June 15, 2017
video essay

Watch: How 'Tron: Legacy' Built its Legacy with Visual Feats

Tron
'Tron: Legacy' has become a modern cult classic, thanks to its impressive storyworld.

Both Tron: Legacy and the original Tron make strong impressions on viewers because of the off-kilter, larger-than life world they create, according to Matt Draper's video essay below. The films are lessons in how to pursue a vision and then execute it—as Draper suggests, they are great examples of the idea that form equals content. Here are some parts of that vision, as manifested in Tron: Legacy.

Visual Palette

Who could resist the high-contrast, neon-bedecked world of The Grid? In this dark, living breathing, video game, characters zip from place to place in their sleek vehicles with a speed and energy befitting highly trained robots rather than humans. The world closes in, in this film, and yet its darkness works as its own character here, a source of comfort if only because it is the only element that doesn’t change too much within the story. Study this way of portraying a physical environment; it may hold instruction for you on how to create a compelling world for your characters.

The decisions you make about sound in your own films always have to be linked to the experience of the viewer.

Audio

The sound in Tron: Legacy also takes us out of ourselves for a little bit. Its alternately careening and boomeranging score works with the setting, as Draper points out, to create a discombobulating effect. In the original film, the score had the synthesizer-heavy whiff of '80s cheesy horror films, and yet it worked for the vaguely creepy mood the film had. In the sequel, the director has included Daft Punk, among other offerings—which raises the heartbeat of the film considerably while also taking us ever outward, away from anything resembling an emotional core in the story. The characters we see here, after all, are largely neither tangible nor intangible during the course of the movie, and so the music behind their actions has to reflect that. Similarly, the decisions you make about sound in your own films always have to be linked to the experience of the viewer: how will the audio change his or her mind about the film?

Cinematography

Renowned DP Claudio Miranda has manipulated heaven and earth here, as the saying goes, to create what Draper calls an "immersive realm" for viewers. During the full 40 minutes of the film intended for IMAX, the aspect ratio broadens, making the film’s visual explosiveness all the more dominant, and compelling viewers not to look away. While diehard fans of the original film might swear by it and distrust its update, Draper makes a persuasive argument that this new installment has surpassed its precursor in almost all aspects.      

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