boston.com Arts & Entertainment your connection to The Boston Globe

'Tron 2.0' video game is sequel to cult sci-fi movie

Los Angeles -- Lots of movies have inspired video games, and lots of video games have sequels.

It's extremely rare, however, for a game to be the official sequel to a movie -- especially a film that's 21 years old.

The appropriate subject for such a crossover is "Tron," the 1982 film about a man who gets transformed into neon computer-code version of himself and has to fight his way back to reality.

The new PC game "Tron 2.0" picks up the story two decades later, when the previously empty world of computers is now crowded with spam, Internet traffic, security servers, firewalls, viruses and a population explosion of new and complex programs -- all fighting for survival.

"Tron" writer-director Steven Lisberger, who wowed moviegoers in 1982 with his then-revolutionary, now-quaint computer animation, has wanted to make a film sequel for years. Still does.

But lately, he's had to satisfy himself by serving as a consultant on the "Tron 2.0" game, developed by Monolith Productions and published by Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista Interactive.

"It's sort of groundbreaking to approach it this way," he said. "We've been kicking around scripts and concepts in the film division for quite some time now. The game division just blasted ahead and took the lead on this."

If there is a third film installment in the "Tron" series -- say, "Tron 3.0" -- it depends on the success of the game.

"There has been a regrouping and rethinking about how one does a film in conjunction with the game and, in a way, as a sequel to the game now," Lisberger said.

Richard Taylor, who created many of the computer effects for "Tron," also served as an adviser on "Tron 2.0." He said a follow-up movie is years overdue.

"I run into people all the time who say they saw 'Tron' and that's why their doing what they're doing now," he said of his work in video games. "It tweaked a lot kids' imaginations when they were 12 years old and they're still big fans."

In the original, Jeff Bridges played a computer hacker named Flynn who gets digitized and finds that programs look just like their creators in neon suits.

He and Tron -- a program created by his friend Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) to regulate the computer world -- successfully battled the oppressive, power-hungry Master Control Program.

The concept led to offshoot video games and it's influence can still be seen in movies like "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over" and "The Matrix."

In "Tron 2.0," Alan's son Jet enters the digital universe to find his missing father (Boxleitner voices both Alan and Tron) and uncovers a sinister plot by rogue security executive JD Thorne, who has turned into an electronic green monster by improperly digitizing himself.

The game is a first-person shooter in which a Frisbee-like disc is the main weapon and there are races on light cycles -- speeders that leave trails of solid walls. There are other fighting tools such as bombs, which are explosions of corrupted computer code that damage everything in the blast radius.

"The game is a little more complex in the geography and architecture," said Frank Rooke, lead designer of "Tron 2.0." "In the movie it was pretty stark, pretty drab ... simplistic in a lot of ways, at least to our contemporary eyes. We didn't want to stray from the core look, but made the colors more vibrant and put in a lot of motion."

Disney, sensing a "Tron" cult following, has rediscovered the movie. In addition to "2.0," the company is releasing a series of action figures based on the story and a new comic book.

If that leads to another movie, Taylor said he'd like to take the story beyond the traditional glowing gridlines. "There would be the old game grid over there in some domain and you might pass by some deteriorating light cycles, but there should be fractal forests and cyber creatures, things you haven't seen before," he said.

Even Bridges, who did not participate in the game, has expressed openness to another "Tron" movie. He said he's only heard rumors about the script.

"Somebody was saying they're going to make a new one and said, 'Did you hear about your part?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'You're like Kurtz, like in 'Apocalypse Now,"' Bridges said recently. "I'd be interested in reading the script."

SEARCH GLOBE ARCHIVES
 
Globe Archives Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months