Tron: Ascension was slated to begin development in 2015, but the production was abruptly stalled soon after word got out that Disney was making it. Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski, who would have directed the sequel, was recently interviewed about what the story would have involved – and he notes that the potential to save the movie from development hell is still technically there.
While Tron: Legacy wasn’t exactly the franchise-starter that Disney had hoped it would be, it did turn a profit, obtain a cult following (much like the original film), and had a kickass soundtrack composed by Daft Punk. Things were shaping up for Disney to revisit the Grid in 2015, when it was confirmed that the movie’s director and stars (Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde) were ready to return for a sequel, with Daft Punk likely not too far behind. And then, when Tomorrowland flopped, Disney pulled the plug on Tron as a knee-jerk reaction, as they decided that developing sci-fi that wasn’t based on Marvel or Star Wars was too big a risk for them to take. So, what 2010 movie did the Mouse House decide to develop a sequel to instead? Alice Through The Looking Glass, which absolutely nobody asked for… And, like Tomorrowland, lost the company a lot of money. Oops.
Since Disney looks to be the most financially-stable movie studio in Hollywood with Star Wars and Marvel Cinematic Universe movies providing a virtually endless stream of revenue, there’s nothing really preventing them from taking a bit of a risk like going ahead with Tron: Ascension after all. But as it stands, the property is as dormant now as it was when the third film was put on ice nearly two years ago. In a recent interview with Collider, Joe Kosinski explained that scheduling another Tron movie will be one of the big challenges of getting it made:
“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. 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 spin-off 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.”
So as it stands, it doesn’t sound like Disney’s worried about the movie in terms of bankrolling it. That being said, Tron isn’t exactly going to be the kind of movie that can sell merchandise like Disney’s other tentpoles, so that might be a reason why they’re not in a hurry to greenlight it again. Kosinski also described the movie’s plot and general structure, noting that the film was mostly ready to start rolling before development came to a screeching halt:
“I think we got the script to about 80%… 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 [situation], trying to figure out where she belongs having lived in the real world for a few years, and where does she fit in.”
A Tron movie where much of the action is set outside of the Grid sounds like a significant departure from the first two films, but provided that there’s a tie to the programs and their effect on the real world (which is what Kosinski seems to be hinting at, both with Quorra herself and the invading force), the movie could have one of the most original premises in the history of the series. Hopefully, Disney will consider giving the movie another shot sometime soon, as it’s not like they aren’t making use of existing IP with their many live-action adaptations.
Kosinski’s next film, a true story of firefighters combating a wildfire, titled Granite Mountain hits theaters this September.