When director Steven Lisberger created TRON in 1982, he had no idea he would be influencing a whole new generation (and foreshadowing the computer revolution that was on the horizon).
Now 28 years after his seminal film, the sequel TRON: LEGACY finally arrived with Lisberger producing and Joe Kosinski taking the helm.
The film finds Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) trapped in the computer grid of his own making and held hostage by a young, computer program version of himself dubbed Clu. It’s up to Flynn’s grown-up son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) to enter the computer world to save him.
TRON: LEGACY just hit Blu-ray and DVD this week, as well as the original, remastered TRON. ASSIGNMENT X spoke with Lisberger in the second part of this exclusive interview about both films and where he’d like to see a third film go.
ASSIGNMENT X: I still maybe think LEGACY has proven to be a bit ahead of its time, just like TRON was.
STEVEN LISBERGER: I think we’re looking at a situation, and I was just talking to Joe about it, and I think James Cameron has found a formula that works. The more cutting edge Cameron makes the cinema, the more he counter-balances it with a traditional emotional story. He did that with TITANIC and he did it with AVATAR. I think the general audience feels safer if you say you’re going to have the most radical technology behind the making of this movie, they want to know you’re going to have babies and puppies and kisses in the rain. I think TRON challenges that in a way, because it’s really radical. I felt we really had a powerful father/son story, it still feels like we’re letting the computers get away with murder. They’re not being asked to slavishly render wars or conventional things that we’re used to seeing. It’s almost like a certain part of the audience out there worries “why are you letting the computers run away with this kind of imagery and story, when we should keep them contained with things that are more traditional.”
AX: Will you be involved in the development of the story for TRON 3 and where would you like to see it go?
LISBERGER: We’re in that phase where a lot of things have to play out. The Blu-ray has to come out and the animated series is coming out too. Of course people are waiting to see what ideas emerge and hold up and maybe get the powers that be at Disney excited enough that they say “yes, this is worth making.”
AX: What direction would you like to see TRON 3 take?
LISBERGER: To me, the key has always been that core relationship between the users and the program. I suppose now we’re talking about Sam Flynn and his relationship with Quorra [Olivia Wilde] who is a digital native. I feel that when we created the digital world, and I’m talking in reality now, we’ve divided life into two parts – the analog and the digital. We’re going to need stories that make it whole again, where we wrap our mind around both at the same time and that’s the challenge for TRON to make us feel that the world still works as a whole with both the digital and the analog.
AX: It does seem like many story threads were set up in TRON: LEGACY that could be paid off later on.
LISBERGER: There was never a full on organized attempt to figure out what the next movie would be. We knew we had to put as many checks in the boxes on this film as we could and see what emerged from that.
AX: Would you have liked to see more of Dillinger’s son in TRON: LEGACY?
LISBERGER: A big part of this for me, is seeing your generation get excited about what was created a long time ago. They have surprised me on many instances. There are things I would be dismissive about and [the new filmmakers] would be like “No, no, no Steve we have to use this, because I saw your movie when I was eight years old and this is something I loved.” I can’t stand in the way of that.
AX: Do you think Flynn still lives?
LISBERGER: Well, you know, it’s a digital realm, so it’s really difficult to truly get rid of anything or anyone permanently.
AX: Are you involved in animated series?
LISBERGER: I’ve seen it. I really like the 2D/3D combination, but I don’t work on it day to day.
AX: Have you contributed any story?
LISBERGER: I contribute theme. I’m like some old politician who has some basic package of things he thinks are important and I’m sure people working on TRON get tired of hearing it. I just keep pounding away at those central themes that I think are that make TRON, TRON.
AX: What is it about TRON: LEGACY that makes you feel proud that you’re the father of all this.
LISBERGER: I’m proud that they focused on Flynn and his program which is the dynamic that I think is the cornerstone of TRON – Users and Programs – and they use it in a negative way this time. I really like their reuse of the iconic pose of the disc overhead. The whole Portal sequence at the end for me is reminiscent of the IO Tower sequence in the middle of the original movie. They made a conscious decision to take that sequence, which they thought was powerful and make it part of the climax of this film. I thought that worked well. I think so much of the work they did on the light cycles is stellar. It’s just an amazing sequence. That whole idea of man being one with his machine, which we struggled with. That was the underlying idea of the first film and to see some of our original intentions that we couldn’t execute because we didn’t have the technology and to see now they got to do it. That’s been cool to watch.
AX: Being so immersed in this over the years, I feel that technology is taking over too. It’s allowing people to steal movie and very hard for people to make a living. It is controlling us in many ways.
LISBERGER: We seem to be wanting to go there. It’s not like we’re being dragged there kicking and screaming. I think we have felt certain analog real world problems we have like global warming, cancer, hunger, over-population that these are problems we’re so tired of facing we can’t seem to resolve them, it’s a welcome relief to move into the artificial efficiencies of the digital realm, where the world has to make sense and has to listen to us and has to be understandable.
AX: Having been part of Hollywood for so long, and the many changes that have happened over the years, are you a User or are you a Program?
LISBERGER: I’m a committed User. I think that’s the seduction that one has to avoid is letting the efficiencies of this technology turn you into a Program. It’s so easy to start treating other people like they’re information and data and taking these OS’s we interact with all the time and saying “well, maybe I should think like my OS on my iPad, because it will make dealing with the world so efficient.” I think it’s fine to assume that role for awhile, but you really have to come back to being a User.
(additional reporting by A.C. Ferrante)
CLICK HERE for PART 1 of our exclusive interview with Steven Lisberger as he talks about the original TRON remaster on Blu-ray
CLICK HERE for the scoop on TRON: LEGACY Blu-ray from director Joe Kosinski
CLICK HERE for the scoop on Joe Kosinski’s TRON 3 plans
For more exclusive coverage of TRON: LEGACY (interviews, news and reviews) – CLICK HERE