- Movie Rating -

TRON (1982)

| July 9, 1982

I have the exact same praise and the exact same problems with TRON that I had with Blade Runner.  Both are marvels of technology and production design.  Both create an entire world that seems inhabited rather than construction.  And both are lacking in humanity and character.  And YET . . . I give the edge to TRON because its inner-world template seems to compliment the lack of humanity whereas Blade Runner badly needs it for its story to work.

I realize that sounds contradictory and maybe a little silly, but then again, so is the entire business of comparing one movie to another.  My expectations for TRON weren’t very high because I understood that it would base a lot of emphasis on technology but not on character.  I’m okay with that because I understand what the movie is trying to do and the world that it wants to play in.

I can’t tell you how many times I have opened the chassis of my computer and looked inside with all those wires and chips that, in fact, look like a tiny city.  I could believe that something was going on in there.  Apparently, so can the people at Disney because this movie gave me the feeling of what it might really be like to be inside my computer.

The movie does, indeed, lack a certain measure of humanity.  There are scenes in which the characters literally refer to one another as “programs,” but in a sense this whole movie is a battle for survival, a battle for the characters to maintain their humanity.  I’m okay with that.  Since the base template of this movie resides within the same world that might just as well include Pac Man, Space Invaders or Asteroids, the stakes are basic survival.  If you know the games, then you already know this world.

What I admire most is that the movie never really spends much time establishing itself.  It assumes that we are already comfortable here.  We know the terrain and there isn’t an overuse of exposition to set things up.  The hero here is Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who created a handful of successful video games that have been stolen by an opportunistic businessman named Dillinger (David Warner) who has hidden the evidence of the theft inside the program.  Flynn thinks that if he can access the program, he can have proof of what Dillinger has done.

The problem is that Dillinger has established a fail-safe that digitally pulls Flynn’s body apart and transports it inside the computer itself where he is forced to play a series of games in order to access the Master Control Program and get back to the real world.

Inside the computer is a beautifully rendered electronic world of grays and blues and reds, where flashes of electricity are always flowing and the place is laid out like a computer grid.  This is where the heart of the movie takes place, and where TRON get its magic.  The games themselves are the film’s tastiest treat: a game of frisbee, a court for a weird version of electronic Jai Alai and a battle between giant arch-shaped tanks.  But the most memorable are the light cycles, slick motorcycles that leave solid trails that an opponent has to create to wall in his victim.  It’s a sight to see!  And what fun it has with its world.

Again, TRON is really about the experience.  This isn’t a movie dedicated to humanity except on the level of basic survival.  I give it points for all of its technology but I don’t criticize it for its lack of human dimension.  This movie doesn’t question itself or deep any human mystery.  It wants to entertain with a sound and effects light show, and for that, it does a beautiful job.  This is one of the best films of the year.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1982) View IMDB Filed in: Sci-Fi/Fantasty