April 5, 2011

A tale of two Trons

Newly upgraded Tron is less trailblazing and endearing than its 1982 originator, but the eye candy is a helluva lot sexier

Also this week: Memento, Taxi Driver

Tron: Legacy + Tron: The Original Classic (Disney) Seeing Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) get zapped into “the grid” for the first time 29 years ago was a game-changing moment for movie magic. Tron wasn’t the first feature to incorporate CGI (props, Westworld), but it was easily the most ambitious.  And while sequel Tron: Legacy’s theatrical debut didn’t exactly change the face of digital entertainment (or 3D, for that matter) last year, it boasted jaw-dropping art design and a decent display of exhilarating action, set to a head-nodding electro score by Daft Punk. 

Legacy actually kicks off extremely well. Upon the arrival of Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund, playing the son of Bridges' Kevin) into “the grid,” he’s immediately thrust into the iconic realm of neon lights, killer frisbees and sleek lightcycles. However, it’s not long before we realize the film has just blown its wad, and there’s still 90 minutes to go. 

When Sam is rescued by a smokin’ hot program and reunited with his very Dude-like father, the script takes on the thankless duty of tying together both Trons through impenetrable, unceasing exposition—an attempt that also seems counter-intuitive to Legacy’s dissociation with the (now) campy original throughout its ad campaign. 

But that’s water under the bridge now that both films are available on DVD and Blu-ray—heck, they’re even available as one single package. Whether or not you dug Legacy, if you haven’t seen the first Tron—now branded Tron: The Original Classic—don’t be discouraged by its sub-Xbox palette. It may be less groundbreaking by today’s standards, but the original endures as a frequently entertaining adventure with tighter pacing and a more appealing Jeff Bridges—who, as with Legacy, appears as multiple Jeff Bridgeses.

Both titles contain a bevy of featurettes on Tron’s inception and cultural impact. Also available is vintage commentary for the original, a nifty faux-doc that bridges (ha!) both films and a retro-rad Daft Punk music video. (However, you still have to look on the interwebs to revisit The Strokes’ Tron-sploitation video for “12:51.”)

Also Available

Ten years ago, who would’ve thought that Christopher Nolan’s brain-busting breakout feature, Memento (Alliance), would lead to such high-falutin franchises as Batman and Inception?  Watching the much-more enjoyable Memento for the first time was like discovering a classic film noir that somehow swam under your radar. Seeing it today is equally enchanting—Guy Pearce still makes up the perfect pseudo-detective, while Joey Pantoliano and Carrie-Anne Moss turn up as the genre’s archetypical weasel and femme fatale. Extras on this fantastic-looking Blu-ray are identical to those that were offered on old-school editions, but this time we don’t have suffer through a main menu that requires a freakin’ cheat sheet to navigate.

It’s been a swell week for high-def adopters looking to revisit some gritty classics. Of all the titles to choose from, we’ve saved the best for last. If you somehow missed the restored 35mm release of Martin Scorsese’s masterful Taxi Driver (Sony), you’ll be happy to learn that this presentation looks and sounds pretty much on par—assuming you have a primo home-theatre hook-up. The film’s seen its share of re-releases on DVD, and this version thankfully contains all of the previous goodies. But the real treat on this disc is a rare commentary from Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader that was only available by way of a 1986 Criterion Laserdisc.