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Jared Leto’s Tron 3 willed into existence by Disney theme park

Combined with the launch of Disney World’s new coaster, Tron fever is alive yet again

Sam Flynn rides a blue-hued lightcycle with streaks of motion blur in a promotional still from Tron: Legacy Image: Walt Disney Pictures
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

2010’s Tron: Legacy, the 30-years-later sequel to 1982’s Tron that didn’t make a ton of sense at the time but hey it’s Disney so sure why not make a sequel to Tron and oh it didn’t do that well at the box office was anyone surprised yeah who would have predicted that, will finally get a sequel. According to Deadline, the running title is Tron: Ares, and will star Dr. Michael Morbius himself, Jared Leto. This doesn’t make much sense but also makes perfect sense.

Disney spent years mulling over a sequel to Tron before landing on hotshot commercial director Joseph Kosinski, who went on to direct a lil’ movie called Top Gun: Maverick, to helm Legacy. Hype for the movie began early, with Kosinski showing up to the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con with Tron 2 test footage that absolutely blew the roof off the place. For this full-on Tron dork, it was a sublime moment in the often cruel world of anticipation culture. Kosinski returned to SDCC the subsequent two years, showing off more tests, more clips, and eventually scenes from the actual film. The movie had momentum, a cast of stars old (Jeff Bridges) and new (Olivia Wilde, Garrett Hedlund), and the rarest of rare wins: a score from Daft Punk.

But reception and box office were cool when the movie hit theaters in 2010. Reviews didn’t warm up to Kosinski’s icy vision of the digital landscape (though it’s only been more appreciated over time). What was supposed to be the next Disney live-action staple alongside Pirates of the Caribbean petered out at around $400 million worldwide. A big number, but about a third of the business of the first three Pirates movies. There was immediate sequel talk — Pirates took its time becoming a massive franchise, and Tron might do the same — and as Kosinski has said during his Maverick press cycle, by 2015 he had storyboarded an entire Tron: Ascension, and was ready to build sets. Disney pulled the plug. According to Kosinski, the company had just bought Star Wars, had Marvel in full swing, and this wasn’t the right gamble.

But now is the time for Tron 3 with Jared Leto. Which, OK, has been talked about since 2017, but no, really this time.

A program human lit up in red and yellow navigates a tank through blue-hued grid lines in Tron
The original Tron is great isn’t it
Image: Walt Disney Pictures

To make my stance clear: hell yeah. Take me to the game grid. Get Leto in there as Ram 2.0 or whatnot. If M3GAN can pop into a refrigerator just imagine where the Master Control Program wound up at the end of the 1982 movie? And sure, I am vaguely curious what happened after Olivia Wilde’s Quorra jumped out of the computer to become real (but, uh, maybe more curious how things are going at the End of the Line Club where Daft Punk played DJs). Tron: Ares, yeah, that sounds good enough.

Deadline reports that Sean Bailey, the Disney live-action feature film exec who gambled on Tron: Legacy and rightfully picked Kosinski to captain the ship, has found a director for the third installment in Joachim Rønning, who has become a bit of a Disney favorite after breaking out with the 2012 Norwegian drama Kon-Tiki. That film’s high-seas adventure made him and his co-director Espen Sandberg obvious choices to helm Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and he eventually flew solo on Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. That’s enough to convince the studio he’s the guy to save Tron — or at least line it right up where the “franchise” is within the Disney infrastructure.

Perhaps the oddest, most spectacular thing to happen to Tron in recent years is the construction of Tron Lightcycle / Run at Walt Disney World, a full embrace of Legacy’s aesthetic and iconography in the form of a semi-enclosed roller coaster.

Riders travel on Tron lightcycles through a blue canopy in the Shanghai Disney version of TRON Lightcycle / Run Photo: Disney Parks

First launched at Shanghai Disneyland in 2016, the ride was originally set to debut in 2021, but with pandemic setbacks, but will now open its doors this April. The “story” of the ride evidently picks up with Hedlund’s character Sam Flynn, who has since opened up a new gateway into the Grid. Riders jump on a lightcycle and away they go into the digital realm. New Tron: Legacy content in the year 2023. What a world we live in!

And that’s only the beginning. Naysayers can argue that Tron and Tron Legacy have no cultural cache or movie-goer interest, but they argued the same thing about Avatar 2, completely overlooking how Animal Kingdom’s Pandora world and the Avatar Flight of Passage ride kept the movie alive in the minds of park-goers for eons. And if Avatar: The Way of Water proves anything, visual spectacle that isn’t out of the Marvel can is hard to come by these days, and people will pay for it. The path is clear for Leto and whatever blue-hued wonder he’ll encounter in Tron: Ares.

Deadline reports that Tron: Ares could begin production as soon as August. There’s no official announcement of the film or release date set, but so is the way with the Tron sequel. For now we hype.