After almost 30 years, TRON comes back online with TRON Legacy coming out in theaters tomorrow. As a product of the 80’s, I am one of the generation of nerds that was greatly impacted by the first ever computer generated adventure put out by Disney. TRON, ahead of its time in many ways, is arguably the most nerdiest movie ever. We are not talking about a fantastical story that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. TRON happens inside a hard drive where programs fight other programs (does anyone remember Archon?) in a gladiatorial type 3-D world. That is about the geekiest thing I have ever heard of. I mean, this makes Star Wars and Star Trek nerds sound like varsity football players and super models. Anyways, the story…
Robbed of his video game ideas, Jeff Bridges’ Flynn breaks into his former corporation ENCOM to prove his case. He gets zapped by the laser from ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’ and sent to a neon and neoprene filled virtual world. He does some Matrix type tricks and ends up bringing down the big bad Master Control Program (aka Skynet) thus delivering freedom to… I guess other computer programs? I dunno. At the very least he got rich and bought a helicopter.
During the 80’s, much of our modern day pop culture was birthed from movies like Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, ET, etc… Disney created TRON in hopes of capitalizing off of the sci-fi craze. TRON is not a great movie. In fact, the average movie goer would be hard pressed to call it good. But if you can appreciate it in context of the time, it is very impressive what they were able to accomplish. In 1982, no one knew what the potential of computers would have in our society, let alone actually owned one at home. So to personify ‘programs’ in way that illustrates the unseen world on the other side of the screen is pretty ambitious. The most significant contribution of TRON is that it was the first introduction of ourselves being represented by another identity. It brought us the idea that our essence could be mirrored in another plane of existence. As a result, 30 years later, the future filmmakers of tomorrow birthed movies like The Matrix, Avatar, and Inception. TRON brought ideas that was generations ahead of its time, which possibly contributed to its lackluster box office success.
There are also some pretty strong religious themes that I didn’t really get when I was viewing it for the first time at 12 years old. Programs like Tron are being persecuted for their belief in the ‘Users’ (computer programmers) and must fight for survival in gladiator style games. Flynn, now in the form of a program, is the key to bringing salvation to this oppressed society by performing miracles and sacrificing himself for the greater good. There is a lot of talk about ‘purpose of existence’ from the programs as they ponder if there are Users. It’s pretty deep once you start thinking about it and ahead of its time as well.
The story is not directed well and there are plot holes, under developed characters, and awkward dialogue. Overall, the purpose of the story is Flynn wants his money so the stakes are low and not very compelling. I guess all their money went to special effects and not to the writing team. So on the effects…
The effects are pretty hilarious however, it has a retro-like charm to it. Shapes are flat and colors are primary but it kind of works for it now. This was actually a computer ‘generated’ not animated movie. Each frame (without people) was rendered, then each photo was animated into scenes. People scenes were shot in black and white with a still camera then each frame was meticulously hand painted to create the glowing effect. That’s why the whole movie has a washed out and graining look to it. It was scrubbed through the washing machine more than your favorite 80s acid washed jeans.
TRON was good when it came out, then was bad for a couple of decades, and is now kinda good again. I think TRON Legacy will be paying honor to the original by showing what it was supposed to be, true computer animated world with fully integrated people. Legacy hopes to invite you into a rich world that it’s predecessor could only dream of. I am looking forward to visiting that place on opening day tomorrow.
I love this movie. Partly because of the warm, nostalgic memories it conjures up but more importantly, what this movie represents. TRON is a movie about ambition and dreams- we need more of that in our lives. Considering how much computers have changed the world, TRON showed that they were on to something big even if it wasn’t realized at the time. Sure it’s far from the perfect movie but at age 12, it made me want to fight for the Users.
I give this a 3 out of 5 Babbles
My review for TRON Legacy will come this weekend and if you are having a hard time finding the original TRON on DVD, read here to learn why.