The release of TRON: Legacy on DVD and Blu-Ray yesterday has inevitably sparked a renewed interest in discussions about the future of the TRON franchise. Despite a worldwide gross of $399 million, there's been a pervasive attitude that TRON: Legacy actually fell far short of expectations and that a third film was no longer a guarantee.
It became clear fairly early on in TRON: Legacy's development that Disney was not interested in simply cashing in on the nostalgia audiences felt for the original 1982 film - the sequel was intended to lay the groundwork for a potential franchise. In fact, there was already a TRON 3 script in development eight months before Legacy's release.
The film itself contains several allusions to which direction a third TRON might take, and the recently released epilogue and viral teaser indicate that the filmmakers already have a basic story mapped out. However, that kind of foresight doesn't mean much if the numbers don't warrant another installment. When it came to TRON: Legacy's mammoth marketing campaign, Disney definitely followed the old adage that to make money, you have to spend money - and many theorized that at the end of the day, the film simply didn't earn enough of a profit.
Nevertheless, rumors surfaced back in January that Disney was getting ready to pull the trigger on TRON 3, and now Deadline confirms that the project is indeed moving forward. The studio may have had higher hopes for Legacy, but with the combination of its box office gross, DVD pre-sales, and lucrative merchandising tie-ins, they're not ready to give up on the franchise just yet.
Director Joseph Kosinski is expected to return for TRON 3 and is currently working on the story with Legacy screenwriters Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Disney may have backed out of producing Kosinski's next film, Oblivion, but apparently that hasn't soured their relationship.
In fact, thanks to TRON: Legacy, Kosinki has emerged as the highest-grossing first-time director of a live-action film in history (the previous record holder was J.J. Abrams for Mission: Impossible III). Deadline also offers some additional perspective on the film's box office performance:
Its performance certainly compares well to other 2D films that launched franchises. Tron: Legacy out-grossed the Chris Nolan-directed Batman Begins ($373 million) and the Abrams-directed Star Trek ($386 million), both of which were based on brands far more famous than the long-forgotten 1982 original Tron. For that matter, Tron: Legacy out-grossed The Bourne Identity ($214 million) and its sequel The Bourne Supremacy ($288 million). It also bested X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($373 million), National Treasure ($347 million) and The Fast and the Furious ($207 million).
There are countless other factors to consider (such as the inflated cost for 3D tickets and the previously-mentioned marketing expenses), but the fact remains that Disney still believes in the TRON brand - which, in addition to TRON 3, also includes the upcoming animated series, TRON: Uprising.
My only hope is that the filmmakers take into consideration some of the overriding criticisms associated with TRON: Legacy - many of which were centered around the film's script. I didn't have a problem with the actual story, necessarily, but rather with the way it was told. For all its visual splendor, I found it ironic that (for the most part) Legacy failed to follow the most fundamental rule of storytelling: show, don't tell. The copious amounts of exposition were clunky and I thought the pacing was a little frustrating.
However, the iconography of this series is incredibly strong and resonant - so I still think TRON 3 has a lot of potential.