Dec 24, 2010

[Movies] Tron (1982)

Tron (1982)It's funny how there are those movies that get totally panned by critics, fail at the box office and quickly fade from memory. Well, at least that's the case initially - and then something happens when it hits home video market. Suddenly new fans are created and amidst viewing nights probably filled with alcohol and maybe even Jell-O shots, the movie stops being a failure and instead transforms into a cult classic.

And then twenty years later, Hollywood executives decide to revisit these almost campy classics and try to figure out how to milk more money out of them. Thus we get remakes and sequels to movies made almost a lifetime ago just because the fan base is that strong.

Given the release of Tron: Legacy, it's only fitting that I also post a review for this earlier incarnation of the franchise. I could also post a review of Kingdom Hearts II from a Space Paranoids perspective, but that might be going a bit over the top right there.

Tron is the 1982 action movie (of sorts) that started the franchise. From video games to movies and even old arcade units, this is where it all began. This Disney production was written and directed by Steven Lisberger.

The movie begins with former ENCOM employee and now arcade owner / hacker Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is trying to hack into his former company's computers. His goal: to find evidence of their wrongdoings against him in the form of the theft of his code for popular games he created by Ed Dillinger (David Warner). In this world, it turns out that computer programs are represented by people who look like the Users who created them - at least in the computer world. His attempts are thwarted by Dillinger's Master Control Program (MCP) and this leaves Flynn frustrated and unable to access CLU, his hacker program.

Other ENCOM employees Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) and Dr. Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan) approach Flynn about his hacking attempts and let him know about the worsening situation at the company. This leads to them coming up with a plan to get Flynn into ENCOM, let him hack into the system and allow Alan's Tron security program to run and put a stop to the MCP. They eventually do this but Flynn's attempts are discovered by the MCP. The MCP uses an experimental test laser than has been used to digitize real world objects and send them into the computer system on Flynn, thus transporting him into the ENCOM mainframe. There Flynn's adventures are just beginning as he continues to attempt to get to the MCP and hopefully escape without getting derezzed.

The movie was a landmark achievement in its own right due to its generous use of computer animation. At the time this was a rarity and the quality of the animation does look rather dated compared to modern standards. But it's still a visually stunning film whose characteristic style and look continues to inspire new designs and other trends.

Of all the actors, I have to admit that I found Bruce Boxleitner's performance most compelling. Whether in the role of programmer Alan Bradley or titular character Tron, he's amazingly intense and quite striking in that regard. As Tron, you can really believe that he's determined to fight for the Users with his dying "breath" given his formidable skills in that regard.

A picture resembling a screenshot from the Tro...Image via WikipediaThe games of Tron are also pretty landmark and highly memorable too. Whether we're talking about the light cycle races that play out like the Snake game we used to have on most mobile phones, a jai alai style game and of course the use of light discs for combat. Whoever came up with the ideas for these gladiatorial games and the accompany graphics and dynamics deserves an award all of his own! They may not have been totally original ideas game-wise, but they were wonderfully represented in the movie.

The whole concept behind this little universe within a computer mainframe is probably the most compelling thing about Tron. Given how computers were practically in their infancy when the movie was released, representations of what goes on inside the computer world were few and far between. Thus the Tron concept of the computer world and how programs interact is a pretty impressive one that deserves a lot of praise from a science fiction advancement position.

Of course the story as a whole was a tad confusing for some. But isn't this the case for most action movies? We really them for the fight sequences or in this case game sessions and not necessarily for the story. But once you get past the jargon and the flashy costumes, you just might find a decent story that's worth remembering.

Tron is still a landmark piece of our geeky history and something that every computer fan needs to watch at least once. It gets 4 menacing Recognizers out of a possible 5.
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