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'Tron: Legacy' as Tech Prophecy

Like its trailblazing predecessor, Tron: Legacy grapples with the role of technology in our lives.

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Director Joseph Kosinski says Tron: Legacy is about maintaining human connections. Images © Disney Enterprises Inc.

Tron: Legacy opens with Kevin Flynn's quest to create "a digital frontier that will reshape the human condition."

When perfection turns to chaos for the genius game designer, who becomes a prisoner of his own virtual world, the question then becomes: Is technology bringing us closer together or driving us further apart?

It's even ironic, considering how effectively Digital Domain utilizes the latest and greatest VFX tech toys to bring the groundbreaking Tron (1982) into the 21st century for a thrilling new 3-D experience.

"That's definitely the over arching theme of the film," admits Legacy director Joseph Kosinski. "Technology is so pervasive in our world today: What's good about it? What's bad about it? What's important? A big [part] is how perfection is right in front of you and it's important to pay attention to those human connections that you have and not get lost in this digital world. Even though our story is about a son's search for his father in a digital world, I think thematically it applies to our everyday lives."

Tron director Steve Lisberger maintains that Legacy is a cautionary tale for the digital generation.

Aside from Tron's pioneering use of computer graphics at Disney, which inspired the CG revolution we are enjoying today, the visionary sci-fi adventure also grappled with the role of technology back in the '80s.

According to Tron director Steve Lisberger (who served as resident Yoda in his capacity as a producer on Legacy), Tron was about the overthrow of the mainframe (the corporate world) and the democratization of the user. "We've all become users now," he adds.

"When you look back at what they were contemplating of a world where we live another digital life and another existence, it was pretty prescient," suggests Legacy producer Sean Bailey, currently head of production at Disney. "So we took a lot of that thinking in the form of Kevin Flynn."

Indeed, Lisberger characterizes Legacy as the constant struggle to find our place in the new digital world, with Flynn (Jeff Bridges) as the binding force.

"How much of the analog are we going to bring with us and how much is it going to change us?" Lisberger asks."Are we going to treat each other like users? Or are we going to treat each other like programs? The people in The Matrix, for instance, thought they were being treated like programs because they were fooled by what their reality was. I think it's more and more difficult with the new generation to fool them. [They] can absorb so much information so much faster that the density of the information is incredible. My job was a lot easier with the first Tron in terms of computer graphics and explaining what was going on."

Jeff Bridges is attracted to the modern-day myth about technology.

The technology connection held a similar attraction for Bridges, whose New Age guru persona was shaped in Tron long before he became the Dude in The Big Lebowski. However, the recent Oscar-winner for Crazy Heart doesn't tweet or spend too much energy trying to keep up because it's going too fast and "messing with my Zen thing," to quote Flynn.

"With this, one of the things I [was] most concerned about was that it wasn't simply a phantasmagoria of all this visual candy, but was also an opportunity to talk about technology and create a modern-day myth of that," Bridges explains. "I just got hip to the Plastic Pollution Coalition and that this is stuff that is not digestible by the earth. So technology is something we really have to examine because, being who we are, and, just personally, I dig immediate gratification, we don't have this long-term thought about [it]."

Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.

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Bill Desowitz, former editor of VFXWorld, is currently the Crafts Editor of IndieWire.