“Tron,” released in 1982, came at a time in Disney’s history when the studio’s animation renaissance was just a glimmer of hope on the horizon. After releasing a slew of live-action movies with only a few animations peppered here or there, Disney execs took the chance on a brand-new director named Steven Lisberger and “Tron” was made.
It wasn’t an easy film to make, computer capabilities were at the minimum compared to what they are now, but what resulted was a cult favorite film with a cheesy story that had the building blocks for an expanded universe that encompasses books, comics, video games and movies.
Tron is a computer program that is designed by Alan Bradley (both played by Bruce Boxleitner) to watchdog programs on ENCOM’s main database that has been taken over by the Master Control Program, or MCP, manned by ENCOM’s new senior VP Ed Dillinger and a program named Sark (all played by David Warner).
Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a User who is zapped into the computer grid and attempts to take down the MCP to clear his name and receive credit for popular computer games he created but that were stolen from him. The MCP is trying to convince the Programs that belief in the mythical Users is religious fanaticism but Tron and Kevin prove that Users are just as important to the computer world as programs are.
There are problems littered throughout the film. For one, the script is weak. There are holes everywhere in the plot. Sometimes the story doesn’t make sense. For example, it is never explained how Flynn survived the laser transfer when the techs at ENCOM were still only experimenting with oranges and not living organic matter. It is also never explained how programs and the Users communicate outside of the I/O towers. There’s just a lot of those little moments that are infuriating.
However, despite the technological restrictions of the time, “Tron” is something of a miracle in the film making world. Yes, “Star Wars” came before “Tron” but without “Tron,” I’m not sure how much Disney would have toyed with computer animation. Without “Tron,” who’s to say that Disney would’ve eventually understood the importance of computer animation? The world will never know.
Yes, “Tron” is a poorly animated mess compared to the advance CGI of our time. In fact, it could be called cheesy and you’d be correct. But, there’s no denying that “Tron” is hella cool despite that. It paved the way for an entire world that continues to intrigue and provide the audience with interesting characters and situations.
This review is first in a series of reviews on the “Tron” franchise. Stay tuned next week for my review of the animated DisneyXD TV show “Tron: Uprising”.