TR2N: A sequel to Tron? Perhaps

There have been rumors of a Tron sequel for several years now. Back in 2003 Disney released Tron 2.0 a video game for PCs, and later a port for consoles. Originally the video game was supposed to accompany a movie with the same title, with Steven Lisberger reprising his role as director. That project got canned. The video game came out, but no movie. Talk about a botched release! Anyway, I think the video game is pretty good.

In the last year there have been more rumors of a Tron sequel, this time with a different director, with Lisberger being involved as producer. Just today I was browsing Brian Cunningham’s blog, and I came upon one posting pointing to a bootlegged test reel/teaser trailer called TR2N, shown at this year’s ComicCon, featuring Jeff Bridges looking bad ass (I assume he’s playing Flynn again), and a cool looking light cycles contest! It’s definitely modern, not some retread of old Tron footage. Tron 2.0 News has a lot of the details of what this teaser means. It looks like it was a test reel created to see how much interest it would generate. The project probably hasn’t been “greenlighted” yet. Anyway, I just had to see this. I watched it and got chills! Wow!

Oh, in case you’re wondering what the dialog is at the end, one of the contestants on the “game grid” exclaims, “It’s just a game!” His opponent says, after a dramatic pause, “Not anymore.”

Since the video is bootleg it may not be up for long. Check it out while you can.

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10 thoughts on “TR2N: A sequel to Tron? Perhaps

  1. The original “Tron” really underwhelmed me. I am not sure why. I think part of it is because I saw it so long after its release (early 90’s is when I finally caught it, I think), that the special effects, while remarkable for its time, were considered hokey. I also think that part of my impression is colored by the fact that by the time I saw it, I was already quite familiar with computers and getting into the “computer culture” of the time, and computers just did not hold the level of mystery to me to maintain a suspension of disbelief. I know it isn’t just “Tron” either. The same thing happened to me when I finally got around to seeing “War Games”. It’s a shame, I’d really love to love “Tron” if that makes sense.

    J.Ja

  2. @Justin:

    I think I know what you mean. I had a similar reaction to James Michener’s novel “Space”. I had seen the TV series in the 1980s, and I was satisfied enough with that. I tried looking at the book, and it just didn’t hold me. I knew too much about the real space program that I didn’t think it told me anything new.

    When I first saw Tron I had already been programming for 3 years. I already knew about the concept of an operating system, memory addressing, that the CPU was the “brain” of the machine, what a program was, etc. So it held no mystery for me either. I didn’t think there were “computer people” inside the machine, nor that there were computers with sufficient AI to work like the MCP. I thought the idea of being “inside the game” was pretty compelling though. It was my introduction to the idea of virtual reality.

    The computer graphics were a huge draw for me. Before I saw the movie, based on reports I’d heard about it, I thought the “computer world” part of the movie was done completely in CG, including the actors. Once I saw it I could see that it was a mixture of CG and live action. It wasn’t until years later I learned that most of the “computer world” was hand animated. There was 15 minutes of CG, which I now know was insane at the time.

    Maybe you’ve read my other postings on this, but I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I first saw the CG stuff. I felt as though the movie had been made in the future and had been transported back in time! I had seen a bunch of different microcomputers, and coin-op video games. None of them looked like the movie. Not even close. The scene where Flynn is playing Space Paranoids was futuristic at the time. There was no such thing as a video game that gave you a complete 3D modeled look and feel like that until Doom came out in the early 90s, and even that was blocky graphics in comparison. Quake was the first to match it.

    The point of the movie was more philosophical, though it was subtle. It was easy to get distracted by the eye candy. The central argument was, was the computer going to be like Dillinger’s vision of a centralized, authoritarian system, where access was restricted on his whims, or the MCP’s (“Doing our business is what computers are for”)? Or, was it going to be like Dumont’s vision, where computers were accessible in a more democratic way, (“User requests are what computers are for”)? The line I loved from Dumont was, “Our spirit lives in every program we create.” Dillinger’s response was classic, “It’s getting late. I have better things to do than to have religious discussions with you.” I’ve used that line many times in the past with people who are religiously wedded to one technology or another. 🙂

    I could relate to the idea that our spirit lives in each program we create. I had been writing programs since I was 12. Every program felt like one of my creations, a reflection of me somehow. I think though the line was meant to set up a metaphor for the rest of the movie: There is an alter ego of us inside the system. At the time, Lisberger said in interviews that this was a valid theme, because there already were so many things about us recorded in computers. This alter ego of us is often beyond our control, and can affect our lives. Can you say “identity theft”?

    The movie also tried to show the reverse. The programs have alter egos, too: us. This gets more abstract. Steven Lisberger tried to give some hints that just as programs have something beyond themselves, their creators/users, we have something beyond ourselves, too. The movie tried to do this by making the real world look a little bit like the computer world. It was a subtle hint. There was also the final line at the end, portrayed I think as a freudian slip, when Flynn greets his co-conspirators after having bought the company. He says, “Greetings programs!” I don’t think that was just a throw away line, meant for comic effect. It was part of the overall message, and this is probably something I liked about it, without knowing why, which is that our computer systems are a reflection of us, or at least of a single person’s, or group’s, vision. We impose our vision of the world on them. But perhaps the same is true of our world. Perhaps there is some entity/entities living in a world beyond our comprehension that shapes our world, and works through some of us to do that. It was easy to miss. I didn’t fully understand it until I read an interview with Lisberger last year, where he said this is what he was driving at.

    There was some of Alan Kay’s influence in the movie as well. He was used as a source for research on what computers were, to educate the filmmakers, and what they could represent. One of the concepts he conveyed to them, which made it into the movie, was the idea of agents that do the bidding of users. This was an idea that had been around since the 1960s. This idea was most clearly conveyed in the Clu character. Clu was assigned a task/mission by its creator, Flynn, and it did its best to carry it out.

    It was a movie made for a teenage audience, not for adults. Perhaps you were too old for it when you first saw it. If you check out the TR2N clip though, it does have more of an adult feel to it, I think.

  3. @Justin:

    Thought of something else. At the time I saw the movie I didn’t think much of this, but years later it felt relevant. The conflict in the plot (thin as it was) in Tron was that Flynn had his video games stolen by Dillinger. Dillinger touted them as his own. This was in 1982. Many years later Microsoft was accused of doing this, though when the movie came out Microsoft was still a small company, and not a perceived threat to anyone. I’ve sometimes wondered if the creators of Tron came up with this, or if it was based on an example. Anyway, in hindsight I thought it was interesting that Flynn was trying to hack into Encom’s system to find evidence of this theft, and that’s what led to the rest of the story. In the end he finds his evidence, and that leads to the happy ending where Dillinger is ousted and Flynn takes over.

  4. Mark –

    Somehow, these philosophical items totally missed me. Never mind the fact that I “got” 2001 and 2010 when I watched them at the age of 7 and that I “got” Dune. I might have to give Tron a re-watch!

    J.Ja

  5. @Justin:

    I “got” 2001 and 2010 when I watched them at the age of 7 and that I “got” Dune.

    To quote the agent in the South Park episode I talk about here, “That’s pretty goddamn impressive!” 🙂 I didn’t understand the 2001 movie until I read the book. I got the 2010 movie because the makers explained a lot more.

    I didn’t see too much of what there was to get with the movie Dune. It seemed like your basic messianic tale. The One who is prophecied comes forth, battles an evil power structure, and frees the oppressed and righteous. Pretty straightforward. I missed the subtler details that were revealed with the backstory of the guilds. Thankfully when the movie got released on video they put in a 5-minute introduction explaining it.

    Where you may have missed it with Tron was you took it too literally, all the talk of computers, programs, and bits. When I saw the movie I understood it as a bit more of an art piece, that a lot of stuff was a representation of something. It wasn’t meant to be taken literally. As good sci-fi does, it says something about us, not necessarily about the science and technology. That stuff is just to take us to another world where issues can be discussed objectively.

    Now that I think about it, I think a basic message Tron tried to convey is the virtual worlds we create inside these systems have consequences for us in the real world. It did this by putting a real person inside the virtual world.

    One of the other key lines I remember is where Flynn says to Tron (inside the computer world), “Well you know how it is. You just keep doing what you think you’re supposed to be doing, no matter how crazy it seems.” Tron says, “Well yes. That’s how it us for us programs.” Flynn says, “I hate to disappoint you, pal, but that’s how it is for us users, too.” A hint of something transcendental…

  6. The “Dune” book was much deeper than the movie, that’s for sure. Indeed, I try to re-read the book (and the 5 sequels) once a year or so, and I *always* find something new in it. The only other book like that for me is VALIS, by Phillip K. Dick (which I highly recommend, incidentally). I definitely took Tron too literally, from everything you’ve said. I’ll try to re-watch it when I get a chance (could be 2 years from now, I bought some movies over a year ago that I still haven’t seen!).

    J.Ja

  7. @Justin:

    I wrote a little more about the transcendental stuff in a post I wrote here, in February, 2007. There, I talk about an interview Lisberger had with IGN Entertainment.

    When I was a teenager a friend gave me a couple of Dune books, but I just couldn’t get into them. The jargon immediately got in the way. There was a glossary in the back, but I didn’t have the patience to keep flipping back to it. It was as if there was an immediate learning curve before I could understand the story. Was there a point to that that I missed? Could you give me a little taste about what’s deep about Dune? Sometimes I give up on things too soon, and I later find out I really like them, once I’m given a “nudge” to reconsider them.

  8. Mark –

    Regarding Dune… the overall “theme” of the Dune series is a fairly philosophical look into how people, culture, economies, and the physical environment are all entangled and affect one another. One really good example is in the history of the Fremen (the desert people). They were “Zen Sunni” nomads (a mixture of Zen Buddhism and Islam), constantly persecuted. When the arrived on Arrakis (aka “Dune”), they were no longer opposed by rulers, but by the environment. The pressures of living in the harsh climate forced them to adapt into an extraordinarily conservative (socially and with physical resources) culture. Why? They needed to conserve resources, of course, but having to save water affected their whole life. Everything became this paranoia, “waste not, want not” applied to *everything*. Because it took many painful generations to come up with the proper “recipe” for living in the environment, there is a strict social conservatism. After all, why experiment with a system that seems to work? Additionally, the society became extremely strict, with many complicated, unspoken social rules (like Japan), because the conservation of resources is a group effort. If, for example, someone is lazy and leaves the door open to the outside, precious moisture is lost. Or when walking on the sand, if someone does not observe the proper walking technique, a work will come and destroy the entire group. The non-Fremen on Dune are raised in a much softer environment. Even the Atreides (the main “hero” family) who have beent rained since birth to be warriors, strong and fierce, are weak in comparison to even Fremen children, because their environment coddled them. At the same time, while the Fremen society is based around the desert, they are working furiously to change the planet, saving previous water to nuture plants and slowly get basic grasses and root plants established on a plan that they estimate will take tens of generations to complete.

    And that’s just a small part of it. Some of the other books in the series can be a bit tough to get through. The second book (“Dune Messiah”) spends a *lot* of effort on the relationship between the words we use, the tone we use them, and the meanings we convey like that. The third book (“Children of Dune”) is focused around the choices we make, and how they affect not only ourselves but others, sometimes for hundreds of years. The fourth book (“God Emperor of Dune”) is one of my favorites; it re-affirms the theme of the first. Instead of the desert acting as a “pressure cooker” to transform the planet’s inhabitants, the God Emperor’s tyranny does the same thing to the entire universe. The fifth and sixth books (“Heretics of Dune” and “Chapterhouse: Dune”) I consider rather disposable, they stop being works with a “deeper message”, and are more in the vein of “standard sci-fi”.

    If the Dune series is not quite your style, my favorite non-Dune book by Frank Herber is “Destination: Void”. It asks some insanely deep questions about the nature of humanity, intelligence, and consciousness. “Under Pressure” (sometimes sold as “The Dragon Under the Sea”) is excellent as well, a surprisingly good debut novel. Also, “Destination: Void” has 3 sequels, co-written with Bill Ransome (“The Jesus Incident”, “The Lazarus Effect”, and “The Ascension Factor”) which are quite good, and continue the story in an interesting way. What I like about that series is that it felt like by having a co-author, Frank got re-invigorated in terms of writing “smart sci-fi”. While the “Dune” books from those years were not-so-great, these three (especially the first) get quite deep into the relationship of people and their gods.

    His short stories are also quite interesting. Phillip K. Dick, in my opinion, typicall had better short stories than novels, but Frank Herbert is the other way around. His novels are better, and typically, his longer novels are better than his short ones. “Whipping Star” and “The Dosadi Experiment” are definitely his two best short novels. Whipping Star is simply a fun book, The Dosadi Experiment, while being a sequel, is a much more serious book that (again) explores the relationship between environment and people. In this case, the “environment” is more a function of the government and legal structure than the physical environment, although that plays a role too.

    Yes, I own every book (as far as I am aware) by Frank Herbert, and the only major, related book that I haven’t read is “Dreamer of Dune” (his biography, written by his son). If you want, I’d be happy to box some up and ship them to you, I trust you send them back. 🙂

    Hope this helps!

    J.Ja

  9. I’ve been away on a trip, so internet access has been difficult. Thanks for the overview of Dune. I’ve watched both the David Lynch version from the 1980s, and the Sci-Fi Channel version (which I heard was closer to the book). I preferred the Lynch version, even though it was initially difficult to follow.

    I had this memory recently that close to the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 I saw an interview with a military officer. He had his camo on and hardhat (combat gear). The officers had their call signs on a label right on the front of their caps. The call sign of this one was “Shai Halud”! I thought that was so cool, especially given the setting. 🙂 It was like even though we were thousands of miles away, he could share an “inside” message with people who knew Dune.

  10. Pingback: Belated news: Tron 3 cancelled | Tekkie

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