If there’s something I have an abundance of right now, it’s time spent immobilized on the couch or the computer chair while a hungry four-week-old sucks down a bottle of formula. Lucky for me Netflix has an auto-run feature once you get it going; as a result I’ve been catching up on more television and movies that I’ve missed. The latest series I’ve finally been able to catch has been Tron: Uprising, and so far I’m really enjoying it.
The original Tron back in the early ’80s is hands-down one of my favorite movies of all time, and seeing it is one of the earliest memories I have. I’m sure there’s some deep, dark corner of my parents’ house somewhere that still has my old, bright orange light cycle, complete with little plastic pull-tab to rev it up and let it go careening down the hallway (my dog hated that thing). Fast-forward nearly 30 years to when the sequel finally arrived and I was a happy kid once again, even though Tron: Legacy wasn’t exactly the most critically well-received film. I didn’t let a little thing like bad writing stop me, though – I ate it up – so imagine my glee when I discovered Disney had come out with a Tron animated television series last year called Tron: Uprising.
Consisting of only one season so far, Tron: Uprising takes place sometime in between the events of the two movies in an attempt to fill in the gaps of what happened to the Grid once Kevin Flynn disappeared from the real world. The art style is striking, a combination of traditional 2D animation and cel-shaded 3D computer animation that fits the tone of a neon-drenched virtual world like no other, and the cast is absolutely top-tier: you’ve got Bruce Boxleitner reprising his role as Tron, and he’s joined by Elijah Wood, who plays a young program named Beck that Tron takes under his wing. Together they team up against Tesler, a character voiced by the great Lance Henriksen, adding to his already impressive list of science fiction credits. Rounding out the cast is Disney staple Mandy Moore, former Family Matters father and Die Hard cop Reginald Veljohnson, and Paul Rubens – Pee Wee Herman himself – in supporting roles.
It’s an action-packed series, featuring all the flashiest bits of the Tron universe like light cycle races and kinetic, fast-paced fights featuring whizzing, ricocheting indentity discs, those razor-sharp digital Frisbees that everyone in the movies have strapped to their backs. The show’s not afraid to pull punches, either – characters get greased left and right in a flash of sparks and deresolution – usually a bit edgy for Disney fare but with all the characters being programs and not people the censors seemed to have relaxed their grip slightly. All in all, it’s a fun, high-speed ride into a well-designed fantasy world that expands the Tron universe and especially the backstory of the sequel. Not only that, but hearing Bruce Boxleitner’s voice coming out of a digital badass version of Tron is an absolute treat.
Even better is how there are Easter Eggs hidden throughout several episodes that tie in to the original film, such as an original lightcycle design and one of those binary floating spiky-ball bits that can only answer “Yes” or “No.” It’s somehow very appropriate that a television show depicting the inner workings of a computer network – a sequel to a ground-breaking movie that pushed the boundaries of computer graphics in film – is created almost exclusively through the use of a computer. Tron lives, not just in our imaginations but literally inside the Grid. Now if I can only figure out how to digitize Olivia Wilde and download her into my living room….