Since early this year, the Disney marketing machine has been pushing hard and heavy for their next big tentpole film, Tron: Legacy. It’s hard to be in a major metropolitan area and NOT see a reference to the film – whether it be a poster, a billboard or if you are in one of the Disney parks, the monorail painted with a light cycle streaking across the sky.

Just like Fox Studios was able to garner worldwide interest last year for their hugely-successful movie, Avatar, Disney scheduled their own early viewing for Tron: Legacy hoping to mimic the result come Holiday Season. Just like Avatar, it too was shown in hundreds of theaters worldwide in IMAX 3D and I was fortunate enough to procure a seat to this viewing.  Below is a recap of what I witnessed.

With almost no fanfare or warning, the theater went  dark and the projectors began rolling as the audience was given an introduction (via an old mainframe text screen) to what we were about to watch. We were told that there are 5 separate scenes from Tron: Legacy to watch and apparently the first few minutes of the movie were in 2D but had been converted so that they were watchable while wearing 3D glasses – so 2D that has been converted to 3D but is still in 2D.

Some of the scene descriptions below could be considered MINOR SPOILERS but we were only shown extended scenes from existing trailers, clips and the Daft Punk music video, so you’ve most likely seen it all before in snippets.

Before we begin though, check out this partial clip of a scene screened at the event:

Scene 1 – Sam’s Apartment

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In what appears to be the opening scene from the film, and the longest scene shown, we are introduced to Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) as he pulls his Ducati motorcycle into his garage. Sam is a hip twenty-something that is defined by his interest in adrenaline producing activities and his lack of respect for authority or responsibility – which is evident by the fact he jumps off bridges, sends inappropriate messages to the board of a Fortune 500 company and refuses to take over his father’s business.

We know he’s an edgy guy because even though he has a massive fortune, he lives in an “apartment” that consists of a stack of converted transport containers, parks his motorcycle in his living room and doesn’t mind getting bruised while seeking his next thrill.

Sam’s father’s best friend, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), visits Sam to talk about a page he received from his father’s office at the long closed Flynn’s Arcade – this part is important, so remember it. You may be concerned of being lost if you haven’t watched the first Tron beforehand, but you shouldn’t be – a decent recap of the pertinent information from the first film is given in the opening five minutes, during the dialog between Sam and Alan.

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Alan explains that Sam’s father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), was on the verge of a major breakthrough when he disappeared almost 20 years ago and suggests Sam go check out the arcade for clues. Sam is dismissive of the entire scenario, giving the impression that he had given up on his dad long ago.  “You act like I’m going to find him sitting there working saying ‘Hey kiddo. Just lost track of time,’” Sam says. Alan replies with a coy smile, “Wouldn’t that be something?”

Indeed Sam’s curiosity gets the better of him and we see him pull up to the closed Flynn’s Arcade. Walking inside, he turns on the power and those of us old enough to remember are quickly washed in nostalgia as the beeps and boops from familiar video games immediately go off in the background. While a jukebox fills the air with ’80s hits like “Sweet Dreams”, Sam finds a hidden door behind an original Tron game and stumbles across his father’s old workshop.

In a scene reminiscent of the first film, Sam sits down at a console with a digitizing laser behind him and attempts to hack his way into his father’s work. The scene ends with Sam being zapped by the laser.

Scene 2 – Recognizer Capture

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If you were one of the lucky 8000+ people in Hall H at Comic Con this past summer then you are already familiar with this scene. This was the exact same scene shown at Tron night with the minor exception of the ending. We start with Sam in the computer world for the very first time, looking puzzled and slightly afraid as a giant Recognizer approaches him then lands. Two guards with glowing oranges stripes and “shock” sticks usher him onboard and strap him in.

There are several other captured “programs” next to him; some are irrevocably damaged and are to be derezzed while others are headed for the games. Apparently no one wants to be part of the games, as one sentenced program chooses to kill himself by jumping off a cliff rather than participate in the games. Ignoring the inquires of an understandably confused Sami regarding where he is and where he is going, the guards send him down several levels where he arrives in what can best be described as a locker room.

Four very beautiful Sirens all dressed in tight white leather, who are led by Siren Jem (Beau Garrett), approach him in unison from the four corners of the room and remove his clothing. Before anything inappropriate can be shown (sorry ladies), a black digital skin covers his whole body except his head. One of the Siren programs fits him with an information disc that will store everything he does or learns as a new program. As the Sirens go back to their respective corners, Sam is instructed to enter the games to which he asks puzzled, “What am I supposed to do?” Jem simply replies, “Survive.”

Scene 3 – Disc Wars

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In what is surely to be one of the most anticipated scenes in the movie, we are introduced to the modern version of the original game of disc wars. In the old Tron, contestants competed in a large open space by throwing their information discs in an attempt to derez each other. The rules are the same for the modern version, except it is set to the electronic tunes of Daft Punk, is staged in front of a large audience (a la the Roman Coliseum) and the contestants now compete on a much smaller playing field.

Sam is given no instructions but rather just tossed into the arena with another program whose sole purpose is to derez him. After narrowly dodging a few throws by his opponent and seeing what happens to someone when they are hit, Sam figures out a way to not only fight back but to use his ability in extreme sports to win. I won’t give away exactly how that is done but it was pretty darn cool.

Continue to the final Tron: Legacy scenes and a summary of the event…

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Scene 4 – Escape Route

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This scene appears to take place just after a light cycle competition as we see Sam in the new Light Runner 4-wheeled vehicle with a strange masked driver. They are being pursued by three orange suited light cycle drivers across the game grid and as they approach the edge Sam says,“We aren’t going to make it.” He’s referring to the great chasm they must span to reach the safety of going off grid. Needless to say they do make it, at which point the masked driver removes their helmet to reveal a female program called Quorra (Olivia Wilde) who responds with a slightly sarcastic giggle, “Made it!”

Wilde is absolutely gorgeous in this film and she seems to be having a great time playing what amounts to an assistant program. She says all of her lines with a glint of excitement in her eye and youthful exuberance in her voice. She’s excited to be in this movie and so far it that seems to be showing through onscreen.

Scene 5 – Safehouse

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Quorra takes Sam deep into a digital mountain where she introduces him to a man dressed in white who is meditating. We all know immediately this is Kevin Flynn, but father and son haven’t had contact with each other for almost 20 years. The reunion is short and underwhelming, to say the least. “You’ve gotten bigger, son,” says Kevin. A shocked Sam replies, “You’ve gotten…”; “Old,” Kevin says, as he finishes his son’s sentence.

When Kevin inquires how Sam got into the computer world, Sam tells him about the page Alan got from his old office at the arcade. “Page?” Kevin responds halfway puzzled, “Oh yeah the page.” Do you recall earlier when I told you to remember the part about the page? Well it appears that something more nefarious may be afoot, but we aren’t given any more information than that about it.

In what is most likely a precursor to events later in the film, we get a brief glimpse of a specialized light cycle built by Kevin just for the games. “It’s the best on the grid and has never been beat,” Quorra tells Sam.

The event closed with a shorter version of the Daft Punk video “Derezzed” which included a quick glimpse of some a new flying light vehicle. We are left with an up close shot of a digitally enhanced, young looking Jeff Bridges as Clu 2.0.

Clu 2.0 in Tron Legacy Disney’s Tron Night Event  Clips & Review

I left the Tron: Legacy Event Night thoroughly blown away by the visual effects and fantastic IMAX sound system but I’m still curious about the actual story. Disney was careful not to give away too much of the plot while showing the clips, but gave me just enough story that I want to be there opening night.

The 3D effects in the film are by far the best I’ve ever seen; they feel smooth and are seamlessly integrated into the movie. There were no gimmicky scenes involving discs flying at your face or light cycles jumping off the screen trying to make audiences duck. Director Joseph Kosinski has used his 3D tool the proper way – to enhance the viewing experience and not BE the viewing experience.

One negative observation – even thought Disney put free tickets to the event in last Sunday’s paper, here in my hometown of over 1 million residents, only 50 or so people showed up for the viewing. I’m not sure how the attendance was in larger venues like Los Angeles or New York City, but I hope that wasn’t an omen for Tron Legacy’s opening weekend.

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Tron: Legacy was directed by Joseph Kosinski and written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. It stars Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, James Frain and Bruce Boxleitner.

Will you be in theaters when Tron: Legacy hits theaters this Christmas season December 17th, 2010?

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