By John Gaudiosi
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Back in 1982, first-time director Steven Lisberger brought mainstream audiences into the world of videogames with the sci-fi thriller "TRON", using early computer-generated imagery that paved the way for today's 3D movie blockbusters.
Now the long-awaited sequel "TRON:Legacy", out in December from Walt Disney Pictures, is poised to push 3D technology and digital performance capture a step further.
"TRON: Legacy" finds the son of videogame developer Kevin Flynn being pulled into the digital world that has trapped his father for 20 years.
Director Joe Kasinski took the technology that was introduced in the backward aging 2008 movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" to create a completely virtual human character, Clu, played by Jeff Bridges who was also the star of the original "TRON".
"One of the big technological leaps we're trying to take with this film is in our villain, Clu, who is played by Jeff Bridges, but he looks like Jeff Bridges did in 1982," Kasinki said.
"Jeff is driving his performance, but he is a digital character," Kasinski told thousands of fans at the annual Comic Con convention this week.
Bridges said one of the things that had always bothered him as an actor was that, before now, a different actor would be cast to play a younger version of a character in the same film.
"Now you can play yourself at different ages, whether it's a younger version of yourself or an older version of yourself, digitally," said Bridges.
In many ways, filmmakers found that making the new "TRON" movie was helped by the kind of technology that was introduced as science fiction in the original film.
"The irony here is that 28 years ago we were trying to figure out how we were going to get Jeff Bridge's character into cyber space, and I made up this crazy idea that he gets scanned by a laser and ends up on the game grid," said Lisberger, who directed "TRON" in 1982.
"Now, we're making 'TRON: Legacy' and they scan Jeff with a laser in real-time and boom, he pops up."
Even the 3D technology powering the film, that was developed by James Cameron and Vince Pace for "Avatar," has received an upgrade through new cameras that hit the market right before filming began.
Kasinski said the end result will be a 3D experience that immerses audiences even deeper in the on-screen action.
"TRON: Legacy" is set within the world of video games and, of course, audiences will be able to learn about some of the happenings within this universe through a new video game prequel from Disney Interactive Studios.
"TRON Evolution," which will ship just before the movie opens, will feature actors from the movie and serve as a bridge between the two films. The game will be available in stereoscopic 3D on PC and PlayStation 3.
Lisberger said that the fact that Disney is releasing a film sequel after 28 years connects to a line from Bridge's character in the original film: "You just keep doing what you think is right and hope it works out in the end."
Actor Bruce Boxleitner said he believes there are more "TRON" stories to be told, should audiences embrace the new film.
Based on the reception of fan boys at Comic Con this week, the odds are good that fans won't be waiting another 28 years for a third installment.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)