Tron: Uprising (2012)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 1/4/14
Cast: Elijah Wood, Bruce Boxleitner, Paul Reubens, Lance Henriksen, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Mandy Moore, cameo by Olivia Wilde

Contains 19 episodes

Taking place before the events in "Tron: Legacy" (2010), this animated series follows the exploits of a young mechanic named Beck (Elijah Wood), who becomes Tron's (Bruce Boxleitner) apprentice and sets in motion a revolution to overthrow Clu's rule and free the Grid. The main setting is Argon City, which is governed by the ruthless General Tesler (Lance Henriksen) and his enforcers Pavel (Paul Reubens) and Paige (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Beck spreads civil unrest in the guise of "The Renegade," giving hope to the oppressed population and spreading the word that Tron lives and that he's on their side. Of course, not everyone agrees that he's doing any good, and his best friend considers Beck's alter ego as a public menace. Such is the life of a vigilante freedom fighter. The first season ends on a maddening cliffhanger, as Clu himself descends upon Argon City with an entire battle fleet in tow, and then the series was canceled.

The show does an excellent job of capturing the Tron aesthetic and the art direction is gorgeous. The character design is quite good for the most part, although it can take a few episodes to get used to the style. The male characters are mostly uninteresting, but the female characters are all quite cute. Beck is a frustrated and annoying adolescent (much like Anakin Skywalker in the "Clone Wars" series), and essentially the Robin to Tron's grizzled and grumpy Batman persona. The voice acting is exceptional, and while the characters are overly cliché, they're engaging and well developed. Paul Reubens' Pavel is a despicable, back-stabbing, boot-licking, toady to Tesler, and he pulls off the role fabulously. Mandy Moore gives an excellent performance as Beck's friend Mara, who is a flighty and energetic girl that believes in the Renegade's cause, but would rather spend her time dancing and partying with her friends. But my favorite character is definitely Paige, a complex and conflicted woman who is infused with a wonderfully strong and commanding performance by Emmanuelle Chriqui. She's also very attractive. The action scenes are delightful and the fight choreography is dazzling. Unfortunately, the writing tends to be formulaic and juvenile, and each episode can be easily mapped to the plot of any other young teen show from the last thirty years. It would be very interesting to see what direction the series would take if the kid gloves were thrown away...

Sadly, Disney has done a huge disservice to the Tron franchise and its fan base by canceling the series, which was one of the most promising and creative shows they've done in quite a while. While they claim low viewership as the cause, it might have helped if they actually made it available somewhere other than Disney's own cable network. I'm still waiting for them to release it on DVD, as the only way I can watch it is via a Chinese bootleg recorded off of TV. What Disney doesn't realize is that the target demographic of the series is NOT people who are sitting down to watch "The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody." They need to get off of their clueless butts and give the series the respect it deserves, and then the audience will naturally follow.