How Tr3n Can Fix The Whole Tron Franchise — Or Ruin It

First off, how do we pronounce the title?

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Tron (1982)

It’s time to get back on the grid. As of now, the third film in the Tron franchise — titled Tron: Ares, but styled as Tr3N — is officially filming. Fourteen years after the second film, Tron: Legacy, and 42 years after the 1982 classic, Tron will finally become the weirdest sci-fi trilogy of all time.

How should Tron-heads feel about all this? Will Tr3N fix everything or destroy all programs, now and forever? At this point, it feels like Tr3N will either be great or terrible, with no room for a middle ground. Here’s why.

Is Tron 3 a sequel to Tron: Legacy?

Will this version of Tron return?


In 2010, Tron: Legacy was a direct sequel to Tron, including returning characters Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner). Legacy also introduced Flynn’s son Sam (Garrett Hedlund), included a cameo from Cillian Murphy as Ed Dillinger Jr., son of the original’s wicked computer programmer, and gave us Quorra (Oliva Wilde), a sentient “ISO” program brought into the real world at the end of the movie.

Will Tron: Ares pick up these plot points? Right now, that’s unclear. While some sources claim Evan Peters is playing a new version of Ed Dillinger Jr., that could mean we’re dealing with the same continuity or a reboot. Since 2017, there’s been talk that Tron: Ares will be a kind of reboot, and that title character Ares (Jared Leto) will play a pivotal role. In August 2023, director Joachim Rønning said Tron: Ares is a movie “about AI and what it means, and takes, to be human,” which is intriguing but vague.

Right now, with cast members like Gillian Anderson, Greta Lee, Jodie Turner-Smith, Cameron Monaghan, and Sarah Desjardins all in undisclosed roles, this doesn’t sound like a straightforward sequel. The good arcade token money is on reboot. But of course, Tron: Ares could surprise us.

Why Tron: Ares will change the game — again

Whether the movie is great or horrible, the third Tron movie will have to tackle the paradox of Tron’s essential weirdness. As a concept, Tron was both ahead of its time and terribly shortsighted. In the first film, we got an entire virtual world populated by living, sentient Programs, who manifest as people; imagine The Matrix, but most characters are Agent Smith.

Because it came out in 1982, Tron used arcade game logic to imagine this alternate digital realm, which gave the film its beautifully minimalistic aesthetic. However, this vibe also made “The Grid” seem small and empty compared to the kinds of virtual worlds that have existed in science fiction ever since.

The limitations of Tron’s world-building were so obvious that Tron: Legacy explicitly states Kevin Flynn created a bigger and better second version of the Grid. Still, this Grid feels limited in the same way the first one did, simply because the world-building feels contingent on the real world mattering more than the Grid. The paradox at the heart of Tron is the struggle to make a virtual world matter more than the real world.

Tron: Ares must make the audience believe the virtual world is just as important as anything else. This will be hard. Even the third Matrix film had to leave the Matrix to make the stakes seem real. But, if the entire concept of Tron were rebooted, and the virtual world and real world weren’t viewed as separate, then perhaps the franchise could do something new.

Will Tron himself even be in Tron 3?

Storytelling — and special effects — have both come a long way since Tron.


Weirdly, Tron is a series named after a character who’s relatively unimportant. In the first film, Tron is Alan Bradley’s (Bruce Boxleitner) security program in the digital realm, but Jeff Bridges’ Flynn is the main character. Tron “fights for the users,” but he’s a secondary protagonist. In Tron: Legacy, the Flynn family is the focus, while Tron is reduced to a late-in-the-game plot twist, having been turned to the digital-dark side and given a terribly named alter-ego, Rinzler.

How will Tr3N deal with this? Again, this is where a true reboot makes the most sense. Otherwise, the word “Tron” continues to not have a lot of meaning. But if Rønning and his team have decided to reimagine Tron the character and Tron the environment, then perhaps the franchise could jump ahead faster than a light-cycle.

Depending on how it’s handled, this will either be awesome or feel blasphemous. All franchise sequels risk destroying what came before, but because Tron doesn’t really have much source material, the stakes for Tron 3’s goodness or badness are strangely high and low simultaneously. Whatever happens, the new Tron will have to make us care in a way that doesn’t involve nostalgia for 1982 or 2010.

Tron: Ares does not yet have a release date.

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