Friday, March 3, 2017

Literal Reboot: Disney To Continue 'TRON'?


Over six years ago, Walt Disney Studios made the belated sequel to their 1982 sci-fi gem TRON. A film that meshed live-action and fully computer-animated sequences to create a world inside the computer, TRON didn't quite catch on back in the day. When released on video, it little by little grew a sizable cult following. It was enough to make Disney consider a sequel for years and years and years, and they even gave it a deluxe two-disc DVD set for its 20th anniversary.

Back when Disney didn't let go of these kinds of things...

The sequel eventually made it into development during the days when Dick Cook was Chairman of the film studio. Titled TRON: Legacy, it really wasn't a good film, but boy was there a lot of passion in it. Director Joseph Kosinski crafted what I like to call a big tribute to the original that still functioned as a sequel. Boasting excellent action sequences and a rock-solid soundtrack by Daft Punk, I love how they re-imagined the world.

TRON, being an early 80s film, worked off of the limitations of the computers of the era. Naturally, the now primitive-looking CGI in the film really works because those were the days of Apple IIs and Commodore 64s. A computer world based on those kinds of machines makes a lot of sense. With Legacy, they took the overall aesthetic of TRON and made it flashier, more detailed, the like. Light Cycles still resembled the old ones, as did various vehicles and architecture. It was a fitting upgrade. All of that, to me, makes up for the inconsistent script. I felt the story itself was fine, it just needed sharper execution in its second half, and a lead who could've been a little more interesting.

The fate of the TRON franchise has always been... Well, seemingly dour.

TRON: Legacy was in post-production when Cook was ousted from the studio, and was replaced with a young executive from the Disney Channel board named Rich Ross. He was highly unprepared for what he had been handed, and the company made the dire mistake of putting all the chips down for this movie... All the while letting Cook leftovers like Prince of Persia die at the box office.

You see, in mid-2010, Hollywood was still hoping to get a slice of Avatar cake. Movies like Clash of the Titans were hastily post-converted to 3D in an attempt to mimic that success, and by then, audiences soured quickly on the gimmick. 3D now meant nothing, and it didn't help that the first smash after Avatar, Disney's own Alice in Wonderland, broke the billion at the worldwide box office. Back in 2010? $1 billion was still a magic number. Nowadays, plenty of films reach that benchmark like it's nothing.

TRON: Legacy boasted good 3D and sequences that were filmed in IMAX (also new and exciting at the time), talk said that Disney was hoping that this movie would be the next Avatar. Yes, a sequel to a 1982 sci-fi cult classic that most people probably only knew through a cutaway-gag reference on Family Guy, was being considered the "next Avatar". Sure, in March 2010 they didn't predict 3D's collapse, but the next Avatar? A once-in-a-blue-moon kind of smash? C'mon! TRON: Legacy cost $170 million, Disney overspent on the marketing, and when the movie collected a good $400 million worldwide, well... It was uncertain whether a third movie would go through or not.

An animated prequel series to TRON: Legacy, TRON: Uprising, started out with strong ratings... But then Disney death-slotted the series, moving it to a time where few could even watch it. It died quickly. Disney effectively derezzed TRON by the time Rich Ross was ousted. Ross had the shortest tenure of Disney movie studio chairman, and that's quite telling. Current Chairman Alan Horn and live-action studio president Sean Bailey seemingly had no interest in revisiting TRON, and the slate is heavy on remakes of the studio's iconic animated classics. Plus, they have their sci-fi/action fix with Marvel and Star Wars.

Then out of nowhere, in early 2015, we heard that TRON 3 was going to be a go. Filming was set to occur in that following October, but then May 2015 came around. Disney's massive-budget sci-fi tentpole Tomorrowland bombed at the box office, and within days, Disney officially pulled the plug on TRON: Ascension.

Recently, Collider held a special IMAX screening for TRON: Legacy. Kosinski was present, gave a 30-minute Q&A session, and talked about the status of the sequel. He essentially that it was waiting for the right time to move forward, a.k.a. waiting for the day the executives say "yes" and green light it. I wasn't holding my breath...

Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, TRON 3 is back on. Or is it? Kosinski might be out the door, the report says that this "reboot" is not a direct sequel to TRON: Legacy, and it will use elements from the TRON: Ascension script. Only one producer is back, who also produced Kosinski's sci-fi adventure Oblivion. A prominent character in that script was someone named Ares, and Disney apparently wants him to be the main focus of the new movie. Who is set to play this character? Jared Leto.

I have some concerns here. First off, I hope they continue the Flynns' story, even though it's not set to be a "direct sequel". I don't really know how I feel about a third TRON focusing on an all-new character and cast, and to be fair, TRON: Legacy did write a prominent character named Yori out while keeping Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley/TRON. My other concern? Well, I don't quite want Jared Leto in this, given the things he was apparently accused of doing, his acting skills notwithstanding. Disney can circle many other "hot" stars for this.

My pragmatic side says "Oh quit complaining about the story, at least a new TRON is being made!" But truthfully, I'm not digging the idea of possibly leaving the Flynns behind, or sidelining them for a new character who was never established in the previous movies. No need for a reboot, the story needs to be continued if you ask me. Improve upon what didn't work in numero due, and make for a grand slam that is the best of the sequels, if not the series.

It just seems weird. I thought Disney wanted to have nothing to do with TRON these days, but I guess something is sparking their interest in it. Whether it was the Collider screening or the attraction at Shanghai Disneyland, I don't know. All things considered, $400 million is not bad for a sequel to a cult movie. Compared to what Disney spent on it, yeah, it wasn't quite "successful"... But people did see it. I liken it to movies like Pacific Rim, they may not have made back their money, but they did get a sizable amount of audiences into theaters. Pacific Rim's sequel is filming, thanks in part to how it did in China and probably because they're owned by a massive Chinese conglomerate now. Who says TRON 3 can't and shouldn't happen?

That all being said, I am not going to get my hopes up. The last time I did that, Disney dashed them. Disney's dashed my hopes for these kinds of things several times. The thing is in its infancy, and these days I don't believe many things are actually happening till the day cameras are rolling. I felt this way about Pacific Rim: Uprising (terrible, generic title by the way), because at one point, it seemed like Universal was going to jettison that one. I kept saying "may not happen, may not happen", well after the likes of John Boyega were cast. I kept doubting it until it was confirmed that it was actually in production. I will do the same for TRON: Whatever They Call It as well. Till cameras are rolling, this thing is walking on thin ice. Will it make it? Who knows.

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. HA imagine if WDAS 2020 movie is an animated Tron reboot