There’s only one way to describe Disney XD’s new series Tron: Uprising:
It’s bio-digital jazz, man.
After a prelude episode and an action-packed two-parter, Uprising is quietly becoming one of the best new shows of this Summer television season and it’s doing that with superb voice acting, impeccable artistic design and some smart writing that captures fans of the Tron movies and others just looking for something new and different.
For the uninitiated, Uprising is set between the events of the first Tron movie and its sequel Tron: Legacy. It revolves around Beck (voiced by Elijah Wood of Wilfred), a young program in a computerized world called The Grid that takes it upon himself to spark a revolution of the dictatorship run by the evil program Clu. “Beck’s Beginning,” the 30 minute prelude episode that aired in May, showed how our protagonist devised a plan to disguise himself as Tron, the Grid’s greatest warrior, to inspire rebellion of the other imprisoned programs. He comes to realize that Tron is alive and begins an apprenticeship of sorts to learn the skills and tactics he’ll need to prevail against Clu.
In “The Renegade Part I,” a veteran soldier named Cutler (voiced by Lance Reddick of The Wire) comes to Beck’s home, Argon City after hearing of Beck’s defiant defamation of a statue of Clu.
Tonight’s episode, “The Renegade Part II,” picked up right where last week’s cliffhanger left us dangling: with Beck and Cutler forced to fight each other in the Coliseum games by Tessler.
While Tessler promises to be a formidable foe, he’s not Beck’s main antagonist at the moment. That title would go to a field commander program named Paige (voiced by Emmanuelle Chriqui of Entourage & Thundercats). So far, Paige proves to be a big obstacle for Beck, though she’s also indirectly come to his aid as well. In Part II, she prevents Tessler from de-rezzing both Beck and Cutler when they refuse to fight in the games. You get the feeling these two will be going at it for a while and that their relationship will evolve to something different, perhaps even being sympathetic to one another.
So far, Uprising has delivered a wallop of action that leans heavily on the strengths of Legacy. That means lots of Light Cycle Racing and battles and a great deal of disc battling. It’s just the eye candy that fans of Tron have been waiting for ever since Uprising’s trailer debuted at Comic-Con a few years ago.
But at its heart, it’s a coming of age tale that has charm and a roster of characters that give it of depth. Beck, being a mechanic, works at a shop owned by an elderly character named Able (voiced by Reginald VelJohnson of The Family Matters). His young and hip colleagues include Mara (Mandy Moore) and Zed (Nate Coddry). If the first two episodes are any indication, these two will get themselves into hairy, but funny situations and lighten the mood from what’s sure to be a long, serious battle.
Visually, Uprising is stunning, taking its cues from the impressive artistic styles of Tron: Legacy. The character models have a design blueprint similar to that of Aeon Flux, which means long, angular bodies with fluid movements. It might be an acquired taste for some, but I dig that our heroes look completely different than other current yesteryear franchises like Star Wars: Clone Wars and Thundercats.
I’m hoping that Uprising finds its audience because people clearly are fond of the franchise and, while there’s a perception that Legacy fell short, most will agree that it had a LOT to offer, including its great action and superb artistic direction. If anything, Uprising will keep the franchise fresh enough to be effective marketing tool for the inevitable Legacy sequel.
And speaking of finding an audience, you should be watching Tron: Uprising. If you don’t have Disney XD, you can watch the first two episodes free on the channel’s website here.