Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review: Original "TRON" Still Impresses

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 48 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Tron (1982)
Running time: 96 minutes (1 hour, 36 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Steven Lisberger
WRITERS: Steven Lisberger; from a story by Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird
PRODUCER: Donald Kushner
EDITOR: Jeff Gourson
COMPOSER: Wendy Carlos
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan, Barnard Hughes, Dan Shor, and Peter Jurasik

First released in 1982, Tron is a science fiction film from Walt Disney Pictures. Written and director by Steven Lisberger and produced by Donald Kushner, it is considered a landmark and a milestone (especially in the computer animation industry). Tron was one of the first films from a major studio to make extensive use of computer graphics and was also one of the first to make extensive use of computer animation.

The film focuses on Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a gifted young software engineer who used to work for the software company, ENCOM. Flynn has been attempting to hack into ENCOM’s mainframe to get evidence that a senior executive, Ed Dillinger (David Warner), stole Flynn’s code for several now-popular arcade games before firing him. Flynn is blocked by the Master Control Program (MCP), an artificial intelligence that controls the mainframe and also steals other programs.

Flynn’s former coworkers, ENCOM employees, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) and Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan), tell Flynn that Dillinger has tightened security clearances. Bradley, however, has created a security program called, “Tron,” which would monitor communications between the Master Control Program and the outside world. Bradley and Baines help Flynn get inside the ENCOM’s building so that Flynn can help the Tron program. During Flynn’s hack, MCP uses a nearby laser to digitize Flynn and transport him into the mainframe.

Inside the mainframe is a Digital World where Programs appear in the likenesses of their creators (called “Users”). The programs also fight each other in gladiatorial events, including Light Cycle races. Flynn joins the Program named Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) in a race to stop the MCP. But to beat the MCP, Flynn will have to race across a digital landscape that is like nothing he has ever seen or experienced.

Considering that computers and animation played the largest part in bringing it to life, Tron is surprisingly engaging, even warm. The story is slight, but the humanity of the characters shines through the technological light show. Especially in the Digital World, the plight of the characters often comes through, allowing the viewers to get, at the very least, a small look at their personalities and quirks. Tron is not all razzle-dazzle, nor is it ultimately empty like so many of the special effects and computer-created extravaganzas that have come since Tron first appeared in theatres.

Tron may have been considered ahead of its time, but looking back on it now, this movie still amazes. The film still looks as if it could not have been created back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Tron still looks like nothing before or after it. Director Steve Lisberger, producer Donald Kushner, and their collaborators made something special – something new that captured audiences’ attentions and even captured the imaginations of some of them. And 30 years on, Tron is still fun.

8 of 10

1983 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Costume Design” (Eloise Jensson and Rosanna Norton) and “Best Sound” (Michael Minkler, Bob Minkler, Lee Minkler, and James LaRue)

1983 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Special Visual Effects” (Richard Taylor and Harrison Ellenshaw)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


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