“Greetings, Programs!” (A few words on Tron)

I like Tron.  It’s not that I believe it’s one of the best movies ever, but it’s always sort of had a reserved a place on my unofficial list of favorite films, in the same way that The Muppet Movie or Rumble in the Bronx has.  Does that make sense?  I’d never argue that any of those films are in the same league as say, Citizen Kane (to use an extreme example), but frankly I’d probably rather watch any of them more than the Orson Welles classic, given the choice.

Now, it is clear that Tron is not a perfect film, but it literally did take me where no movie had ever gone before when I saw it in the theatre back in 1982.  And there’s something to be said for that.  Unfortunately, there’s also something to be said for the obvious Star Wars-derived moments that you see all the way through, from Tron’s light cycle squad being code named “Gold Leader,” “Gold Two,” etc. to the random assortment of oddball creatures that are to be seen in the shadier areas of the computer system to the climactic victory being built around making that one crucial shot past the shields into the heart of the unbeatable foe.

There are other weaknesses as well.  There are quite a number of scenes that are a bit visually confusing.  The dialog is not particularly inspired (with some exceptions), and has a few unfortunate examples of what TV Tropes calls Hold Your Hippogriffs (such as “Who does he calculate he is?”).  And some of the performances have a bit of a hokey quality.  Plus, Alan Bradley is wearing some seriously big glasses.

But on the other hand, the movie has Jeff Bridges, who actually created quite an iconic role in Kevin Flynn.  It also has David Warner who is typically great.  It also has Barnard Hughes, who carries his small role with dignity and aplomb. And it has Bruce Boxleitner, who would never be considered a great actor, but who is likeable, and whose straight-laced earnestness as both Tron and Alan makes for a good contrast with Bridge’s Flynn. It’s also got a pleasing Cindy Morgan and an enthusiastic  Dan Shor, and even a young Peter Jurasik (Babylon 5’s Londo Mollari).  Pretty good for a film with only eight principle actors!

The movie also has some wild and crazy images, courtesy of a design team that included Moebius.  And it has some far out concepts, including some interesting religious elements that I enjoy.  And a villainous concept that parallels Communism, which I think is also apt.  Plus it has light cycles.  And light cycles are cool.

If I’d written my recent Sequels, Continuations & Reboots post back in early 2010, I’d have included Tron: Legacy high on my list.  And I would have been disappointed.  Even though the movie clearly looks better, and certainly clearer, with all the updated special effects that today’s technology affords, the story is disappointing.  None of that would have mattered to me, necessarily, if it hadn’t been for the dramatic non-reveal of Tron during the movie’s third act.  Maybe more on that another time.  I also caught a few episodes of the animated series Tron: Uprising, featuring Elijah Wood and Bruce Boxleitner, which hovered around awesome.  It showed me there could still be a future to Tron.

But really, if all I had was the original movie, that’d be enough.  The original battle, to free the system, from the tyrannical control of the Master Control Program and his efforts to stamp out free thought is plenty satisfying.  And in it’s own way, awesome.  And even a bit inspirational.

“That’s Tron.  He fights for the Users.”


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