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'TRON 3': How to make it better than 'TRON: Legacy'

Olivia Wilde

(Disney)

When TRON: Legacy hits Blu-Ray early next month, it will arrive with a ten-minute long bonus video which teases a potential TRON threequel. The video has hit the Internet, and it’s mostly a feast for mythology-heads, taking the form of a pseudo-documentary which traces the fall of ENCOM, the rise of a Banksy-esque band of rebel hackers, and a cameo appearance by one of the cast members of the original TRON. (Check out the full video below.) The teaser, titled “The Next Day,” is definitely intended as a soft set-up for TRON 3.0.

Now, Legacy wasn’t exactly the box office bonanza that Disney was expecting, but it did well enough to possibly justify a sequel. From a qualitative standpoint, the movie was far from perfect – EW’s Owen Gleiberman gave the film a B – but to me, that’s an opportunity.

Plenty of franchises don’t hit their stride till the second entry: X-Men, Spider-Man, and Hellboy were all marred by serious problems, but they all led into incredible sequels. With that in mind, let’s look at TRON: Legacy as a nice work of throat-clearing, and consider the five main ways that a potential sequel (TRON: Legacy’s Legacy?) could improve:

1. Less real-world shenanigans
The digital universe of TRON is visually fantastic – simultaneously futuristic and retro. So why is it that both TRON films spend so long dawdling in boring ol’ reality? The original TRON opens with a long, long prologue set in the real world that brings up several go-nowhere plot points – corporate backstabbery! romantic triangle! the notion that video arcades used to look like Studio 54! – that instantly disappear once the film shifts to the digital world. TRON: Legacy weirdly imitated this structure, with an extended opening that basically played as a mini-remake of Batman Begins: same absent-daddy issues, same skyscraper stunts, and Batman’s Cillian Murphy even stopped by for a cameo. Keep Tron 3 focused on the digital world, and leave the techno-corporate chicanery to Gizmodo.

2. Show us the nooks and crannies of the digital universe
TRON: Legacy mostly avoided delving too far into the actual culture of the digital universe. With one exception: the eye-popping nightclub sequence, which introduced Michael Sheen as a Ziggy Stardust-channeling crimelord and indicated that TRON’s digi-people enjoy sipping some neon vodka and listening to French techno. Nothing grounds a mythology-heavy action movie like some ambient world-building – recall Star Wars’s Mos Eisley Cantina, or Hellboy 2’s Goblin Market.

3. No more long speeches about extremely vague digital theology
It was fun seeing Jeff Bridges return to the TRON franchise, but weirdly, his Kevin Flynn was arguably the least successful element of Legacy. Pitched somewhere between Gandalf and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Flynn was mostly around to provide lengthy nonsensical exposition, with the occasional nonsensical one-liner sprinkled in – “Bio-digital jazz, man!” The last couple Pirates of the Caribbean movies had a similar issue with extensive exposition – if memory serves, roughly half an hour of At Worlds’ End focused on pirate bureaucracy, which turns out is just as boring as normal bureaucracy. Legacy was at its best when it focused on the interplay between the characters and the pure lightshow thrill of the digital universe. Fortunately, this problem is already half-solved, since (SPOILER ALERT) neither Jeff Bridges made it out of TRON: Legacy alive. (Well, probably.) Now, just delete any reference to “isomorphic algorithms” from the TRON 3.0 screenplay, and we’ll be golden.

4. More Olivia Wilde, please
Wilde didn’t really have very much to do in TRON: Legacy. That’s a shame, since the Quorra character was easily the most interesting – a computer program endlessly curious about the real world. Given that Wilde has typically veered towards vampier roles, her casual charm as Quorra was a genuine surprise. Add in the fact that Quorra was supposed to be some sort of digital Messiah, and it’s even stranger that she was mostly relegated to a supporting role. (I am obligated to point out that Wilde is not unattractive.) Since we’re on the subject of “more,” it’s arguably impossible to have too much Boxleitner in a single film.

5. When in doubt, just let Daft Punk go insane
The French robot duo provided TRON Legacy with an essential musical backbone that arguably lifted the whole enterprise – particularly during Legacy’s eye-popping action scenes. Their soundtrack is addictive. I can’t stop talking about it. I’m listening to it right now. I say, if Disney opts for a threequel, they give Daft Punk carte blanche to go totally bonkers with the sequel soundtrack. Like, Beach-Boys-recording-Smile bonkers.

PopWatchers, how would you improve the TRON franchise for its third go-round? It’s worth pointing out that the video below hints that Cillian Murphy may actually play the villain in the next installment, which is already trading up from “Evil Young Jeff Bridges.” Check it out:

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Originally posted March 14 2011 — 6:25 PM EDT

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