Twenty-eight years is a long time to wait for a sequel, but loyal fans of “Tron” didn’t mind in the least. The 1982 film was groundbreaking in its use of computer graphics which opened up a new world of possibilities when it came to computer-generated imagery in a movie. Likewise, fans of “Tron” knew that the sequel would have to do something to push the envelope on CGI. Fans got just that and more as “Tron: Legacy” delivered CGI graphics unlike any other film has to date.
“Tron” gave us a unique look at the ability computes had when it came to movie making. When the characters were derezzed, it was literally as though someone pulled a plug out and they vanished by large computer pixelation. While the disks they used for the game grid and carried in their suits were literally just a disk, they still did nothing special. The light cycles, which built walls wherever they went and derezzed characters, were also largely pixilated, but still effective. Although the surveillance programs were obviously CGI, they were no more than what seemed like a child’s building block toy collection that was put together to make a menacing looking program. The CGI in “Tron” looked great for its time, but it cannot compare to the CGI of “Tron: Legacy”
Since Programs don’t age as Users do, writers and the CGI team had to address this matter and make it believable. Flynn shown as a young father was an unexpected surprise since the actor playing him, Jeff Bridges, is not in his 30’s anymore, but looked as though he were. It looked so real that it is bound to inspire other films to use this technique where applicable.
While the light cycles were a staple image in “Tron” it is no wonder that they would come back for use in “Tron: Legacy.” The wall that the cycles used looked more like a ribbon of light than it did in the first film. The light cycle arena had also changed from a simple playing field area to a much more complex game simulation that is commonly used in racing video games. The cycles themselves also received an upgrade from a simple looking motorcycle to a much more complex motorcycle that materialized when a simple looking black baton was pulled apart while running which materialized a motorcycle to ride on.
The discs in “Tron: Legacy” also got an upgrade from being just a simple disc to become a more high tech donut-shaped disc. Not only did these discs light up, but they also acted as computers that could be used to heal a Program if they’d been injured by simulated images of the owner, which appeared out of the center of the disc. When a Program was derezzed, they became what literally looked like small computer chips breaking apart from each other. Although the CGI in “Tron” cannot begin to compare with the complexity that “Tron: Legacy” was able to deliver and bring to new heights, both films were equally groundbreaking where CGI is concerned. Just as “Tron” changed the way a lot of films after it were being made, “Tron: Legacy” is bound to do the same.