I finally got around to watching Tron  and  Tron:Legacy the other day. I know the original movie is fairly old (it came out the same year I was born) but I had never really gotten around to seeing it.

Enter the wonder of Netflix! I popped both movies into my queue and promptly forgot about them for a few months. (I have a very long queue.) They arrived after a while and I sat down and watched them back-to-back. To get the whole “Tron experience” as it were.

Sad to say, I wasn’t terribly impressed.

First – the original.

For a thirty year old movie, the effects were very good. Not what you are used to these days, but impressive for the time period. The story was not the greatest. The biggest sticking point for me was the games. The Master Control Program, in its quest for world domination, decided to behave like a Roman dictator and make the captive programs perform for the amusement of … Who? The MCP? The users playing the games? I just didn’t think it was clearly explained why these captured programs were being forced to do this. The MCP was trying to absorb as many programs as possible, destroying a few thousand in an arcade game just seems counter-productive.

And while I am by no means the most computer-literate person in the world, I didn’t think programs worked that way. If, say, an actuarial program suddenly vanished then someone would notice. The very pissed off insurance salesman would contact whatever the equivalent of the IT department was back then and get someone to either find out where the program went, or reinstall it from a back-up disk. And why, exactly, were arcade games wired into the mainframe computer of a computer software development company? This was back in the Eighties, before everything from coffeemakers to cars were Wi-Fi accessible and Bluetooth compatible. Each one of those games would have had to have a hard-wired modem and a phone connection and there were dozens of games in Flynn’s arcade alone. You would think the arcade owner would notice all the extra equipment and phone lines that all of that would have required.

And now – the sequel.

Story-wise there was an improvement. After stewing for thirty years I would hope so. There was still no explanation as to why the programs were still being forced to play games, but I’ve already covered that. The effects were top-notch, the lightcycle race was spectacular. Much better than the original, but thirty years will do that to technology.

Speaking of technology -there’s Clu.

I remember there was some sort of fuss back when the movie first came out, that Jeff Bridges was actually going to play a younger version of himself.

For those out there who are curious, here’s a photo from Wikipedia with Old Jeff and Digital jeff staring at each other.

Kinda creepy

It’s very close to the way Jeff Bridges used to look, but Clu’s face looks too smooth, the jaw is too square, and the forehead looks odd. Like a plastic action figure. The range of expression was not what a real face would be able to perform, but it was supposed to be the face of a computer program. I’m still impressed that Disney got it as close as they did. According to the IMDB, he had to wear a helmet fitted with four cameras to capture his facial movements. That seems like it would be a bit awkward. (Another fun fact – the lightsuits were actually practical effects. Each one was fitted with luminescent wires and a battery (that lasted twelve minutes at the time), the wiring was so fragile the actors couldn’t sit down in them but had to lean against boards when they took a break. They were also stifling hot and air conditioning tubes had to be trained on each actor to cool them off between takes. You too can own a sweltering rubber lightsuit – only $60000. Batteries and air conditioner not included.)

As a long-time animation freak, I’m all about the voice. Jeff Bridges has a very distinct voice that has gotten deeper, richer, and raspier as he has aged. I don’t know if there was some post-production audio tweaking or if Bridges’ simply pitched his voice higher while performing Clu’s voice, but since every so often some of Old Jeff crept in to Digital Jeff’s voice I think it was probably the latter. It’s most noticeable during Clu’s speech to his army; at one point in particular his voice drops noticeably in pitch and tone. It could have been a stylistic choice though.

If it is in fact pure Jeff Bridges, then I’m glad – Jeff Bridges’ voice is one of the best things in the world. Sure, he’s the same age as GhostDad, but that voice …