Some Hollywood news reports just don’t add up. “Tom Cruise to star in Top Gun 3” – well yes, obviously. “James Cameron to keep making weirder and weirder Avatar sequels until he’s in his 90s” – yep, inevitably. “Tron 3 moving forward with Jared Leto” – ahem, really? The article in the Hollywood Reporter this week poses far more questions than it answers.
Why is Disney going ahead with Tron 3 when 2010’s feeble Tron: Legacy was hardly a box office or critical smash, despite rehiring Jeff Bridges, spending millions on CGI and getting Daft Punk to do the soundtrack? Is it really a good idea to expand the world of the geeky cult classic 1982 original into a macro-universe of shiny digital pixels? Well, that one has an answer: no it isn’t, or Tron: Legacy would have been a lot more noteworthy. I cannot remember anything about the sequel other than that Bridges played two opposing characters, at least one of which had been really poorly digitally de-aged, and that Michael Sheen had a role as a pompous inhabitant of the Tron inner-verse who seemed to be eternally surrounded by pneumatic, near-mute space babes.
All of the above leads me to ask one more question: why does Jared Leto really want to make this movie so much? This is, after all, the same Jared Leto who not so long ago won an Oscar for his role as a trans woman in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club, after which the trades were full of stories detailing how in-demand he was likely to become, and how Leto was unlikely to take up many of these new opportunities because he was far more interested in playing in his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars.
Since then Leto has either been really unlucky with his choice of roles, or simply made some bad career decisions, or possibly just thrown a dart at a specially constructed board in his mansion featuring an array of possible roles, every time he needed cash.
Signing on to portray The Joker in 2016’s Suicide Squad must have looked like a bright idea at the time, given the (then) rising star status of director David Ayer and notorious previous big screen portrayals of the clown prince of Gotham by Jack Nicholson and an Oscar-winning Heath Ledger. But we all remember how badly Suicide Squad ultimately turned out for Leto. House of Gucci was middling at best, and Morbius is one of the weakest superhero movies in the history of film. Leto has not really done much more, though he was excellent as freaky future tech bro Niander Wallace in Denis Villeneuve’s beguilingly brilliant Blade Runner 2049.
So why the intense interest in the newly monikered Tron: Ares? It can’t be the director, the unexciting Joachim Rønning, maker of the exceedingly lukewarm Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Could it just be that there is a large pay cheque involved?
Perhaps Tron 3 will find a way to restore interest in the charming pixellated digital wonderland of the original movie, and perhaps Leto’s role – let’s assume he’s playing the titular villain, who’s probably vying to bring cybernetic warfare from the bottom of the CGI rabbit hole into the real world, and consequently must be stopped! – will go down in movie history as one of the finest fantasy performances of all time. But this all feels a bit like people in Hollywood doing what people in Hollywood do to keep the carousel turning, the greenbacks flowing and, presumably, Disney+ at some point primed with fresh content. At least it can’t possibly be as bad as Morbius.