When I originally reviewed TRON, I was heretofore unfamiliar with the likes of Flynn, Sark, MCP etc and as such enjoyed my first time viewing of this cult classic completely free of nostalgia. Last week Disney re-released TRON (this time in a stunning Blu Ray transfer) and after re-watching it I’ve come to realize just how special TRON really is. True, it is known for being esoteric, artsy, a bit goofy and unintelligible but TRON is more than just the sum of its parts. Further, it’s a lot smarter than the laughable light suits let on.
Steven Lisberger’s TRON might not be for everyone, mind you, as the concept, story and the visuals might have been too far fetched at the time, but to this geneation, who is essentially tech savvy from birth, TRON is not just a film and Steven Lisberger is more than a cult film director. Those who love (or worship) Star Wars acknowledge it is a sci-fi phennomenon and, for many, a way of life. TRON is equally as beholden to despite reaching a far smaller audience. While Lucas dazzles us with his space opera, he’s just telling a space fairytale. The ideas in Lisberger’s TRON are, when viewed today, are nearly prophetic. Though the reality of TRON will probably never actually happen, the concept of it is very nearly upon us.
When people mention TRON, those who claim to have seen it of course, casual movie goers might use the phrase, “out there” to describe it and most everyone else might use “ahead of its time”. While those are trite responses they are way more than accurate. From concept (the idea of digital identities and further, identity theft) to plausible/futurist theories (running the gamut from avatars to the nearly omnipotent programs to physical applications like Dillinger’s desk) to the first sizeable implementation of CG, you name it, TRON had it and had it first…its just taken this long to realize it.
For just about as long as it has been in public circulation, the film has been a bit of a black sheep in the Disney family. Wildly imaginative, complex and misunderstood, TRON has taken a while to catch on. Regardless of its small (but ever growing) and hard won audience, the film still serves to pave the way for films years after its mixed reception.
What is equally more fascinating and innovative than story itself is how the film’s innovations and genesis has been brought to light by Disney’s special features. The film is so much more complicated than it looks and took just tons of effort to pull it all off; mostly those glitzy visuals. The Blu Ray edition (released last Tuesday the 5th) contains all the content from the previous DVD which has tons of informative featurettes plus an intimate trip that takes Steven Lisberger and his son to the fabled Disney archives to look back on TRON. Its this level of content that can quickly turn a tepidly curious fan (like myself) into a full-on fan and is about as eye opening as the films visuals.
Now TRON might not be on every list of “favorite sci-fi films” but it is certainly much more than the terms “influential” and “visionary” can embody. Sure it starts to hurt the eyes after a while and the nonsenical running may prompt many viewers to whisper, “I still don’t know what’s happening” during viewings, but it was and will always be deemed a “pioneer”; it’s just taken nearly 30 years to be widely appreciated as such. The plot is simple when you boil it down to Flynn trying to stop MCP and get the credit he deserves for the programs games he created. However, as a whole, the narrative is still sketchy, the direction and exposition is still nonsensical but thanks to the Disney Blu Ray, TRON looks ultra pretty as it confuses so many of the audience. But for those keen to TRON: Legacy and the allure of the digital world in TRON 1.0 it can be appreciated (and more/less understood) for generations to come.