I’m going to be blunt here. I didn’t want to review this movie, but it’s a favorite of Mr. Blonde’s, and he went ahead and introduced it to Young Master Blonde. Who, of course, loved it and in true toddler fashion it’s now in heavy rotation here. Thanks, honey.
Since I’ve had to watch this movie anyway or risk lots of wailing, I might as well review it. Tron is a curiosity – it’s got some interesting concepts that are poorly executed, and manages to be both way ahead of its time and ridiculously dated at the same time.
Hotshot computer programmer Flynn (my parallel universe husband Jeff Bridges) has been trying to hack into the computer system of his former employer, searching for proof that honcho Dillinger (David Warner, as always a fine villain) has stolen Flynn’s idea for the Space Paranoids arcade game and made a fortune off it. Unfortunately the Master Control Program has other ideas. It zaps Flynn into the computer where Flynn finds himself put into gladiatorial matches (if gladiators used neon Frisbees) with other “programs” who look like the users that created them. Flynn now has to defeat the Master Control Computer to keep it from destroying not just himself, but the programs of his friends, especially the program Tron, created by his friend Alan (Bruce Boxleitner).
The concept of Tron is a bit silly but the cast plays it straight-faced. And speaking as a quasi-Luddite who thinks electricity is magic and has no clue how her computer actually works, I don’t find the concept of anthropomorphized programs all that far out. (Personally I have a harder time believing that a computer nerd would look like Jeff Bridges.) The computer animation is dated but quaint and a bit endearing. And while I can’t buy into Frisbees as weapons, the light cycle race is genuinely stylish and interesting, the best sequence in the film. I have to wonder if the designers of the new VW Beetle were inspired by the light cycles.
But there are real problems with Tron, and I’ll get my personal issues out of the way first – the neon! Oh, the neon! It’s garish and gaudy, and if I wanted to see that much neon I’d go to Las Vegas. The discordant score by Wendy Carlos! And the song by Journey! Agh! My eyes! My ears!
OK, that’s off my chest. I feel better now.
The more serious problem with Tron is that, more than any other movie I’ve seen including ones based on actual video games, it feels like a video game. The characters, whether they’re in the real world or in the computer, are paper-thin and we have no reason to care about what happens to them. Flynn’s quest to find proof of the theft of his ideas is a hook to get him into the computer world and not much else, and it doesn’t help that Bridges plays Flynn as a smarmy jerk. Basically both story and characters just serve to move things along to the next fight, chase, or special effects moment. Also not helping are gaping holes in the story – neat-looking “grid bugs” make an appearance and then are completely forgotten. There is also some extremely silly dialogue, such as “Who does he calculate he is?” that just doesn’t work.
I recall some “Walt Disney is rolling in his grave” reviews of Tron when it was released, and its box-office floppage must have pleased those reviewers. Still, it’s not hard to see why this movie does have a devoted audience. Despite its poor performance, it’s also been a very influential film – the ancestor of The Matrix, definitely. And Tron’s fans should be very pleased with this DVD.
The move’s transfer looks great, and the two-disc edition has lots of extras: commentary, making-of features, trailers, deleted scenes, storyboard-to-film comparisons, and more. Quite a nice package. If only there wasn’t so much damned neon…