You have to have some amount of sympathy for Joseph Kosinski. His feature film debut was over three years in the making and hyped by extraordinary expectations thanks to some startling imagery from a demo reel sneaked at Comic-Con in 2008. When “Legacy” was finally released in Dec. 2010, the critics let out their annoyance with the hype by being harsher than necessary and hardly giving Kosinski any credit for the stunning world he’d created. Audiences, however, embraced the 3-D wonder enough to gross almost $400 million worldwide. In the media’s eyes, however, you would have thought “Legacy” was a huge financial disappointment.
“Legacy” reportedly cost $170 million and grossed $398 million across the globe. 2009’s “Star Trek” cost $150 million — according to Paramount — and made just $385 million. Both films had extraordinary marketing budgets, but somehow “Trek” is seen as a blockbuster and franchise game changer while a sequel for “Legacy” is still up in the air. And even if both films cost much more than reported (as most believe) the perception is pretty strange, no?
Disney now has a chance to figure out how big the “Tron” fanbase has truly become with the release of “Legacy” on Blu-ray, DVD and iTunes today. In order to support the home entertainment portion of the campaign, Kosinski gallantly faced the press one more time. I spoke to him for a few minutes about some changes he made to “Legacy’s” sound mix, the worldwide reaction to the film and whether he’d consider returning for a third “Tron” feature.
This has been, what, a four year journey for you?
Kosinski: It started with a meeting with Sean Bailey in July of 2007, so yeah, gosh almost coming up on four years which is insane to think about, but it’s true.
Are you feeling as though you’re ready to move on at this point or did you feel as though you were done after the original release?
Kosinski: I’ve had three months [although] I did open it in Europe in February. It’s exciting to see it come out on Blu-ray. I wasn’t really allowed to say this when we were doing publicity for the theatrical version of the movie, but I had seen the Blu-ray version. I had to prep the Blu-ray version when [the theatrical release was occurring] and the movie just looks, to me it looks better on a nice plasma than it does on any sort of projected screen just because of the contrast ratios and brightness levels you get off Blu-ray these days. So, it’s exciting to finally come out on this format. And I was also able to go back to Skywalker in January and just fix all those little things I never had time to do with the release of the movie. So, for me the Blu-ray version is kind of the definitive version of the movie.
When you say ‘fixes’ do you mean just the sound mix or some of the visual effects?
Kosinski: Visually I was pretty happy with what we were able to get even though it was a crunch at the end, but from a mix point of view we just couldn’t hit everything. So, I got to go back for a weekend. I did 110 fixes in two days. It was crazy. And we just went through and fixed all those things that probably mostly only bothered me. But, I think overall we really fixed the mix.
This was a film no one thought it would do well overseas, but it actually performed better than in the U.S. Did you get a different reaction to the film from audiences in other parts of the world?
Kosinski: Yeah, generally the types of questions when you go around the world are very different. Here in the U.S. you get a lot more questions regarding celebrity and ‘Can you tell us some great rumors about on set antics and stuff like that.’ You go to Japan and they talk about bigger ideas and human’s relationship with technology and themes. You go to France and they talk about your film in the context of film history. So, it’s interesting how the questions change in different areas of the world. But, when you look at how the film’s performed internationally, it’s interesting to see China, Russia and Japan — these huge markets that are starting to emerge and these are markets where they are exploding markets in terms of technology so I guess it makes sense that a film like this would play so well over there.
When you watch the film on Blu-ray now is there anything in particular you are most proud of? Anything that turned out better than you’d hoped?
Kosinski: That’s an odd question. What do you pat yourself on the back about?
Well, there must be something where you thought, ‘I was sort of happy with that.’
Kosinski: Yeah, I think there are moments in the film from a kind of — for me the film there was an opportunity for the sound and vision to blend together and create this kind of — I don’t know how to explain it. There are moments in “2001” where the ship is docking with the space station put against Strauss’ waltz that creates art, pure cinema. And I think because I was able to work with Daft so early in the process that I was able to sync the picture and the sound in a way — certainly not at the level of “2001” — but some thing you couldn’t normally do because you’re scoring another picture afterwards. And that kind of synchronicity of soundtrack and visuals, I think there are a few moments in the movie where we came close to that.
Was that a lesson you learned for your next picture? To make sure you bring in someone who is doing the score as early as possible? Did you take any other mental notes for what you do next?
Kosinski:That was something very particular to this project that required it because of the nature of this movie and the property. But, obviously, there are lots of lessons to be learned on a first movie. I think most people make their first film don’t make it with this level of publicity and attention. So, for me it was interesting to learn those lessons on a film like this. But certainly there are things I’ll take into my next film which are too numerous to list. But it was a great experience overall.
There have been rumors there will be a ‘Tron 3.’ Would you like to come back for a second go at it or are you ready to move on?
Kosinski: I think that we are working on the story now. If we can come up with the right story and a good reason to return, than absolutely. I’d love to go back. But, it probably won’t be the next thing I do.
“Tron Legacy” is available on DVD, Blu-ray and iTunes today.