Revisiting a place I've never been...
I'm continually fascinated with the way movies present us with places that never really existed, but we get to know so well it's as if we've been there. Many recognisable locations that appear in films can become enduring tourist spots, but some of our favourite places might only have existed for a few days.
Movies show us rooms that were only ever sets, and buildings that were only facades. Editing and visual effects weave them together into a convincing structure. But once filming is over, everything is destroyed or revamped. All that's left are the images that can live on in our imaginations and memories.
The Psycho films explored the Bates Mansion so thoroughly that I'm sure I could draw a good floorplan of the whole house. But it's not an actual house - the exterior has no recognisable interior.
Good production design can convince us that these places are real, even if they're in the future or the past. For example, the detailed sets in Blade Runner looked lived-in and totally functional. The same year I first saw that, I also saw Tron and kept going back to it through the years. In the story, Jeff Bridges' character has a home where he also works, Flynn's video arcade.
Watching Tron: Legacy, I was shaken by an unexpected return visit to this non-existent place. I got to see Flynn's again, 28 years later. The coin-op video game arcade (how I miss those early machines) was laid out the same way, but sadly covered in dustsheets.
Flynn's quarters overlooking the games room still had the same furniture in it. The sight of the corner couch actually hit me with a heavy pang of nostalgia. It was also under plastic sheets, but I was suddenly glad to see it again. The 3D experience in the cinema was similar to looking through a huge glassless window. A portal that had opened up again for a few minutes.
This attention to detail, and of course the casting of Bruce Boxleitner and Jeff Bridges as their original characters, is faithful to the continuity of the story, but also to those who remember the original Tron. It must be the longest gap there's been between a movie and a sequel. Long enough for producers to decide to scrub the past away and invent whole new characters for a sequel. It would also have been simpler to remake it. For an audience who were mostly new to the story it wouldn't matter.
But those of us who recognise the remainders of the original world of Tron, it was good to see it respected after all this time. After this early scene at Flynn's, knowing that Tron: Legacy hadn't discarded the original Tron, I was far more excited by it. More welcome. Without this new film, nobody would be talking about an old Disney movie that I thought had been forgotten. The characters, the designs, the concepts, the building. The old place has a new lease of life.