I found the black and neon look in the sequel to be MUCH more visually striking.
I find it dull because it's so monochrome. The Grid in the original was not limited to just two colors. Only the characters were.
And the world of the original wasn't all that flat and gray. The few physical sets the actors interacted with, like the tank interiors, looked that way because they were filmed in black-and-white and the film frames were printed onto animation cels to be backlit for the "neon" effect. But the fully animated environments had a lot of different colors and were very vivid.
And plus, as we know from today's videogames, it's not that hard to simulate the natural world anymore. It only makes sense that something like that might pop up over there now.
But the difference is in thinking that the purpose
of computer animation is to replicate the look of reality. At the time of the original film, there was no prospect of that, so computer art and animation were seen as a means of creating entirely new
kinds of images, things that nobody had ever seen before, and expanding the horizons of art and animation. These days, it's all about copying reality, and that sense of embracing the new and abstract, of inventing and exploring new aesthetics that are impossible in reality, has been lost. On the DVD features of the original movie, one of its makers laments that change. They weren't trying to create a world that duplicated reality, but to create one that was entirely unlike
reality, that was as new and exotic as it could possibly be.
This is the fundamental difference between TRON
and TRON: Legacy
. The goal of the former was essentially to create a new kind of cartoon, to make the live-action elements look like computer animation and be as far from reality as possible. The goal of the latter, like the goal of all other CG-heavy films these days, was to make a live-action film incorporating computer-generated images that looked like part of a live-action environment. They're completely opposite design philosophies.
If you look at the history in-universe, however, it makes sense that the Grid evolved the way that it did. The only "user" in the system was Flynn and he was the only input from the outside world to be able to influence how the inside world looked. He got stuck in there back in, what, the mid-late 80's? Flynn himself probably had no concept of where the future of CG would go and he clearly had his mind more focused on making a neo-hippie utopia than something that was a perfectly-emulated environment of our "imperfect" world. He wanted something pure, clean and under control. That's what he made and that's what we saw that evolved from the original system. The goal of the grid (to Flynn) was not a mundane exercise in alternate reality, but a philosophical and spiritual exercise in creating a paradise of simplicity. The spontaneous creation of the IO's was the perfect culmination of that dream. Then Clu had to go and sterilize it all to take it to HIS next level of perfection, believing all along that that's what Flynn programmed him to do - making things look even more stark and bleak. Again, all by design.
Everything we saw made perfect sense in that world. It may not have been highly visually stimulating to some (personally, I thought it was), but then again, it was never supposed to be.
BTW, are there going to be other episodes of Uprising? I've only seen the pilot and nothing new has popped up in my DVR in the past couple of weeks.