This weekend hasn’t been in doubt since half way through 2009; TRON: The Legacy is the hands-down winner. Many of us have been waiting decades for the continuation of this story, an archetype tale of the computer age that changed movies forever. It wasn’t just the use of computer graphics (real and simulated), although that was a precursor of movie production processes to come. It was also the first time computer processes were personified, with each subprogram taking on the personalty its function set would require; the first time the kind of Artificial Intelligence we had known for years from books was portrayed on any screen.
There had been previous attempts to personify AIs on screen, such as 1967’s Colossus: The Forbin Project, which in my mind was the inspiration for the original Skynet from 1984’s Terminator movie, much as the original 1982 TRON was the inspiration for the animated masterpiece ReBoot in 2001. The most notable AI film after them was 1999’s The Matrix, which again completely changed the rules.
None of them led to War Games in 1983, because that box was a real computer and the logic of the plot line adhered to actual parsing rules any programmer of today understands. There was no touch of AI in that story, just the massive paranoia of the time combined with a lack of understanding on the majority of the audiences part of how computers worked. Just saying…
Interestingly enough, the other movie coming out this weekend is a spiritual descendant of TRON by way of William Gibson’s Neuromancer on several levels; the protagonist in Spark Riders invents a way for people to place their soul on the internet. When her idea is stolen by a power hungry psycho and a greedy spy, people begin to become trapped online. With a total budget much less than TRON spent on catering the location shoots, this film could still potentially be worth checking out; after all, they made Dark Star on 10% of Spark Riders budget, and Hollywood promptly threw a ton of money at Dan Obannon and John Carpenter (who then created the Alien and Halloween franchises respectively) because of it.
And one final note; for all of those who, like me, have been frustrated in their efforts to acquire ReBoot for their personal collections, an agreement was reached a few months age between Rainmaker Entertainment, Inc. (the direct descendant of Mainframe Entertainment) and Shout! Factory to release ReBoot in the US in some format or another, most probably a DVD Box Set version. ReBoot really is a direct descendant of Tron; what a treat if we could finally access the original of the former with the the next volume of the later within a year or less of each other! Here is the latest peek at the cover art for the complete series DVD.