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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tron: Singularity

Tron: Legacy was dull. I paid my money, watched it in 3D, and made my way out of the theater when the credits crawled.  I didn't think about it much since then, not until it came up in conversation at this week's NEW NET tech conversation. NNtc is a small gathering of folks interested in shooting the breeze  about the latest technology news. We meet once a week at a local restaurant with good wi-fi. The back-and-forth is loose, often wondering off topic---actually, rarely staying on topic.

This week we wondered over to Tron: Legacy, and I finally thought about why I didn't like it: The story in the original Tron wasn't better and may have been even less coherent, but it didn't matter. The point of Tron was to say, "Look at what we can do. You have never seen this before. You want a hint of the future? Here it is." When Tron was released, in a tortured third degree of separation*, I heard about the experience of making it from Dan Shor, who played Ram (and the Popcorn Co-Worker). The actors approached the project knowing they were forever changing the art of movie making. They were changing the future. That's what Tron did. It broke new ground in a big, science-fiction-is-catching-up-with-real-life kind of way. A legitimate Tron sequel should have made a similar the-world-will-never-be-the-same leap.

Tron: Legacy failed. It may have tweaked and poked the CG envelope but it remained comfortably in the world its progenitor, Tron, had created. The experience of seeing Tron: Legacy should have left me with a queasy excitement shaking my bones. I should have felt like I had been given a peek at the singularity, not because of the story, but because of the amazing new technology invented to tell it.

What could the film makers have done? How could a Tron sequel have pushed today's tech into something new and astounding? Here's an example: Make the in-computer world  a live performance. Build and program a super computer cobbled together from 500 Playstation 3's, or something, and generate, in realtime, high resolution avatars of the actors. The actors would play their roles twice a day in a motion capture studio. Their performances would be inserted into the pre-rendered GC world and streamed simultaneously to theaters around the globe. It would be a global live performance that looked like a CG movie, but it would have the energy and spontaneity of a stage play---no two performances would be identical. Theaters could charge a premium price, and no DVD or Blu-ray release would be able to recapitulate the experience. That's off the top of my head. I'm sure anyone reading this can dream up a better idea, so why couldn't the film makers? Why couldn't they make a Tron sequel worthy of the original?

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*I knew a guy who's actor sister-in-law knew Dan. Woo-hoo! A brush with the sort-of-famous! BTY, for all you Star Trek fans, the sister-in-law played One Zero in the ST:TNG episode, 11001001; another brush, and this time only two degrees of separation.

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