The Scoop: 1982 PG, Directed by Steven Lisberger and starring Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, and Cindy Morgan
Tagline: A world inside the computer where man has never been. Never before now.
Summary Capsule: A brilliant young programmer finds out the world of computers is more complicated than he imagined when he gets reconstituted inside the data world and must embark on a classic hero quest against the malevolent Master Control Program.
Kyle’s rating: even better than the real thing
Kyle’s review: When I reviewed Tron for Mutant Reviewers’ original incarnation, I had to immediately admit that while I consider Tron to be great it is by no means a great example of filmmaking. The titular character, as played by Bruce Boxleitner, is best described as “blandly heroic,” and in fact most people continue to believe Jeff Bridges was Tron (he wasn’t, he played the minor character Clu and what is arguably the main character, Flynn) or that Tron wasn’t even a character, it was just the name of the world in which all the action took place (ah, no).
But then again, I wrote that initial review at a time when the promise of a sequel to Tron was mere conjecture based upon the release of a marginally popular video game continuing the Tron story, so I had to fumble a bit to make it clear that 1. Tron was worth your time; and 2. you would have to remember the joys of your childhood a bit to excuse some of the clumsy foolishness that tends to characterize early Disney live-action films.
With today’s re-reviewing of Tron, piquing your interest in this classic film has already been done by the increasingly omnipresent online coverage and hype surrounding the December 2010 release of the true sequel Tron: Legacy. As well, Disney executives are on record as saying they intend for Tron: Legacy to be the first of a trilogy of films; effectively cementing Tron as their next Pirates of the Caribbean-esque franchise.
All of which is well and good. Great, even! But the same truth is that for all the hubbub, so many have only hazy memories of the original Tron or seem perfectly at ease with attending their midnight IMAX premiere of Tron: Legacy without ever seeing the seminal 1982 sci-fi classic film.
Madness, I say. Pure madness. Risk a few bucks on a catalog rental & less than two hours of your life and check out Tron. You’ll almost certainly be disappointed, but isn’t so much of art an anticlimactic letdown once you finally experience it?
For a film with video games as the driving force behind much of the action, the experience of a modern sensibility viewing Tron for the first time is akin to playing an old video game that a loved one or respected gamer claims was hugely influential yet turns out to be completely boring and unchallenging. By no means does that make it bad, or constitute an useless experience. What it means is that at the time it was something groundbreaking and original, and the ensuing decades have seen it mined and homaged until the dry husk holds minimal entertainment value for newcomers and perhaps only sentimental value for those who used it as an essential stepping stone. Again, this is not an argument for not seeking out Tron and all things ‘classic’ and ‘cult.’ Know your own influences and know what influenced those in turn. If for no other reason than to build a more well-rounded version of yourself, equipped to dazzle in multiple party and social scenarios.
Tron is a seminal childhood film of mine that I’m probably too close to to be clear-mindedly critical of. I see its weaknesses (blandness, simple linear story progression, slightly confusing physics which render fight scenes muddled at best) as the sort of dropped notes a maestro will indulge in for amusement’s sake, and consider its strengths indicative of its should-be status as an essential hero’s quest story. All that said, my local theater features weekly midnight showings of classic films, and seeing The Blues Brothers up on the big screen sort of solidified that I remembered it as being way more coherent than it actually is, while simultaneously highlighting what an unique experience it offers as film obsessed with the blues movement and impressively choreographed car chases and crashes.
All of which is to say that I fully recognize that my experience in viewing Tron is far from what you yourself will have. I see countless hours of childhood imagination being fueled by the events of this film, and my belief that Kevin Flynn is exactly who i want to be when I grow up. You will see a tepid ’80s movie with intriguing special effects and dialogue that only a meaning-seeking literature major could love. But that’s okay, because like reading Ethan Frome even when no one really wants to, watching Tron is a moral imperative. Or something. Just have fun with it!
- When a person writes a program, cyber-anthropomorphism leads to that program resembling its ‘user’ in the data world. This how Flynn recognizes Tron and Yuri, and also why Clu is played by Jeff Bridges but is a completely different character from Flynn.
- Most people will swear that Jeff Bridges was Tron, as Bridges is without a doubt the main character and Bruce Boxleitner plays Alan/Tron as a classic, stoic hero type (which is to say, rather blandly).
- All live action taking place in the data world was filmed in black and white, and later colorized using photographic and rotoscopic techniques.
- Flynn’s program is named ‘Clu’ as an inside joke concerning old programming language.
- After Flynn escapes from the light cycles arena, there is the brief sound of a Pac-Man video game and on the map Flynn is examining you can see a quick glimpse of an in-game graphic
- In the solar sailer sequence, the silhouette of Mickey Mouse can be seen on the ground, colored to appear as part of the terrain.
- The poster in Alan’s cubicle reads ‘Gort Klaatu Barada Nikto,’ a reference to the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still and to Army of Darkness which references it as well.
Flynn: On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy.
Sark: What kind of program is he?
MCP: He’s not any kind of program, Sark. He’s a user.
Sark: A user?
MCP: What’s the matter, Sark? You look nervous.
Sark: Users . . . well, I mean . . . users wrote us. A user even wrote you!
MCP: No one user wrote me. I’m worth millions of their man-years.
MCP: You’re getting brutal, Sark. Brutal and needlessly sadistic.
Sark: Thank you, Master Control.
MCP: (disappointed in Sark) You’ve enjoyed all the power you’ve been given, haven’t you? I wonder how you’d take to working in a pocket calculator.
Yori: (to Tron) I knew you’d escape. They haven’t built a circuit that could hold you!
Kevin Flynn: It’s time I level with you. I’m what you guys call a “user.”
Yori: You’re a user?
Kevin Flynn: I took a wrong turn somewhere.
Tron: If you ARE a user, then everything you’ve done has been according to a plan, right?
Kevin Flynn: Ha, ha, ha, you WISH! Well, you guys know what it’s like. You just keep doing what it looks like you’re supposed to be doing no matter how crazy it seems.
Tron: That’s the way it is for programs, yes.
Kevin Flynn: I hate to disappoint you, pal, but that’s the way it is for users, too.
Tron: Stranger and stranger…
If You Liked This Movie, Try These:
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- The Matrix
- Tron: Legacy