Director: Steven Lisberger | 96 minutes | action, adventure, science fiction | Actors: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan, Barnard Hughes, Dan Shor, Peter Jurasik, Tony Stephano, Craig Chudy, Vince Deadrick Jr., Sam Schatz, Jackson Bostwick, David S. Cass Sr., Gerald Berns, Bob Neill
Oh, those beautiful eighties. When the popular municipality had no idea of the internal workings of a computer and so you could hang wonderful fables about the possibilities of the invention that now (in 2011) dominates almost every household. Breaking into the Pentagon via a dial-up connection (‘WarGames’, 1983), transforming a polygon female into a babe of flesh and blood (‘Weird Science’, 1985) – it was all possible. It was a beautiful time, which should definitely be remembered for the lavish fantasies. Anyone who manages to switch off their sense of reality for a few hours will find brilliant entertainment in such productions.
This is also the case in ‘TRON’, the Disney film that had to bring about a small revolution in 1982. It never got that far, but it remains a brave attempt, which is still worthwhile three decades later. The kind of guts it took to make not just a movie about arcade games, but one specifically set in a game world, is all too often sorely missed at major movie studios. The story of games developer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who ends up in one of his own creations has gained such cult status that it has even released a deemed impossible sequel – ‘TRON: Legacy’ (2010). Incidentally, a film in which, like its predecessor, it is more about the appearance than the content. That then again.
The story is simple enough to summarize. Flynn tries to hack into his former employer’s computer system to find evidence that current director Ed Dillinger (David Warner) has stolen his designs. In one of his attempts, he is sucked into the computer system by the all-encompassing Master Control Program, as it were (actually it goes through a fancy laser) and he has to survive in the virtual world as a ‘Program’ with the name Clu. A world that literally consists mainly of straight lines and in which the belief in Users for the Programs is strictly forbidden, under penalty of the resolution (a completely absurd term in itself, but yes – the eighties eh … The idea is clear.) .
Flynn / Clu soon befriends Tron, who not entirely coincidentally bears a striking resemblance to his programmer Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner). Just like Sark, the big bad guy in the virtual world (who is employed by the Master Control Program), has the same look as Director Dillinger. These parallels are very nicely carried through in the kind of functions that the Programs have, with which the virtual world becomes a kind of mirror world. It is therefore a pity that relatively little is done with the big questions of life. The film could have been a lot more tantalizing on that point. Plenty of opportunities.
But as already said, it’s mainly about the pictures. And although they of course look dated, ‘TRON’ certainly remains very nice to watch from a film historical point of view. The groundbreaking use of special effects as a means of telling a story was so new that the Academy ‘forgot’ to nominate the film. (For costume design and sound ‘TRON’ did receive a nomination.) The editing leaves something to be desired here and there, but due to the infectious playing of Jeff Bridges in particular and to a lesser extent Bruce Boxleitner, the story remains fun to follow. The viewer will have to take it for granted that the soundtrack mainly consists of midi bleeps and flowers. But yes, the eighties eh …