Tron 3 Was Ready To Go, And Then Disney Changed Their Minds

Before he hooked up with Tom Cruise to make "Oblivion" and "Top Gun: Maverick," director Joseph Kosinski made a little movie called "Tron: Legacy." Best remembered, perhaps, for its Daft Punk soundtrack (which still rocks), "Tron: Legacy" hit theaters in late 2010 and functioned as the belated sequel to the original 1982 "Tron." Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde starred alongside Jeff Bridges, who reprised his role as Kevin Flynn, an arcade designer who has a tendency to get digitized and sucked into the mainframe of computer worlds.

If my math is right, we should be due for a third "Tron" movie in 2038, but it could have happened a lot sooner if Kosinski had gotten his way. In an interview with Vulture (via Variety), the filmmaker revealed that he had written and storyboarded a sequel called "Tron: Ascension" before Disney decided not to move forward on the project. Kosinski said:

"I got so close. I really tried. [...]  But it was a different Disney by 2015. When I made 'Tron: Legacy,' they didn't own Marvel; they didn't own 'Star Wars.' We were the play for fantasy and science fiction. And once you've got those other things under your umbrella, it makes sense that you're going to put your money into a known property and not the weird art student with black fingernails in the corner — that was 'Tron.' And that's okay."

Tron: Ascension and Tron: Ares

"Tron: Legacy" made its world premiere in Tokyo, which is appropriate, considering that the lightcycles in the original movie inspired Kaneda's motorcycle in "Akira." In Kosinski's film, there's talk of a "digital frontier," and both it and its predecessor certainly blazed a trail in other ways, too. "Tron" was one of the first CGI-heavy movies, and "Tron: Legacy" also featured a digitally de-aged Bridges years before that sort of thing really took off in Hollywood. 

Sure, the effects are rough in places; Bridges' CLU ("Codified Likeness Utility") looks like he rode in on a lightcycle from the uncanny valley. But if Kosinski had been able to make "Tron: Ascension" post-2015, maybe the technology would have caught up with his ambitions. If you remember, "Tron: Legacy" ended with Wilde's "isomorphic algorithm," Quorra, entering the real world, and Kosinski's idea for "Tron: Ascension" would have continued with that concept of bringing digital characters into physical reality. Cillian Murphy also cameoed in "Tron: Legacy," and had a sequel been made, his character would have played a more prominent part as well.

As it is, we're left with ever-present rumblings of a Jared Leto-led sequel, "Tron: Ares." For his part, Kosinski seems stoic about the cancellation of "Tron: Ascension." He told Vulture:

"Had I made 'Tron: Ascension,' I wouldn't have made 'Only the Brave,' and I wouldn't have made the movies I made. But remember, the first 'Tron' was not a hit when it came out. It's a cult classic. And if 'Tron: Legacy's' becoming the same thing, I couldn't be more thrilled."

"Tron" and "Tron: Legacy" are both streaming on Disney+.