I held one of the Discs of Tron in my hand. A real disc, the kind you would hurl at an opponent and that would, upon impact, derez him instantly. It had weight, real heft, and it really glowed.
In a lot of ways that encapsulates my experience on the set of Tron Legacy in Vancouver. Flying up to Canada I had a certain expectation – that the entire film was going to be filmed on green screen stages , with actors performing on sets that would be added later and talking to characters who would be created in a computer. But like that Disc, the world of Tron Legacy was real and tactile. Director Joseph Kosinski built sets and filled them with costumed extras.
My visit to the set began at the film’s ‘war room,’ a huge conference room jam packed with production art, storyboards and models. We were set free to wander the room and look at whatever we liked, and I was almost overcome by the level of detail that had been put into these designs. The world of Tron Legacy looked familiar, but upgraded. Director Joseph Kosinski’s vision wasn’t relegated to byte-sized corridors and empty skyways - Tron Legacy‘s world is vast, with an outdoors, a city complete with streetlights, and a place for programs to go blow off some steam, the End Of Line Club – a wink to famous dialog from the original film.
Most of the original concepts remained, and while updated the light cycles and Recognizers were, for lack of a better word, recognizable. But there are new additions as well – there was art in one corner that seemed to depict a light jet, meaning that Tron Legacy could be taking a leap in action. There were also designs for the real world, some of which you’ve now seen in the film’s first trailer. We geeked out over the depiction of a dusty Flynn’s Arcade, and at designs for Space Paranoids machines.
Also in the war room were a number of ViewMasters, and we could take a look at some production art in 3D. Tron Legacy is one of the few modern 3D films being shot stereoscopically, and that means the production team needs whole new ways to visualize what they’re doing. Perhaps the single most amazing thing that I saw on the set of Tron Legacy were the playback monitors, which were 3D themselves – you could watch a scene being shot in 3D as it was being shot. There’s not even a question that Kosiniski is creating each shot specifically to be seen in 3D, for he was hunkered behind the monitors with those big glasses on his face.
Walking around the war room, looking at models of Clu’s Throne Ship, at models of the city in the mainframe, at the new designs of the fearsome Black Guards and the seductive Sirens, we began trying to piece together the plot of the movie. Some of what we came up with has been outed in the months since, especially with Disney’s viral game that’s been leading audiences deeper into the world of Tron Legacy, but there’s still stuff we need to figure out. Obviously Flynn has disappeared into the world of the computer, and things in there have changed over the last 25 years, but what’s he been doing in there? Wasn’t Clu killed at the beginning of the first Tron? And where’s Tron himself – after all, he’s in the title, so he has to play into all of this somehow.
Some of those questions would be answered as we toured the sets and talked to the folks behind the production, including stars Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde. We also spoke with Steve Lisberger, the man who created Tron and who has been a major guiding force on this film, as well as Kosinski himself. In the next couple of days I’ll be bringing you interviews conducted in the war room, and then I’ll be writing some more about the very tactile set for The End of Line Club in the months to come.
Whatever else Tron Legacy may be, it won’t be rinkydink. While the original film was a flop, Disney has really thrown themselves behind this new movie and the resources we saw being directed at capturing an updated version of Lisberger’s vision were enormous. Perhaps the most intriguing thing that sets this Tron Legacy apart from the original is that the scope is so much wider, and the world of the programs has been changed in such major ways. I don’t know if the world inside the computer evolved or if all a function of a changing world outside the computer, but the landscape of Tron Legacy will be at once familiar to fans and a whole new place to discover.