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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Science Fiction > Computers > Videogames > Battle > Rock Music > Rock Opera > Fantasy > Countercu > TRON: Legacy (2010/Disney Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D, DVD, Digital Copy and TRON (1982) Blu-ray) + Tommy (1975/Columbia/Umbrella Region Free Blu-ray Import)

TRON: Legacy (2010/Disney Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D, DVD, Digital Copy and TRON (1982) Blu-ray) + Tommy (1975/Columbia/Umbrella Region Free Blu-ray Import)

 

3D Picture: A-     2D Picture: B     DVD: C+     Sound: A- & B-/B/B     Extras: B-/D     Films: B-/B-/B

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: The import Blu-ray edition of Tommy is only available in from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, is Region Free (so it will play on all Blu-ray players and rives worldwide) and can be ordered from them at the website address links provided below at the end of the review or at finer retailers.  The Disney set is available worldwide.

 

 

With so many films basically tie-ins for toys, games and gadgets, it is hard to believe there was a time when a few films tried to address such things in smart ways.  Since films and games can be about fun, you can see they have a common interest, but a few can even be considered visionary.

 

When Disney was trying to make a creative comeback long after Walt Disney had passed on, they took a few big gambles hoping to stay relevant and compete with the major studios.  As they watched Columbia and Universal become major studios, they remained a smaller company.  Along with The Black Hole and various animated features like The Black Caldron, they took a gamble with Steven Lisberger on an epic film project called TRON in 1982.

 

The film attempted two contradictory things: being a serious piece of upscale family entertainment and introduce the then strange new world of computer and videogame space including it very many abstract concepts that even many adults did not understand.  That this was a world that may never be realized was another issue, though some of it now obviously has.  The studio would back the film and a videogame version that turned out to be more successful than the box office of the film, yet there was always something special and different about the film that made it something special and showed Disney was not dead.  That the creative innovator of a studio still had a heart and soul waiting to be awakened and rise again.  With Star Wars and the Lucas/Spielberg era in full swing doing what Disney used to do so well, they had to keep trying different things.

 

Jeff Bridges is Kevin Flynn, an ace of a computer program designer in an era when IBM was about to be overtaken by several upstarts.  Working with the EnCom company, he is about to be in conflict with them, but little does he know the game he has been designing in his spare time has taken on a life of its own and he will be literally trapped into its cyberworld playing the game for his survival.

 

The film was Disney’s entry in the deathsport cycle of the Science Fiction genre so popular in the 1970s (think Carrousel in Logan’s Run, the original Rollerball, Altman’s Quintet) yet (like Blade Runner the same year) would introduce the idea of microcircuitry into its look and production design.  At the same time, a more serious side of the Science Fiction genre was being attempted by those playing the game resembling those in David Butler’s 1930 film Just Imagine and some of the cybertrip ideas were trying to imitate Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), while Wendy Carlos was hired to do the music score.  Besides having a groundbreaking hit album called Switched On Bach where his music was played (unthinkably at the time) with all electronic instruments, she also score Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971).  Syd Mead did the Production Design.

 

Viewers (especially a younger audience) were expecting Star Wars from any film that was not serious adult Science Fiction and despite good reviews (which even led to a re-release that did not know how to reach a wider audience), the film did gain a cult audience and then some as more and more people saw it for what it was trying to do and then, the world started to shape up like key aspects of the film over the decades.  The problem at the time is that the exposition was too slow and the makers seem to think the human story would carry it, but that was not always the case.

 

The idea of users and the cyber creations have some of the last traditional Christian (and Judeo) ideas in a big Hollywood production before that was supplanted by political correctness and Right-Wing extremism, something no one knew when they were making this.  David Warner (Time After Time) makes for a good corporate villain who fits perfectly in the cyber world, Cindy Morgan fits well in the female lead role, Bruce Boxleitner is Bridges friend (and turns out to be the title character) and Barnard Hughes (who was doing much genre work at the time) is uniquely positioned as an intellectual who can make the difference between a bright and dark future, the kind of character we rarely see now.  That he is named Dumont, a name known for pioneering analog TV, is often missed by viewers young and old.

 

Ultimately, the film is the kind of commercial film Hollywood made all the time, taking risks on interesting ideas that could develop into something great and that people would like.  Disney never abandoned the film and to their credit, constantly reissued it where they could, keeping the audience for it happy and interested while finding new fans.  Even new toy lines were issued, while the film was restored and reissued in the original 70mm film it was shot in.  Rumors always circled that a sequel might happen, but nothing resulted, although it seemed some of the ideas being considered were being taken seriously.

 

Within a decade after the film was released, Disney finally grew into a major studio and success continued for many years to come as the company expanded into one of the most powerful studios around.  It has even created the first computer animated film (Rescuers Down Under) and would eventually merge with the ABC Network, Marvel Comics and Pixar.  With 3D arriving, the studio decided to see if it was time for TRON to rise again.

 

So many things could have gone wrong on TRON: Legacy (2010), the resulting film that got mixed reviews this time, but did far better at the box office.  Joseph Kosinski took over the director’s chair, but this was going to have to be a gigantic production where the studio had to be hands-on like they used to be a long time ago for this to work.  Proving that Disney is in a rare period of creative and prolific power, all involved pulled off the unbelievable and this has turned out to be one of those rare sequels totally worthy of the original.

 

Besides getting Bridges and Boxleitner back, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde are the new leads and he is the son of Bridges’ character.  The film takes us to a more advanced and possibly deadly cyberworld done up spectacularly, yet totally connected to the original film and games.  With a faster pace, upgrades lightcycles (Return Of The Jedi’s in-joke about this is to have it version, speederbikes, in the middle of the highly unadvanced forest ala Hitchcock’s North By Northwest) and a more advanced world that seems more palpable than ever, this works very well throughout with few problems.

 

Even without the 3D angle, this is a really fun film, even if you do not know the original.  Best of all, though, it more realistically addresses the ideas of family, being about something and building something (anything) than most any film, anywhere I have seen lately.  Ultimately, it is about people backing the Disney legacy, the meaning of true creativity and adds up to a unique sense of something we see in few films anymore: pride!

 

Yes, pride.  That is what this film is ultimately about.  A grasp of what Disney is about, how they came to make the first film and how it is a history distinct from all other studios, which is a remarkable thing.  Yes, the actual storyline is fun and the action is as top rate as the production, which is never overdone, but this has as much heart and soul as the original and that is why it is one of the most underrated commercial films and Hollywood blockbusters in years.

 

Another reason the first film might have been playing some things safe outside of its target family audience is that it did not want to seem like a “trippy” film.  Being in a videogame might have seemed someone abstract, but an idea that Star Wars had more or less already achieved.  A few years before that, British director Ken Russell had successfully done much the same with the idea of the videogame’s predecessor, the pinball machine.  The machines made a big comeback in the 1970s and one reason was The Who’s original hit album version of Tommy, their Rock Opera masterpiece.  Russell had debuted as a feature film director with the Harry Saltzman produced Michael Caine/Harry Palmer film Billion Dollar Brain (1969), the last of a trilogy which had its own ballbearing/pinball imagery.

 

While films like TRON, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and others wanting to emulate 2001, Tommy had the freedom (adult themes and symbolism notwithstanding) to go all out in ways the first TRON could have, even with technical limitations.  A new basic Blu-ray version has been issued by Umbrella Entertainment in Australia of the film that we already reviewed in its Sony/Columbia U.S. Blu-ray version.  You can read more about it and all about the film itself at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/10424/Tommy+(1975/Sony+Blu-ray)

 

 

For our purposes here, the film, does build this amazing world and the part that has to do with the actual machines directly now serve as a reminder of one of the greatest series of machines ever built much the way the first TRON captures the same for the early greatness of the first computers and videogames.  In this respect, both are as charming as they are important cinematic expressions of something priceless more people have enjoyed worldwide than is realized and in this respect, they all have a kinship that is cinematically rare and all three films are worth seeing and re-seeing, especially thanks to Blu-ray.



The 1080p MVC-encoded 3-D – Full Resolution digital High Definition image on the Blu-ray 3D version and 1080p digital High Definition image on the 2D Blu-ray version of TRON: Legacy ranges between 1.78 X 1 (as in the IMAX presentations) to 2.35 X 1 aspect ratios.  The 3D version is easily the top performer of the four playback Blu-rays here and that is not because the others are weak.  It is just that TRON: Legacy in 3D is simply one of the best 3D features made in the wake of Avatar and uses the same type of cameras, but improved, follow-up versions.  There is some slight motion blur, but the Fusion Cameras are state-of-the-art and is shows, making this 3D a real experience and one of the best titles in the format to date.  They made this to be a very big screen cinematic experience and they succeeded greatly.  The 2D version is weaker in the real-world sequence and noticeably softer than the majority of “fantastic cyberworld” sequences, but it still looks better than the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 only DVD which cannot handle all the detail either Blu-ray offers.

 

The 1080p 2.20 X 1 digital High Definition image on TRON (1982) comes from restored materials and one of the secrets of the film is that it was totally shot in large frame formats bigger than regular 35mm film, which is another reason it holds up so much, is the unique experience it is and another reason why we are still talking about it today.  Computer Graphics were shot in VistaVision (35mm horizontally with a huge 8-perferations per frame!) and all the live action in Super Panavision 70mm, which is 65mm negative and much the same format 2001 was shot in.  The real-world footage was shot in color and all the cyberworld footage was hot in black and white, then tinted and colored (versus colorized, where a good monochromatic black & white image is degraded and ugly color is plastered on) to imitate what the various computer color would be.

 

Grain is therefore normal for all the matte work and coloring that was done in 65mm, as well as the color fringing and the like, which can look like the color is alive, whether it was intended or not.  In all cases, the film has never looked better on home video, especially in the richness of the color.  The best footage has detail and richness you will not see anywhere else outside of a fresh film print.  Fans will be pleased and many will be shocked, not knowing the film ever looked this good.

 

That leaves the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Tommy, which is very likely from the same HD master as the U.S. Blu-ray, but this offered its own surprise.  Though it is not enough to give it a higher letter grade than the Sony version, which is a disc many critics raved about, I thought it had some limits and issues.  This Umbrella disc vindicates me, showing just that much more detail, color, depth and range than the Sony version, looking a little better throughout with few exceptions.  I did not expect this, but it confirms what was narrowly missing, though I still like the Sony disc very much, but more on that in a minute.

 

As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 24/48 lossless mix on TRON: Legacy’s Blu-rays are easily the big sonic winner here, with real warmth, soundfield, state-of-the-art dynamic range and sonics that will challenge all home theater systems.  This follows Toy Story 3 (reviewed elsewhere on this site) as the second-ever Dolby Digital 7.1 theatrical release, as well as an IMAX release, so this is demo material and then some.  This includes the terrific score by Daft Punk.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on TRON (1982) comes from an upgraded Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (aka 6.1 with mono back-channel) soundmaster used for more recent 70mm theatrical screenings (with digital sound; the original 70mm release had 4.1 surround from 6-track Dolby magnetic stereo presentations) and the out of print DVD set that has suddenly become so collectible.  Though the dialogue recording can show the film’s age, music and sound effects remain unique, one-of-a-kind and vital, making this soundmix a classic in its own right.

 

Originally issued in magnetic Quintophonic sound (a 5.0 system that had its own encoded surround system, but failed to have the success Dolby soon would), the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Tommy is different than either the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.0 or 5.1 lossless mixes on the Sony edition.  Sony explains that the 5.0 is supposed to be like the Quintophonic 35mm presentations of the film in 1975, while the 5.1 is the state-of-the-art version using the original multi-channel recordings to create a more dynamic soundfield, but I thought the difference was narrow.  Umbrella’s DTS-MA 5.1 mix sounds great, but more like the soundfield that you would get in a large movie house of the time and likely is the closest of the three to the original Quintophonic sound design.

 

Like the picture improvement and with no extras here, I love having a third audio option.  Are there others?  Though the music is not as good as the original 1969 album, save the Tina Turner and Elton John sequences, it is great that the sound has been saved so well and plays back so nicely in these variant versions.

 

 

While Tommy has no extras, the TRON: Legacy 5-Disc pack offers a First Look at TRON: Uprising, the Disney XD animated series, Visualizing TRON featurette, Installing The Cast featurette, DVD version of the sequel, Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, everything from the collectible DVD set of the original film, plus The Next Day: Flynn Lives Revealed, TRON: Disney Second Screen, that allows you to watch the movie with exclusive interactive elements available on your “2nd screen”, Launching the Legacy featurette, Disc Roars Comic-Con piece with Director Kosinski and (for a change, one you want to see…) a Music Video: "Derezzed", which is written, produced, and performed (of course) by Daft Punk.  For a limited time, a collectible Identity Disc packaging is also being offered for big fans.

 

All three films make for great viewing and are highly recommended.

 

 

As noted above, you can order the import Blu-ray of Tommy exclusively from Umbrella at:

 

http://www.umbrellaent.com.au/

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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