Befitting its storyline, the home release of Tron: Legacy this week checks all the tech related boxes: 7.1 surround sound support, iPad / PC Second Screen app, 3D. Even the making of the movie featured new technology, from the 3D cameras to the self-illuminating outfits worn by the actors. Of course, there's more to a good home movie experience than just specs, so we gave Tron: Legacy (and the original Tron, included as a part of this five-disc special edition) a viewing or two to see if all of that effort in the presentation -- not to mention in the movie itself -- added up to a must-have disc.
Excellent picture quality in 2D or 3DA premium quality audio experienceSecond Screen app is a great feature
No playback control within Second Screen appA bit on the expensive side even for two moviesIn-movie menus were intrusive
Of the five discs, there's three Blu-rays (Tron: Legacy 3D, Tron: Legacy 2D and the original Tron) and two DVDs (DVD copy of Tron: Legacy and digital copy) four of which are squeezed into the limited edition identity disc case. As seen above, it lights up thanks to a button on the front, a cool trick and impressive for serious fans but we're not sure how long that battery will last. Getting the discs out of its grip the first time was annoying, but it seemed to have loosened afterwards and wasn't so off putting that we'd avoid this packaging for that reason. Along with its stand, it makes for a nice conversation piece for those who want to leave it out amongst other collectibles or memorabilia. Once the disc is actually in the player, were thankfully greeted by Disney's optional movie trailers -- it's amazing how much less annoying the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie ad is when we can get away from it in one press of the remote. The menus were well designed, with easy access to special features, scene selection and settings for audio or subtitles. Our only issue? The in-movie menu, which shrunk the movie down to just a portion of the screen, while filling up the rest with artwork even though the menu itself is only on the bottom.
Once the movie is actually playing, watch out. Whether or not you buy this disc, we can assure you there will be plenty of time to become acquainted with it as it's used for every demo you see this year. The picture is incredibly high quality in 2D or 3D, with the innovative set and costume lighting highlighting the capabilities of your local dimming LED or plasma TV, and detailed effects that pop off the screen. In 3D we didn't notice any crosstalk or blurring and compared to our experience at a 3D IMAX showing, we actually found this edition better, with a more noticeable difference in the 3D sections of the movie. While the depth effect is used in a subtle fashion it helps separate the virtual world from the real world and allowed us to better appreciate some of the large setpieces like the disc and lightbike battle. Like The Dark Knight, Tron: Legacy switches aspect ratios as the movie plays, pulling back the black bars for its IMAX-formatted sequences, of which there are many -- over 40 minutes worth. Some find the effect disconcerting, but we enjoyed it on both movies.
Audio is again a section that can be given nothing but the highest praise; the Daft Punk produced soundtrack is equipped with enough thump for any LFE head, with the only potential issue coming from your neighbors who will hate you. It's loud but clear and does a fantastic job of tying into the events of the movie as they unfold. While we weren't set up to test the 7.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack this is one of the few movies delivered that way both in the theaters and now at home, if you're truly committed to recreating the theater experience with a reference quality disc. For the original Tron, in both picture and audio quality you've certainly never experienced it at this quality. We probably wouldn't pick it for a demo disc, but fans of the 80s flick should have no worries other than the soundtrack occasionally being just a tad louder than the dialogue and making it tough to hear.
As far as extras go, on the disc there's a few short documentaries in HD about the making of the movie that were entertaining without being too long -- see Inception-- as well as some treats for the fans in the filming of the "disc roars" from Comic-Con and the "Flynn Lives" short movie. Another bonus is the Daft Punk "Derezzed" music video, although if there's a missed opportunity anywhere, it's that we couldn't listen to the entire soundtrack on this disc like we could with Inception. In lieu of any director commentary, our interest was primarily in the Second Screen app, that brings extras to users on their computer or iPad in sync with the movie as it plays. We tried it on both and didn't have problems syncing it manually, by audio or through BD-Live with the disc and app running on devices connected to the same network.
Overall, it was impressive, bringing far more extra information than we've become used to in association with every scene in the movie. Usually this consisted of concept art, CG renders and behind the scenes shots, but there were also frequent silent videos -- like one showing the scene below previsualized in CG, or another showing how they created the effect of being sucked into the computer -- that we could watch as well as some text notes to bring context to what we were seeing. The volume and quality of the extra information has definitely sold us on this as a great bonus feature for upcoming films, though we were disappointed that even with BD-Live sync, there's no way to control playback from within the app which made switching back and forth complicated. Also, we'd still like to be able to throw some of those extras up on the big screen at our leisure. While the couch companion angle is great, some things deserve to be seen on the big screen. If we did get off sync, a counter at the bottom left of the screen and app were an easy indicator of where we should be. Even without the disc, you can check out some of the extras yourself in the trailer above or at Disney.com/SecondScreen.
As far as the quality of the movie itself, it more than met our expectations in following the proper themes and design for a Tron sequel. Unfortunately though the story of young Sam Flynn following in his father's footsteps and entering the world of computers -- that Tron is the name of a character who is barely in the movie is still weird -- didn't particularly grab us. The inclusion of young Jeff Bridges as the main adversary, Clu (via CGI technology swapping footage of his face from the 80s into the movie) was quite seamless and impressive, but like most of the characters his motivation was confusing. Without diving too deeply into the story, it tried hard for something deeper including elements like the fallacy of hunting for perfection, human (or non-human) rights but even with a two hour (125 minutes) run time all of the touches felt very light. Despite well choreographed and captured action scenes, the segments in between didn't pull us into the story, and a series of one liners delivered by the hero were almost immediately forgettable. Combined with the incredibly high production values, excellent audio quality and soundtrack the comments calling this less a movie and more a really well produced Daft Punk video have some truth to them.
The Identity Disc packaged edition we reviewed is somewhat pricey ($64.99 on Amazon at the moment) but the $50 standard five-disc set isn't entirely unreasonable thanks to the addition of the original movie. If you're more sucked into the world then we were, then there's no question this is a must own disc and you'll want to try out the Second Screen app even if it just means bringing a laptop into the room. The addition of 3D probably isn't enough to run out and buy a new TV over, but if you have one, it will certainly be something you can demo for others that they can appreciate without eyestrain thanks to the clear visuals. For the rest of the home theater aficionados we have to point to this as a disc you'll own sooner or later just to be play it at maximum volume -- anything else is uncivilized.