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A fun light show, if you're into that sort of thing.

  • Sep 26, 2012
*** out of ****

There are a handful of films that I admire and enjoy for their unique, groundbreaking visual style alone and Steven Lisberger's "Tron" is just one of them. Critically, it is - honest to God - just not a very good film. It's plot is simplistic and fails to match the amount of imagination put into creating the world that it inhabits, the characters aren't very well-developed and therefore come off as disposable, the pacing is sometimes a mixed bag, and it is, at the end of the day, undeniably style over substance. But it's also a very stimulating cinematic experience; a stunning achievement for its time that still holds up if you're a tech geek like me who sometimes derives great pleasure from gazing upon elaborate CG landscapes so long as there is some sense of general direction. With "Tron", the good news is that there is.

The whole thing feels like it takes place in some futuristic variation on 1980's society (which was modern times in the film's year of release, which was 1982). We don't know when the story takes place exactly, but time's not a big factor here. The story concerns an ambitious and highly skilled computer hacker named Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who was previously employed by the computer software empire known as ENCOM to make video games for the company, all of which his employer Ed Dillinger (David Warner) had stolen, thus forcing Flynn to stick to being the guru of arcade gaming in his hometown. When he's not gaming, Flynn is still trying to exact revenge by hacking into Dillinger's system, but with little success.

One day, Flynn gets a visit from two ENCOM employees who are on his side; Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), who has created a program of his own which gives the film its name, and Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan). They warn Flynn that Dillinger has caught on to his unsuccessful attempts at breaching the system, which is enough to convince Flynn that he must temper with Alan's program in order to make the security a little less tight. In doing so, Flynn finds himself in the way of an experimental laser that beams him into the EMCO mainframe, which is better known by some as The Grid.

While this is far from a great or bold futuristic vision of an alternative plane of existence, it's still plenty intriguing even if it lacks grand-scale idealism. The Grid essentially mimics our own world, but with prettier lights (since as I always say, the future is just the present but with those). In this world, computer programs materialize as digital copies of their users - or human counterparts - and fight in a series of deadly games in which they wield identity disks and wear flashy color-coded suits (the users are blue, the villains are of course red). A command program named Sark (also played by David Warner) leads the baddies in trying to conquer the Grid for himself.

The film probably would have been great without the early moments where it just feels like it's dragging on and on for extended periods of time. But once we're in the Grid, the shit most definitely gets real. "Tron" is exciting and visionary; revolutionary and completely exciting. The visuals, which border on the psychedelic at all times, are a lot of fun to look at and serve as influential material for just about anyone looking to make a science fiction film with an elaborate style of its own. No, Lisberger's direction is not great and hardly any of these performances are memorable (although Bridges is always good); but you know, I really do dig this flick at the end of the day. It's really something else, regardless of its noticeable imperfections. To me, it's nothing more than pure escapist entertainment with a distinctive artistry to it that I connected with, literally, on sight. The nerd in me tells me that "Tron" is a minor classic, and while that's probably all it will ever be, it still resonates on some level outside of the dramatic grid. End of line.

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More TRON (1982 movie) reviews
review by . June 20, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
At first I thought the distance between ‘Tron' and ‘Tron Legacy' may have been in style and substance. After all ‘Tron' at its inception was an organic movie conception from the popular arcade games filling bars and shake shops during the late seventies and early eighties. I wrote a review panning ‘Tron Legacy' even after seeing the impressive visual advancements and seeing it with 3-D glasses at an I-Max theater. I received a lot of negative feedback, including one young blogger who commented in …
review by . February 14, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Campy, somewhat funny but for unintended purposes.      Cons: Cheesy special effects and a dull storyline.      The Bottom Line: Only watch this movie for camp value. It isn't cool and if you thought it was cool in 1982, you won't think so now.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals everything about the movie''s plot.      I typically write reviews off the cuff, then edit. As of right this moment …
review by . June 28, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: All those fancy computer scenes, light bikes     Cons: Dated technology. Plot? What's a plot?     The Bottom Line: 20 years and still as much fun as it ever was.     Somebody tell me: What is it about all those cult movies that were once considered horrible that they get "special" DVD releases for their landmark anniversaries? It's 2002 and Tron hits the big 2-0 this year, so it gets its own big DVD compilation for its birthday. Why …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


is a 1982 American action science fiction film produced by Walt Disney Productions and Lisberger Studios and released by Buena Vista Distribution Company. It stars Jeff Bridges as the protagonist hacker Kevin Flynn (and his program counterpart inside the electronic world, CLU), Bruce Boxleitner as Tron (and Tron's "user", Alan Bradley), Cindy Morgan as Yori (and her "user", Dr. Lora Baines), and Dan Shor as Ram. David Warner plays all three main antagonists: the program Sark, his "user", Ed Dillinger, and the voice of the Master Control Program.

Tron was written and directed by Steven Lisberger, who has a distinctive visual style, as it was one of the first films from a major studio to use extensive computer graphics. Decades after it first came out, it has spawned a franchise consisting of a sequel film, multiple video games, comic books and a planned television series.

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Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: July 9, 1982
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: Charles Haas
DVD Release Date: Buena Vista Home Entertainment (May 19, 1998)
Runtime: 1hr 36min
Studio: Walt Disney Productions, Lisberger/Kushner
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