Director: Steven Lisberger
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan, Barnard Hughes
Disney’s vision of the new electronic age is presented in full technicolor, pixel-sharp glory in the wonderful 1982 movie, Tron. Giving a mixture of live action and computer generated imagery, the landscape of Tron is instantly recognisable, and has remained fresh and vibrant throughout the thirty years since the movie was released to overwhelming critical acclaim. Most reviewers were hugely positive about the movie, and even those who found fault were critical largely of the plot, rather than the effects or the cinematography.
Let’s start, however, by setting the way-back machine for… oh, a few years ago.
Ed Dillinger (Warner) is now Senior Executive VP at ENCOM, a position of power he has only attained through deception and theft. Three years before, he stole the code for some new video games from Flynn (Bridges) and promptly fired the young computer genius to cover his tracks. Under Dillinger’s less-than-honest guidance, ENCOM’s all-powerful Master Control Program is busy accessing and appropriating any system it can gain access to, despite Flynn’s attempts to hack in and find the evidence of Dillinger’s crime.
Flynn eventually gains access to ENCOM’s offices courtesy of his friends Alan (Boxleitner) and Lora (Morgan), Flynn’s old girlfriend. As Flynn starts searching for the evidence, the MCP stops him the only way he could – by digitising him with a laser, and bringing him into the computer system itself.
Flynn discovers a world populated by programs ruled by the MCP as a virtual police state, where rogue programs, and those ‘religious freaks’ who still profess a belief in ‘users’ are rounded up and forced to play for their existence on the Game Grid, until they either renounce their faith or die playing.
Flynn teams up with programs Tron (Boxleitner) and Yori (Morgan) in their quest to defeat the evil Sark (Warner) and destroy the MCP, which they hope will bring freedom back to the system, and will also release the information Flynn so desperately needs in his battle with Dillinger.
There’s no doubt that the main strength and appeal of Tron is its visual impact. Highlighted by a very good musical score, we are introduced to the Light Cycles, the Identidy Discs, the Recognisers, Solar Sailer ships, and many other items that go to create a stunningly vivid landscape. Against this we have the battle of good vs evil, right vs wrong, and the struggle against absolute authority in a world that is different, but still very familiar to us all.
Tron‘s lasting ‘legacy’ is shown in the long-overdue sequel made in 2010, where the effects are sympathetically updated and the story is handled well. To see how well it could have been made, however, you need to go way back to where it all began, thirty years ago….