Cinematic previews are currently stuffed with remakes and reimaginings. From beloved TV favourites getting a bit of polish to superhero reboots, they’re coming at us faster than a speeding bullet. But the movie we’re looking forward to most this winter isn’t a remake as such. It’s a direct sequel to one of the most enduring cult hits of the 80s, Tron.
We’ve been hungry for brand new Tron ever since test footage of a newly rendered Light Cycle race cropped up online, topped off with an appearance by a grizzly Jeff Bridges looking more like The Dude than Kevin Flynn. The titles at the end left us in no doubt what to expect – Tron 2, now known as Tron: Legacy.
And bridging the gap between the two films is Tron: Evolution, an epic game available soon for console and PC.
In its own quiet way, Tron has its own canon. Its own sprawling mythology, kickstarted by the original movie and continued, fittingly, in a series of video game spin-offs over the last three decades. The latest is Tron: Evolution, a very contemporary take on the classic Tron elements.
While the Tron canon isn’t quite as dense as that of Star Trek or even Buffy, there are particular motifs, environments and characters that fans will recognise across every incarnation.
For the uninitiated, 1982’s Tron was a landmark movie in Disney’s live action catalogue. Jeff Bridges, in a nervy, early career performance, plays Kevin Flynn, an unconventional programmer whose work has been stolen by the giant software corporation, ENCOM. When his remote attempts to hack into the company network fail – using a program he calls CLU – he sneaks into ENCOM. helped by fellow programmer, and creator of the titular Tron, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner).
While accessing the company mainframe, he is digitised and sucked into the virtual world of the Grid by a rogue piece of code, the Master Control Program. Alongside Tron and Yori, programs dwelling in the Grid, Flynn must traverse the digital world in search of escape and to bring down the Master Control Program…
There were many notable elements in Tron. The mix of early CGI, traditional animation and blue-screen live action creates a seamless, minimalistic digital world that remains compelling to this day. With names as illustrious as cult French comic book artist Moebius and Blade Runner effects guru Syd Mead working on the project, the pedigree is spotless.
And as for prescience, it’s often been said that William Gibson – halfway through seminal cyberpunk novel Neuromancer – walked out of Blade Runner after the first reel, fearful that it would contaminate his narrative. What must he have thought of Tron, released in the same year, with its proto depiction of a cyberspace, named the Grid, just like his virtual world?
With original characters Flynn and Bradley returning in Tron: Legacy, there’s a clear thread from the 80s original to this brand new sequel. That includes the appearance of an upgraded version of Flynn’s program CLU – the digitally de-aged Jeff Bridges seen in recent trailers. There’s another key part of the Tron mythology. In the digital world, programs look like their creators. Or in the jargon of Tron, Users.
But characters, whether digital or flesh, aren’t the only thing confirmed to return. The neon landscape, an iconic part of the original Tron, is present and correct, and the deadly games with racing Light Cycles and discs that ‘derez’ unlucky losers are there. And, of course, the giant, Space Invaders-inspired Recognisers, ever present in the original Tron, and central to many of its most memorable scenes.
But what happened in between? There’s a 28 year cap from Tron to Legacy. It’s fitting that filling that gap is a videogame – a prequel to the sequel – Tron: Evolution.
Taking place between Tron and Tron: Legacy, Tron: Evolution is the first game to immerse players fully in the mythology and world of Tron. You play Anon, a program created by Kevin Flynn, who must investigate anomalies in the Tron system, an upgraded version of the digital world seen in the first film.Tron: Evolution features familiar characters from the original movie and from Legacy. Bruce Boxleitner returns to voice Tron, his digital character in the first film – while Olivia Wilde plays Quorra, her character from Tron: Legacy. There are light cycle designs from Tron and Tron: Legacy, you’ll use weapons from both films and battle against updated Recognisers in environments you’ll see in the new movie.
But more than that, Tron: Evolution is designed to reveal significant events in the Tron mythology – to explain why the Grid has once again become a dangerous place to be and take us to the beginning of Tron: Legacy.
Just as the original Tron was a product of its time, so Tron: Evolution is a product of the present. With third-person gameplay incorporating acrobatics and freeform combat, it’s much closer to the filmic experience of playing through a narrative than earlier entries in the franchise. With multiplayer modes and downloadable content, the multiplatform game is faithful to both Tron and Tron: Legacy. It’s the missing piece tying together the two eras.
If we get snowed in this Winter, at least we’ll have plenty of Tron to keep us warm.