As I’ve opined elsewhere, the appeal of TRON lay in its attempt to portray the future of personal computing. Conversely, the lack of appeal of TRON: Legacy lies in its refusal to portray the future, or even the present, of personal computing. Beneath its splashy effects, the 2010 movie is resolutely palaeofuturistic: a vajazzled version of the way we once thought computers would be be, rather than how they’ve actually turned out – or what they might turn into tomorrow. (Both films are flawed when it comes to plot, acting and so on; there’s little to distinguish between them there.)
Perhaps it’s unsurprising, then, that there are a host of retro-flavoured variations on TRON: Legacy on YouTube – stripping away the unnecessary and contradictory state-of-the-art audiovisual glut in favour of a sparser, more direct chipstyle appeal to our nostalgic impulses. Perhaps Disney should have saved its $170 million and quit while it was still ahead: perhaps Space Paranoids was all the fans wanted all along.
But then there are those who aren’t content to stop at retrofitting Legacy. What are we to make of a reconstructed rendition of the original lightcycle sequence? A prosaic modern desktop being used to emulate a vintage 8-bit machine’s take on the supercomputer-propelled 1982 movie? And as with the visuals, so with the music. Beyond midimachine’s 8-bit remakes of Daft Punk’s score, we get 8-bit Weapon doing Wendy Carlos’ original Tron score. What’s new is now old, and what’s old is new again. Where do we go from here? Do we keep iterating backwards until we have Tron rendered as Pong, block paddles bouncing black-and-white Sark and Flynn dots back and forth, finally caught in an infinitely initialising loop?