Monday, November 5, 2012

TRON (1982) Review

TRON poster
Director: Steven Lisberger
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxletiner, David Warner,
Genre: Science Fiction

Don't ask me what TRON is about, because I have no idea. The only thing I actually know about TRON is that is awesome. That is all I need to know. 

For a film released by Disney and targeted at children, the plot is confusing as hell. I'm pretty sure I understood most of it while watching but I'm really struggling to put it into words. So...there's this program. No, wait the people are the programs and there's a computer...that's really just a bunch of video games. Then there's these blue guys, who are good, and these red guys, who are bad. Jeff Bridges is trapped in this world, but he's not Tron, no, Tron is some other guy who isn't even the main character. Then there's some guy with a penis hat. 

I don't know. I have no idea what TRON is about, and I don't really care. The only thing that I remember is that the password to Jeff Bridges' computer is 'Reindeer Tortilla'.

What I took away from it was kind of a weird mix of 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Terminator (though TRON came out before the latter). 2001 obviously for the visuals and The Terminator because I'm pretty sure the plot has something to do with a computer (machine) taking over...the world? I dunno. I sense some anti-capitalist themes (in a Disney film. Ironic, I know) and a dystopian vibe. I've heard TRON be called the Metropolis of its time; which I guess is kind of true.

I've heard an interesting theory on a blog called The Ridiculosity Review, where he draws comparisons between TRON and religion. "First of all, within the game world, "users" are essentially Gods.  Sark (whose pajamas even have devil horns) goes so far as to persecute the believers if they refuse to denounce their faith in the users.  Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a user who is made into a program (God becomes man?) and performs "miracles" with his user power inside the game grid.  Later, the obscure actress-lady program essentially "dies" and Flynn "brings her back" (Lazarus?).  And finally, he sacrifices himself by jumping into the MCP so that the system can be free from its evil." I picked up on this too a bit, and this blog says it better than I could have. Here's the full article: Jesus Rides a Light Cycle. 

Jeff Bridges and girl in TRON

This film is just fun to look at. It is so visually pleasing that nothing else really matters. If you're the type of person that requires substance and can't enjoy a film simply for its style, then TRON is not for you. If you can accept that TRON is essentially a huge art show, you'll love it.

One of the earliest films to use computer generated images so prominently, which I guess I should hate it for since I'm not much of a fan of CGI in films. But in TRON is works. The CGI here works perhaps better than any CGI in film since. The CGI is obviously really funny looking, which adds to the coolness, but honestly for the time it was some pretty impressive graphics. I mean, 1982 is the same year Ms. Pac-Man was released. So compare TRON to that and it's pretty ahead of its time.

The light cycle game from the original TRON

The sets, or rather the environments in TRON are awesome. Psychedelic even. It's some really crazy stuff. I'd argue that TRON is cyberpunk and an example of early Tech-Noir, at least somewhat. TRON is amazing eye candy, it's something I can't explain but rather something you have to see for yourself.

Even the sets in the 'real world' scenes of the film are stunning. 

Crazy set design in TRON

The vehicles of TRON were designed by Syd Mead, who has also done some amazing work on Aliens and Blade Runner. The costume designs and a lot of the sets were designed by Jean Giraud, and if you just look at this guy's Wikipedia page you can see how legendary he is. So, there's a lot of great talent behind TRON, and it shows.

There's a lot of traces of neo-expressionism in TRON, which is great and make sense since it was a pretty big art movement at the time. The fact that there is expressionism, the art of the emotions, inside of a technological film that takes place inside of a computer is fantastic. 

Expressionism in TRON

I love how the costumes are bright neon and everyone's face is black and white. It's just little things like that that make TRON awesome. TRON manages to be campy but entirely unique at the same time. You'll laugh at a lot of things and find them cheesy but at the same time you'll realize that you're watching something unlike anything you've ever seen before. 

Sark, the antagonist of TRON

The soundtrack is superb and very suiting to the film. 

It's a pretty good gamer film too. You'll see some cool arcade cabinets in the arcade and I'm sure Jeff Bridges became a lot of gamers' hero after this. It also did a lot for the gaming industry. It spawned and influenced many video games, it gave a glimpse of what future video games would look like, and it helped to put video games into the mainstream, and without TRON and Nintendo video games very possibly could have collapsed into obscurity. It's something that may be hard to imagine but the gaming industry wasn't doing too well in the early '80s and was on the verge of seizing to exist.

The cool costumes of TRON

TRON doesn't have great characters or a great plot. It doesn't make much sense and can be confusing. Towards the end it gets a little boring. But it truly is a great looking film, a revolutionary film, and an enjoyable film. 

2001: A Space Odyssey mixed with The Terminator mixed with Alice in Wonderland mixed with Wizard of Oz? Yeah, pretty much. It's a fantastical film. 

4.5/5 stars

Purchase TRON on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream - VHS

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