Director: Steven Lisberger
Principal cast: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, Cindy Morgan and David Warner
Writers: Steven Lisberger, Bonnie MacBird
Music: Wendy Carlos
Release date: 1982.
In the world of early eighties computing, arcade owner and computer wizard Kevin Flynn (Bridges) hacks into the mainframe computer of the Encom corporation. When Flynn is literately zapped into the mainframe via the evolving and power hungry Master Control Programme he is forced to participate in gladiatorial games against minor computer programmes for survival. Flynn’s only hope is to break out of his confinement and shut down the main programme with the help of a security programme named Tron.
With the pending arrival of Lisberger’s eagerly awaited Tron Legacy, I felt it was time to revisit the original film afresh and wondered how the film would stand up twenty eight years after viewing it as an eleven year old boy in the cinema.
Firstly the cast, Jeff Bridges was always well placed to portray the anti hero Flynn (arcade owner, hacker and former disgruntled employee of Encom). Although a straight forward performance he pulls off the role with aplomb, showing the beginnings of the slacker characters who would eventually evolve into The Dude via The Big Lebowski (1998).
David Warner is suitably villainous as the head of the Encom Corporation (mentally becoming controlled by the Master Control Programme) and Boxleitner provides the film’s buddy support as both a computer programmer and Tron.
The one element which always set Tron apart was the film’s visual flair. It was unique and there was nothing out there which resembled it, the good news is that there still isn’t.
Inhabited by individuals suited in costumes of buzzing circuitry with an almost retro Fritz Lang feel to them, the computer world of the mainframe is a compressed place of neon drenched lines,
It’s hard to find any fault with the film’s visuals, indeed the effects take you back to a simpler and innocent period in time when home computing was just beginning and arcade games ruled the day. The gladiatorial game sequences (especially the light cycle races) still stun and will have you yearning for your early eighties classics such as Pac Man and Galaxians.
But elements of the production have dated. The soundtrack is a clash between John Williams influenced blockbuster score and horrible seventies progressive keyboard indulgencies, whilst one is left with the feeling that the former may have been imposed by the studio (Disney).
Also, some of the dialogue in the “real world” seems clunky, kept simple with an emphasis on appealing to a wide audience not yet familiar with computing.
Further, the film does borrow moments from other classic sci-fi movies. Flynn’s descent into the computer world is reminiscent of David Bowman’s landing on the alien planet at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the breakout familiar to THX1138 (1971) and character relationships build on the same interaction as those in Star Wars (1977-83).
However, these minor quibbles do not detract from what is a hugely enjoyable piece of stylish escapism which has stood the test of time.
Tron Legacy offers to be a more brooding and sophisticated affair maybe reflecting the evolvement in technology. In this respect the retro computer world of the original should complement the sequel perfectly. I myself cannot wait.
Will have you yearning for the early eighties whilst awaiting it’s sequel with enthusiasm.
*Currently unavailable, Tron is slated for a November 2010 re-release on Blu-Ray to coincide with the release of Tron Legacy.