TRON was very much a movie before its time so it shouldn't be that surprising that its sequel TRON: Legacy was also before its time. The sequel came out in 2010 a few years before the nostalgia boom that has currently taken over Hollywood. Perhaps if it had waited a year or two to come out, then it wouldn't have suffered a terrible fate. The movie didn't exactly do terrible; on a budget of $170 million it grossed just over $400 million worldwide. However, the budgets of movies are often not what we think they are. A movie with a budget of $170 million should double the number for marketing putting the actual budget at $340 million. The movie didn't bomb but it didn't do the numbers to justify how expensive everything was in the end.
Collider recently had a screening of TRON: Legacy and brought in director Joseph Kosinski for a Q&A. In May of 2015, TRON 3 was pulled off of the schedule and Kosinski talked about the movie that might someday happen, and why it might not.
KOSINSKI: I guess I can say that TRON 3 is in cryogenic freeze. So, it's there. It's not dead. It's alive, but it's sitting there, waiting for the right time to move forward.
There has always been rumors of a script, and Kosinski went on to describe the plot he has in mind for the movie, and it sounds like it would be completely bonkers in the best possible way.
KOSINSKI: The movie was called, "TRON: Ascension", I think that's out there. I think we got the script to about 80%. We were in good shape. We were probably eight or nine months out, which is still a good amount of distance from being ready to shoot it, but I think the script was in good shape. What I'm excited about is the concept, which is an invasion movie from inside the machine coming out as opposed to one we've usually seen. So we hinted at that at the end of Legacy with Quorra coming out, but the idea for Ascension was a movie that was, the first act was in the real world, the second act was in the world of TRON, or multiple worlds of TRON, and the third act was totally in the real world. And I think that really opens up, blows open the concept of TRON in a way that would be thrilling to see on screen. But there's also a really interesting character study in Quorra and a "Stranger in a Strange Land," trying to figure out where she belongs having lived in the real world for a few years, and where does she fit in.
Kosinski also went on to explain how a character formed in the grid would be different from a real person.
KOSINSKI: I don't see them having superpowers. I don't see them being able to shoot lasers from their eyes or do what I would consider to be a superhero-type movie. But in her DNA itself, her being the first digital-human hybrid, there's something in her being that allows objects from inside the Grid to exist in the real world and makes them permanent, so that was the idea. So I think the idea is strong, it's just a matter of the right time and the right place and the stars aligning as they have to do for movies.
The stars do have to align, and the Disney of 2010 is very different from the Disney of 2017. This is something Kosinski does seem to understand even if it is a little depressing about the modern state of filmmaking. Disney isn't just making "movies" as they are "managing brands".
KOSINSKI: I mean, you have to remember that when we made TRON: Legacy, Disney did not own Marvel. Disney did not own Lucasfilm…they own everything now. But this was before they owned everything, so from the studio point of view, they have a certain number of slots and a certain amount of money to make movies and if you can make a Star Wars spinoff or another Marvel movie, which are all doing incredibly well, a TRON movie, even though I think it would do very well, the question is: Would it do as well as one of those? That is more the reason we haven't seen another TRON is that Disney stock is flushed with really successful properties right now. But that doesn't mean we won't see one at one point.
For Disney, it isn't just about making a successful movie but creating a brand that can go across multiple mediums. For something to do well it doesn't just have to sell tickets, but it needs to move merchandise and create an entire world that people can build off of. The fans of the original movie are older adults trying to pass it along to their kids, but this isn't a series that has aged well. While TRON is still great, it just doesn't have the same appeal it did when it came out over thirty years ago. The sequel tried to pull more people in, but it wasn't able to cross the age boundaries into toys and more that Disney needs out of a brand now.
A movie about the digital world doesn't have to be limited to a movie, which is something Kosinski is open to.
KOSINSKI: It definitely doesn't have to be on a movie screen. I don't know if you saw the TRON ride, which opened in Shanghai and was amazing…I think the TRON franchise is alive in rides and I think there's still interest in exploring other things like VR, but as far as the TV show, I don't know, I think that would be tough. As you saw on screen, so much of the world has to be created digitally. You can't just go and film a TRON movie, or at least the TRON side of it, so I don't know. I would never say never. There's possibly a version of that, but that's up to Disney.
As technology continues to advance at a pace the human brain frankly isn't capable of keeping up with movies like TRON could become cheaper to make. As the nostalgia push of modern Hollywood continues to take over and Disney decides that they need All Of The Money instead of Some Of The Money perhaps we will see some version of TRON 3 in the future.