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Featured Blogger: Alex Miller

Tron (1982) Revisited

Posted by Alex Miller from Dorkosphere 4 years ago

As we all know the next big thing to hit theaters will be ?Tron Legacy?. So I thought it would be a good time to revisit the original. Many people today have never seen it or don?t remember it.

I definitely remembered it but it had been awhile and it deserved another look. This movie is visually spectacular. In fact, even today, while some aspects look dated, the ?wow? factor still rivals that of modern movies. No film before it, or since, used these exact techniques. But despite all of its technological wonder and originality, it is a flawed masterpiece. Although I didn?t notice it as a kid, this film borrows heavily from many films before it. It also may not even be as good at telling those stories. But even though it borrows from other films, likewise, many films have since borrowed heavily from ?Tron?. Let?s take a look!

First-time viewers as well as the casual moviegoer may not ?get? what is going on in this film. Like many great science fiction films, such as ?Blade Runner?, ?Akira?, and ?2001″, multiple viewings may be necessary for many in order to fully understand the film. What is interesting about it in this case, is that the story on paper is not that confusing. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the good guy, is an ex-employee at EMCOM, where he designed many now successful video games. Ed Dillinger (David Warner), the bad guy, stole those programs and took credit for them. As a result, Dillinger is now the rich head of the company, while Flynn runs a small arcade. Flynn wants to find evidence to prove he was the inventor of the games, so some friends help him get inside, but meanwhile Dillinger?s program the MCP Master Control Program has run amok, absorbing other programs all around the world to make itself more powerful. Eventually the MCP uses a prototype laser, that deconstructs physical objects and puts them in a computer, to put Flynn himself into this digital computer world. There Flynn is put into a sort of Gladiator system with other programs, including a friendly security program named ?Tron?, to play games in or order to survive. I don?t want to ruin the movie for you, in case you haven?t seen it, but that?s the basic setup.

So just from what I wrote about the Gladiator system you should be able to summize one big influence. Come on you can do it. It?s a movie with Gladiators in it! OK?if you said ?Gladiator? then I would like for you to explain to me why the creators of ?Tron? invented a time machine, traveled to the future, all in order to watch a stupid Russell Crowe movie. No the correct answer is ?Spartacus?, or another possible answer would be just the actual history of Gladiators. In any case, I caught myself thinking about ?Spartacus? often, while re-watching this film. A prisoner, forced to fight for survival, organizes his fellow inmates and starts a rebellion against massive odds. In fact, the original tagline for the film was ?The Electronic Gladiator?. The light cycle scenes reminded me of another film about the same time period, ?Ben Hur?. The chariot battles were in a way very similar to the light cycle game found in ?Tron?.

There are multiple other references I could speak of but the one which I cannot ignore is ?The Wizard of Oz?. Although you could argue just about every film made since has been inspired by it, the inspiration is more obvious in this film. The ?computer world? in this movie is a fantastically different place and colored in a totally different manner. Oz anybody? Not only that, in ?The Wizard of Oz? the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, are all played by actors who played other characters back in Kansas. They were the 3 farm hands back where Dorothy lived. In ?Tron?, the programs resemble their real world ?Users?. So Flynn?s real-world friends join him in the ?Oz? world but as different characters. One big giveaway is that the Master Control Program pretty much looks just like the actual Wizard from Oz. I?ve put the two side-by-side here to show you what I mean:

To be fair, there are just as many instances as movies taking FROM ?Tron?. We might as well get ?The Matrix? out-of-the-way, since it is the obvious example. The whole idea of a digital world that people go inside of is clear. Also more apparent in the Matrix sequels, are examples of ?programs? taking the shape of walking-talking people. In ?Tron? Flynn is able to use his power as a ?User? to manipulate his surroundings, putting back together broken vehicles. The guy next to him basically says ?You?re not supposed to be able to do that!?. Well how many times did I hear people say that in ?The Matrix? every time Neo manipulated his surroundings in the digital world. The Wachowski brothers were obviously ?Tron? fans because the look of their next film ?Speed Racer?, though not an exact ripoff by any means, was most certainly influenced by the 1982 film.

?Tron? was a visually groundbreaking film. Although contrary to popular-belief, the vast majority of the effects were made with a type of traditional animation rather than computer-based. But it did indeed push the boundaries of computer-based effects in film. It has become a staple of our society whether people are aware of it or not. Its look has influenced both film, television, and video games alike. However, the difficulty in shooting such a groundbreaking effects-based film by a first-time director may have been the culprit that led to a confusing story. It is as I said, a flawed-masterpiece, but a masterpiece nonetheless. It will go down in the history of film, alongside the films that it was influenced by, and the films that it influenced. Well maybe not ?Speed Racer? but you know what I mean. Here?s hoping the sequel does the original justice!

Check out this review on Dorkosphere.

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