticed is that ever since Daft Punk was able to score a major film like Tron Legacy, other electronic artists have had their time to shine, beyond the greats like Hans Zimmer, John Williams, such as Junkie XL, M83 or Skrillex.

I have to admit, it’s a rather novel idea, to get DJs to score films, because their diverse knowledge of sounds and database makes them ideal artists to hire for unique scores.

It is a crime, that this score never won anything. It is easily one of the best soundtracks ever made.

The Culmination.

Tron Legacy is probably one of the most rewatched films in my limited history of cinema-viewing. The world, aesthetic, music and overall atmosphere makes for such captivating viewing, and is probably arguably one of the most influential design concepts in my teenage years.

It had such an influence, that I remember in my economics class of high school, I had the idea to recreate the iconic End of Line nightclub in Melbourne. It was to feature music from the film, similarly garbed bartenders, and the entrance would be accented with neon stairs to light up the Southbank area of the Yarra River.

Besides, a film that introduced me to the discography of Daft Punk will always be appreciated.

There is probably a lot more I can nerd up about this film, but I’ll digress for now.


~ Damocles

Every frame is a painting.

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