- Vancouver, British Columbia - It seems in cinema today there is a lot of emphasis on how much money films make at the box office, especially on the opening weekend. Often in the long run, all of the initial hype winds up being irrelevant and many #1 movies fade into obscurity. Similarly, there are cases where films are remembered for years despite lackluster openings. Tron is one such case, as it was considered a box office failure in it's initial run in 1982. It made some profit, but Disney hoped for more considering how ambitious the project was. But time has treated Tron very well as it has maintained a cult following and is known to be the first feature film to use computer animation. Very fitting considering most of the movie takes place in a computer. Actually, given the technological limitations of the time, that's the only way it would have worked.
The story follows Kevin Flynn, a computer programmer and hacker, who infiltrates ENCOM headquarters to find evidence that the company CEO stole his code and passed it off as his own to get his recent series of promotions. Unfortunately, this becomes difficult when Flynn is accidentally transported into the system's computer where he must escape and defeat the master control program by teaming up with a security program named Tron.
Truthfully, the plot isn't anything particularly impressive. It's essentially a classic story about an outsider coming in and rescuing a group of people from an oppressive super power. There are issues with how it's told also. I feel that there is too much given away too quickly. The computer world is seen by the audience far too early as it's revealed long before Flynn himself is pulled into the computer. He is our protagonist and we should be journeying with him and discovering mysteries along the way. Considering how amazing this computer world is, it would have been ideal to have it be a surprise.
But clearly the film has left a significant mark on cinema since it's remembered close to 30 years later. While story is one of the most important aspects of movies, sometimes it can be overshadowed by the technical achievements and design that the movie has to offer. The truth is that there has never been another movie that looks and feels like Tron. Even the recent sequel feels very different from this one. The computer world gives everything a hazy glow and feels alien and cold. You get a clear sense of the isolation that Flynn feels while he's lost.
Many of the concepts of the film are extremely inventive and a lot of fun. The light cycles were a terrific invention and have remained one of the most memorable aspects of the film and have been a fairly popular computer game in real life. Something about the sport of the light cycle duels really captured people's imaginations.
The film doesn't make me rise to emotional heights, but even to this day there is a sense of awe and wonder tied to the movie. In a sense, almost every blockbuster today owes Tron for the leap it took in computer animation. So many movies have created large epic worlds that we've come to take for granted how much effort it took to create these seemingly simple sequences in a microscopic computer land. Not to mention that the television show Reboot, the first fully computer animated cartoon, also fittingly took place inside of a computer, borrowing many of its concepts from Tron. As a stand-alone movie, it almost has trouble living up to the legacy it left us with.
Soon to come... Tron: Legacy
Rating: 3.5/5 Sour Grapes