The original Tron made a splash in the film world in 1982 for a good reason. It was a pretty revolutionary concept and introduced a new type of “world-building” that the population was still wrapping their minds around.
In terms of a great story and character depth itself? Ehh…Bruce Boxleitner’s Alan Bradley/Tron performance stole the show from Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn/Clu. Kevin Flynn was not as solid of a character as I had expected, but then again he was only the protagonist while Tron was clearly the hero.
This classic was given a sequel in 2010 with Tron: Legacy. A decent movie in terms of motivation and storytelling. The most compelling aspect to me was the idea of Sam Flynn being able to bring Quorra (a program from The Grid) back into the real world with him where she became as human as he was.
Tron and the Tron: Legacy sequel fully deserve their place in the sci-fi hall of fame. But the strongest member of the Tron family and storyline is not as well known, nor has it gotten the amount of credit it deserves. It was only given one season, but the world needs to know that this story exists.
*slight spoiler warning ahead
Meet Tron: Uprising
Unlike the movies that start in the real world and insert real-world characters into The Grid, this story takes place entirely in The Grid and is told from the perspective of a program named Beck (voiced by Elijah Wood). He works as a mechanic and does not plan on becoming a vigilante or freedom fighter…until one of his best friends is derezzed unfairly by someone representing Clu’s evil establishment.
And a hero is born.
Tron is a legend, but no one has heard from him in years. They think he’s likely dead and gone due to the level of suffocating tyranny and control they live under. No Users have been seen or heard of in ages either.
Beck is on his own…or is he?
Over the course of just 18 episodes, we experience a deeply engaging and complex story where we watch Beck go from just another program to a symbol of hope and change on The Grid.
And he is mentored by none other than Tron himself, voiced by the one and only Bruce Boxleitner.
The voice pairing alone would have been a treat. Elijah Wood brings such a fresh vulnerability and openheartedness to the character of Beck, and Boxleitner gives great gravity and generousness to the mentor role Tron plays in this story. The development of Beck from raw recruit to a skilled warrior, as well as his and Tron’s rapport is stunning character work.
Other characters add spice and layers of complication. Fellow mechanics such as Mara (voiced by Mandy Moore) or Beck’s boss Able (Reginald VelJohnson) create interesting sounding boards for the character who struggles to balance his day job with his night work.
The good characters are balanced out with some strong villains, and a few…undecided characters.
The questions raised in this series are entirely relatable and applicable. Right and wrong, control vs freedom, why do we believe what we believe, do you fight for what you believe? Etc.
The stakes are high, you feel the struggle of these characters so deeply and are rooting for their triumph. The villains are threatening and there are permanent consequences to many of the choices made by characters in this series. The finale was something special.
I had not seen either of the Tron movies when I saw this series for the first time. I was just on Netflix and looking for something interesting to watch. Normally I would be turned off by this type of animation, it’s not my favorite. The color palette, soundtrack, and look the whole show is so outside of my comfort zone.
But I gave it a shot, and then I couldn’t stop watching it. The fact that this show didn’t look like something I would love and I found out that totally loved it should be even higher praise for this beautiful piece of storytelling.
*Parental warning – this is an intense series. Characters are derezzed (killed), tortured, imprisoned, put through gladiator type games, betrayed, and lose people close to them. it is not a light-hearted series, but it is one of purpose and depth.
I felt more watching these 18 episodes than I do in many TV shows, and definitely, more than I felt watching the Tron movies. It is a crying shame that this series did not get a second season. So many worthless shows go on forever and then gems like this one are stopped at just one season.
My hope would be that more people discover it on Disney+ and ask for a new season. After all, that’s the gift of only using actors’ voices, it doesn’t matter if they have aged. This show deserves to have more of the story told, and the story could easily be picked up where it was left in the season finale.
Check out Tron: Uprising today on Disney+ and please! If you love it, make some noise about it, it deserves a second chance!