When Hollywood takes a few extra years before it gets around to making a sequel to a film, it often provides some sort of bridge for the
audience. Some movies rely on books. Others opt for viral videos on YouTube or Facebook.
But when the time between releases is more than 28 years, you need to pull
out the big guns. And when it comes to nerd cinematic icon "Tron," it's
only fitting that the bridge is a video game.
"Tron: Evolution," (the game) hits shelves Dec. 7, and is meant to serve as a prequel to "Tron: Legacy," (the film), which arrives in theaters 10 days later. And while
mainstream theatergoers may never be aware of the video game tie-in,
it's right in the sweet spot for the film's target audience.
"Tron," you see, is a movie that normally would never warrant a sequel. Its
initial theatrical run was only moderately successful, making $33
million - roughly twice its shooting budget.
Geeks fell in love with it, though. Its distinct visual style and imaginative
look at the world of computers and video games spoke to a generation
that was beginning to immerse itself in that world. That depth and
longevity of that passion for the film eventually convinced Disney to
move forward with a sequel.
Rather than making "Tron: Evolution" a standalone marketing ploy, the film
will reference the game's events - which explain how Kevin Flynn (the
central character of the original film) becomes imprisoned inside Tron's
world - and how that world has evolved between films.
In the game, which is a third-person action title with RPG elements,
players will control a character dubbed Anon (short for "Anonymous"),
that was created by Flynn to discover the origins of a computer virus,
which is threatening to shut down the Grid (a part of the computer world
where programs fight in various gladiator games).
To boost excitement, players will be able to download additional content
as soon as the game is released, via a one-time-use code, which will
unlock additional multiplayer maps and a character skin modeled after
Sam Flynn, the protagonist of the new film (and son of Kevin Flynn).
Given that gaming plays such an integral part in the "Tron" films, you might
think it would be easy to create a good video game around the franchise.
After all, the original arcade game - with its light cycle races and a "Breakout"-style challenge that recreated the film's final battle - is one of the classics of the quarter-gobbling era.
Unfortunately, that's not the case. From the original "Tron" game, it has been all downhill for the franchise. "Tron 2.0: Killer App," a 2004 game that was the first indication that Disney might see potential new life in the franchise, only managed middling review scores
- averaging 69 out of 100 on Metacritic. And so far, critics aren't
exactly raving about "Tron: Evolution" either.
Only a handful of reviews have come in, but the early scores are in the
mid-50s to low-60s. Complaints focus on a hard-to-follow plot and a lack
of precision with controls - something that's essential when you're
driving a light-cycle. Eurogamer called it "a game that entertains
That's not an encouraging start for rebirth of the franchise, but it's not a
fatal one, either. After all, movie tie-ins with games are rarely overly
successful with the gaming audience.