TRON’S Legacy

In 1982 a brutal Conservative government, led by Margaret Thatcher, ruled Britain with an iron fist and the country was involved in an unpopular war overseas in the Falklands. The same year also saw the UK€™s lowest ever temperature of -27.2 degrees Celsius recorded in Aberdeenshire, Prince William was born, Aston Villa won the European Cup, the Commodore 64 was released and Time Magazine€™s Man Of The Year was given to a non-human for the first time - the computer. There was also Tron. Much of the world has changed in the last 26 years, but often topics, stories and issues come back around. In 2010 we have seen another Conservative-led government run amok in Parliament, the UK is involved in an unpopular war overseas, Prince William is again headline news as he announces his engagement to Kate Middleton, the computer is king and it€™s bloody freezing! Only one thing from the above list is certain not to repeat itself €“ Aston Villa have no chance of winning the European Cup. 2010 will also see history repeat itself as Tron returns to our cinemas in a stunning follow up that has been 26 years in the making- Tron: Legacy. The original 1982 film starred Jeff Bridges as computer software programmer and hacker Kevin Flynn, who gets trapped in a cyber world of rogue programmes and violent software. Flynn has to navigate across the electronic world and battle the programmes that plan to kill him in order to make it back to the real world. The original idea, by writer and director Steven Lisberger, was a big studio€™s first attempt at extensive computer graphics and Lisberger himself pioneered filming processes and techniques that have given birth to the CGI and animation we see today. However, it wasn€™t clear to everyone that this was the start of big things. Lisberger and his business partner Donald Kushner developed the idea of Tron after being impressed by the video games of the late 70s and wanting to integrate them into film. They developed the script and storyboards with $300,000 out of their own pockets by borrowing against the estimated profits of their other projects and they set about trying to create the technology to make such a film happen. Tron was originally designed to be mainly animation with live action book ending the film. They attempted to gain independent finance from several computer companies, but found the going very tough. It wasn€™t until they received the financial backing of Information International Inc that things began to move forward. With a representative of the company, Richard Taylor, they discussed the possibility of using live-action photography with backlit animation in such a way that it could be integrated with computer graphics. They eventually secured $4-5 million in private funding, but the expense of the trial and error nature of discovery meant that the process came to an eventual halt. In search of fresh investment Lisberger and Kushner took their film to Warner Bros, MGM and Columbia Pictures, but were dismissed. However, when they approached Disney in a period when they were themselves looking to push the boundaries of possibility, the dream seemed possible again. Disney were uncertain at first whether or not it was viable to invest $10-12 million in a first time director and producer partnership that was attempting to use technology that had never been thought possible. So they funded a test reel. With the success of the test reel the film was given backing by Disney and Lisberger and Kushner were offered the services of the various Disney departments. Disney was a close-knit company and didn€™t often hire from outside at that time so their reception in the studios and offices was not welcoming. The pair struggled to gain cooperation from those working within Disney so they looked outside of the company and brought in Jean Giraud, a French comic book artist, Syd Mead famed for his work on Blade Runner and high-tech commercial artist Peter Lloyd. The rest, they say, is cinematic history. Despite not being nominated for an Oscar for Special Effects due to the Motion Picture Academy feeling that the makers of Tron had cheated, it was nominated for both Best Costume and Best Sound. The budget they worked to was $17 million and the film was hailed as a moderate success in making $33 million in North America. Tron inspired The Strokes€™ music video for their single 12:51 and innovative electro band Daft Punk have cited that they have a life-long fascination with the film. The head of Pixar and Disney€™s animation group, John Lassetter, has said that Tron helped him see the potential of computer-generated imagery in animated film production. Even with the Academy€™s ignorance towards the technological advancements used in Tron it hailed the beginnings of a cinematic revolution with computer generated graphics and animation taking their first steps towards becoming the technological phenomena they are today. The computer on which they had to work had just 2MB of memory and used a disc with as little as 330MB of storage. In comparison, not a stitch on the iPhone 4! The technology limited how much detail and depth could be created in the background and so they used a process named €˜depth cueing€™ to fade things to black. In the five years it took Lisberger€™s idea to become reality the computer animation industry had seen massive revolutions, but nothing compared to what was to come. In the 26 years since Tron€™s original cinematic release computer generated imagery has moved forward at a blistering pace. CGI, 3D, HD and all manner of other advances have seen huge technological leaps towards what we have at present. It is easy to look back now and mock the techniques used in the original Tron, but technology has now advanced far beyond what Lisberger and Kushner could have predicted. The computer generated era has reached it€™s dizzying heights of late and that will have massive effects on how much of the Tron world can be created. No more €˜depth cueing€™ to hide shoddy backgrounds. No more flickering images. Crisp, clean, HD, 3D images and Dolby sound to boot. The latest incarnation sees Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), son of the missing computer software genius Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), searching for answers on the disappearance of his Father. When Sam visits the old arcade where it all began for his Father he stumbles upon a super computer that pulls him into a cyber world. As Sam battles his way across the electronic landscape, like his Father before him, he must out-think, out-maneuver and out-fight the rogue programmes that hold his Father captive. As Flynn says, the electronic world he created has grown far beyond his imagination and is now more dangerous than ever. The director of the original, Lisberger, returns as producer with first time commercials filmmaker Joseph Kosinski directing. Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn in a world that has clearly advanced since we last saw it in 1982. The detail in the electronic world is phenomenal with programmes, computers, machinery, vehicles and all manner of electronic equipment looking dazzling. And that is just apparent from the non-3D trailers! The accompanying soundtrack is an original piece of work from life-long Tron fanatics Daft Punk and they themselves have upped their game. Always renowned for pushing the boundaries of music Daft Punk have taken their signature synthesized electronic sound and given it a contemporary techno edge. The trailer has had more than 2 million hits on YouTube and the Daft Punk track €˜Derezzed€™ getting over 1 million hits. Tron: Legacy looks to have arrived at exactly the right point in cinema with such a wealth of technology available for the Tron world to be realised in it€™s absolute best. A new era of technology and computer-generated imagery began with Tron in 1982 and from the glimpses available the modern era may just have hit it€™s absolute pinnacle with Tron: Legacy. A trip to see Tron: Legacy should be on everyone€™s Christmas list this year. Tron Legacy opens Dec. 17th in the U.S. and U.K.
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