Some of us are praying this very minute that Disney makes a third TRON film to complete this wannabe-franchise’s trilogy. And by “some of us,” I mean “me.” (And I mostly fell back in love with the series due to the fresh coat of Daft Punk gloss applied to TRON: Legacy.) While we/I wait for that ephemeral third film, Disney XD has lovingly given us their own Clone Wars-style take on extending the franchise by padding out the story between the films with TRON: Uprising. Uprising is slated to be a ten part animated miniseries that takes place between TRON and TRON: Legacy.
I was lucky enough to catch a sneak preview of Tron: Uprising episode one, “Beck’s Beginning” before the show’s official Disney XD debut on Thursday night, June 7, 2012. And I gotta say, it is everything that the Tron faithful had hoped Legacy would be.
For the non-Tron-initiated, the series revolves around anthropomorphized computer programs and their online world, which they call “The Grid.” A real-world programmer named Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges in the movies) has entered “The Grid” world twice: Once, to defeat a rogue A.I. called the Master Control Program (MCP) and later, Flynn is trapped by his own digital architectural program (Clu). The titular character, Tron played and/or voiced by Bruce Boxleitner), is a sort of electronic sheriff that is supposed to patrol the online world.
Uprising picks up after Clu has begun rising to power in this world. Flynn is a fairy tale to most of his cyber-world’s inhabitants and Tron has mysteriously disappeared. In the farthest corner of the Argon sector, a program called Beck (voiced by Elijah Wood) happily works at Able’s Garage with his friends, the pragmatic Zed and the inventive Bodhi, as well as their mutual crush, Mara. When Bodhi is casually killed by one of Clu’s soliders for protesting against a statue of Clu, Beck impulsively poses as Tron to commit an act of vandalism. This single act will spark an entire revolution, both on The Grid and in Beck.
You needn’t have seen the films to enjoy this series, but there are some bittersweet Easter eggs for those of us who have. Who is Beck’s user? Where exactly IS Flynn at this point? How will Olivia Wilde’s Quorra fit into all this? And what about the Tron/Rinzler connection?
The animation is eye-gasmically good; the color pallet is broad and vivid for such a computerized world. The animation style is an amazing blend of caricature, cell-shading, and full-on CGI used to capture the world of The Grid. The fight scenes are incredibly fluid and imaginative. The “stunts” are breathtaking. (Check out the “train” chase in the first ep, if you don’t believe it.) Even the done-to-death lightcycle and light disk sequences dazzle better than the movies. Disney XD has gone out of its way to make sure everything in this series is visually different from any other show on Disney XD. The results are spectacular: This is NOT your grandfather’s ReBoot.
Wood really steps up as Beck, the reluctant hero. He injects just the right note of rebellious youth without being overly emo nor too snarky. And Lance Henriksen as Clu’s General, Tesler, brings a certain gravitas to the proceedings. (That man could be menacing as a floating head on Futurama!) Emmanuelle Chriqui and Mandy Moore as Paige and Mara, respectively, bring us the Shiva/Madonna sides of femininity inside The Grid. But the biggest surprise is BSG‘s Tricia Helfer as “the Voice of the Grid,” a hilarious collection of soothing, piped-in trite-isms worthy of a Paul Verhoeven flick.
I cannot say enough about the script by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis (writers/producers for Lost, Once Upon A Time, and Tron Legacy). Their story is smart enough not to pander to Disney XD’s usual 12-15 year-old male demographic. This first episode alone is told out of chronological order and expects its audience to keep up without explanations. The dialogue between Beck and Paige crackles with an undercurrent of sexual tension. And the “derezzings” are fast and brutal, serving to counterpoint how frail, yet precious life on The Grid is.
Next to the new season of Burn Notice, this show may potentially be the best show of the summer. The rest of Hollywood should take note: The Uprising WILL be televised and hopefully it will find the audience it so richly deserves.
Tags: Able, Adam Horowitz, Animation, Beck, Bodhi, Bruce Boxleitner, Burn Notice, Clu, computer-generated animation, Daft Punk, Disney, Disney XD, Edward Kitsis, Elijah Wood, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Flynn, Futurama, General Tesler, Grim_Noir, Jeff Bridges, Lance Henrikson, light disk, lightcycle, Lost, Mandy Moore, Mara, Master Control Program, Olivia Wilde, Once Upon A Time, Paige, Paul Verhoeven, Quorra, Reboot, Rinzler, The Grid, The Voice Of The Grid, Tricia Helfer, Tron, Tron: Legacy, Tron:Uprising, Zed