Movies/Entertainment,  Off the Shelf

Off the Netflix Queue…’TRON’

Let’s just get past the fact that I haven’t seen TRON before now. I know, I know, it’s a staple, it’s a classic, it’s a (insert any number of nostalgia driven praises) but I just hadn’t seen it before. So there we are. Now despite seeing some glimpses of it while channel surfing over the years and the references to it in both The Simpsons (sorry couldn’t find the English clip) and  The Family Guy (or this one – also in a foreign language) I was none the wiser to “Flynn’s Arcade” and those awesome “light cycles”. Some would say I was missing out, but I had my own movies to keep my interest as a kid, so don’t think I was kept in a closet during my formative years just because I didn’t see TRON. So anyway, after seeing the second teaser trailer for TRON: Legacy, I said enough is enough and had to see what this is all about.

What I think I liked most about TRON was how it harks back to the simple premise of early generation computer games and their brilliance because of their simplicity. Early computer games were in fact digital renditions of sports. Most of the design of TRON rivals any sport with a “one shot kill”, more or less. Sure there are defences in some of the games depicted but once it’s over, it’s over…there’s no extra lives, there’s no continues, there’s just “de-res”. I hope I’m not boring anyone. Growing up with Atari and moving to Nintendo made for some awesome entertainment. Sure it was infinitely frustrating when there were no save points, very few lives and very few chances to beat the game in one sitting.

So this same system of rules is what made the digital world in Tron interesting and at the same time dangerous. It’s the mindset that once you’re done, you’re done…lost to a digital graveyard and scattered to microns. When Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is first digitized, he laughs it all off with an “I made you with keystrokes” mentality but after his battle game he comes to grips with where he is and how serious it all is. So Flynn is a bad-ass and so continues on the virtual path to achieve what he was going after in the real world. I really like the parallel nature of it all. Flynn journeys to expose Dillinger (David Warner) as a thief, but also, while he’s here, take out Sark and the evil evil program aptly titled the “Master Control Program”. Basically like any Disney or fantasy films, it’s essentially “beat the baddie and you get to go home“.

TRON is a bit of a cutesy, imaginative quest for one man to free himself from the computer system he has been trapped in with a marginal amount of danger. But really it’s a revenge story and since it’s a Disney movie, they can’t call it for what it is. Think of the bare essentials of the plot. For instance, if some less that knowledgeable corporate executive stole the ideas of a younger smarter computer programmer then simultaneously fried the programmer and got super rich selling ideas that weren’t his. Talk about a bad day at the office. Something of this criminal magnitude could easily have caused said “axed” employee to go postal…but not Flynn (and not in a Disney movie). Flynn prefers to be sneaky, yeah sneaky like a programmer.

While we’re on the subject of computer theft and corporate domination, one modern-day person kinda fits this bill…yup, bill as in Bill Gates. I wonder…did he get the idea for “Microsoft” from “Master Control Program”?

Now looking back we see that TRON is nearly 30 years old and although I didn’t grow up with it, watching this, I immediately became a kid again. Even though I am almost as old as the movie itself, I was still wowed by colors and amazing computer effects, as archaic though they may be. I’d have to say that some of the graphics still stand up and I think it’s only because those graphics were super advanced for the time. It really put me back to the age when I could be astounded by the simplest of things on TV. The gimmick to TRON was that they used feature-length computer work where as in other films, it was utilized in very short sequences (i.e. the impressive owl work in the intro to Labyrinth).

But what really gets me is that this technology was all around at the time but we humble movie goers didn’t know about it, mainly because it was viewed as a fad and no one had really perfected it or learned how to market it. When it was used in TRON the studio took a big chance on something that they weren’t sure would pay off. Well it sure as hell did and years later it’s still viewed highly and has a massive following of fans. Current industry leader Pixar (who got their start around the same time) has made a name for themselves, and a few years ago we learned that they dabbled in the “new fangled” CGI to create their first short LUXO. God, I was in second grade using a crappy Apple IIGS and they had this kind of technology almost 10 years before?? Makes you wonder what they’ve got that we don’t know about.

On the whole, TRON does have some slow bits (computer humor, get it?) and some direction-less running and plenty of “how the hell did they know where to go?” but it was still a fun ride. One thing I didn’t get was: What was the purpose of the huge (Star Destroyer inspired) ship dematerializing at the end? Yeah, that’s the best way to beat Flynn…by destroying your ship. Also there sure were an awful lot of wooden footfall sounds in a digital world:P I bet the production budget ran heavy on 3 things: computer effects, black lights and plywood set construction. Still, this movie still kind of impressed me. So without dipping back into a nostalgia driven viewing of TRON, I’m not nostalgically driven to say that I liked this, and so I’ll say it free of commitment…I liked this.

End of Line.