Blasting onto the small screen, imitating the success of another movie spin-off The Clone Wars, comes the latest CG series, Tron: Uprising. Working as both a sequel (to 1982’s Tron) and a prequel (to its lesser cousin, 2010’s Tron Legacy), this animated show is set between the two, a kind of “inbrequel”.
Thankfully, knowledge of either film is unnecessary as this opening gambit, Beck’s Beginning, sets the story and the history right from the start. Fans of Tron: Legacy (all twelve of you) may have a rough old time trying to canonize the series but it’s best not to think about such things and enjoy what is an insanely well-crafted and highly entertaining episode.
Helmed by Lost writers and creators of the magical Once Upon A Time, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, and directed by Charlie Bean (a veteran of 2D classics such as Ren & Stimpy, The Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack), this “spin off” even after one episode has enough style and gumption to stand proudly on its own two three -dimensional feet.
The plot sees adventurous youngster Beck (voiced by Ring Boy, Elijah Wood) kick off a revolution in his home Argon City in The Grid (the creation of which we witnessed in the first movie). In charge, and in a somewhat brutal fashion, is Clu (played by Jeff Bridges in the movie but, sadly, not here) and his henchman General Tessler (voiced by Lance Henriksen) flanked by soldiers. Beck witnesses the killing of his friend by Tessler’s army, acting as a catalyst for his rebellion.
Posing as Tron, believed to be long dead, the upstart soon finds himself captured by a sinister stranger who grills Beck on his motives. It’ll come as no surprise to learn that this mystery man is, in fact, Tron himself (of course, once you hear the tones of Bruce Boxleitner, the game is pretty much up). And so Beck becomes his protégé.
This relationship is not unreminiscent of the Jedi/Padawan strategy from Star Wars but there’s also a whiff of Batman (especially in tone) as our young hero battles dark villains and ploughs his own furrow through the mean streets of Gotham. I mean Argon.
Tron: Uprising, on this half hour (and it should be noted that it is actually thirty minutes and not twenty or so) has huge potential. The voice cast is excellent (and nerdatrons may want to listen out for Battlestar Galactica‘s Cylon Number Six, Tricia Helfer), with Wood proving to have the skills for small screen animation, and the writing savvy enough to appeal to the Disney XD crowd and us slightly older viewers.
Two very special mentions must go to the score from Joseph Trapanese, who lifts the amazing Daft Punk sounds from the recent cinema outing and embeds them with some elegance, and the stunning visuals. Matching the beauty of the sounds is some mighty delightful artistry and an immensely pleasing style. The character of the world, and its inhabitants, is gorgeously stylized; giving its bigger brother big screen versions a close run in terms of quality, freshness and originality.
A bold and beautiful start, and one I sincerely hope continues through the rest of the series.
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