Sunday, 5 December 2010


Tron is a live action Disney movie from 1982, starring Jeff Bridges as Flynn and Bruce Boxleitner as both Alan Bradley and the title character, Tron. Famous at the time for incorporating revolutionary computer animation techniques alongside real footage of actors, it took over 25 years for the sequel, Tron:Legacy to be made, which is out this month.

For reasons I still don't quite understand, Bruce Boxleitner acquires Jeff Bridges help in breaking into the ENCOM corporation, during which Bridges is accidentally zapped into a computer game, where he helps Tron to free the computer world from an evil dictator, played by David Warner.

As I correctly guessed that Tron:Legacy would be the second surprise film at the SeeFilmFirst bloggers event, I decided to familiarise myself with the first film. I remembered seeing this when I was young, but couldn't remember anything about it other than the light cycles and the feeling of disappointment when it had finished. Expecting to enjoy it more as an adult, that feeling of disappointment quickly returned.

The idea for the first Tron was genius and years ahead of it's time. The visuals were extremely impressive given the technology of the time, but the film is let down by a rather rubbish and confusing storyline. I spent the first 30 minutes waiting for them to enter the digital world, and the final hour wishing they never bothered.

The effects have dated considerably badly. You can tell it's not computer animation, but is instead just normal hand drawn animation drawn to look like a computer made it. The rotoscoping techniques, where they actually paint on the film to create the glowing suits does however look really good.

Jeff Bridges is one cinema's greatest actors, but in the late eighties and early nineties, he seemed to be a curse to any film he was in. Even though the films were good and he was excellent in them, they always seemed to flop badly. Both Peter Weir and Ridley Scott had rare flops after casting him in Fearless and White Squall, while audiences also stayed away from Tucker: The Man And His Dream and American Heart. Fortunately, The Coen Brothers turned him into an acting god by casting him as The Dude in The Big Lebowski and reminded people what they were missing. He's as good as can be expected in this, playing Flynn as a likable, carefree spirit enjoying his time in the digital world. Bruce Boxleiter, Cindy Morgan and David Warner are also good in their dual roles.

David Warner himself if also one of cinema's greats. He's turned up in such classic films as Straw Dogs, Time Bandits and The Omen, where he was given one of cinema's most iconic death scenes. In Tron, he plays the head of ENCOM, the company that the characters try and break into, as well as a commander in the TRON digital world. He also plays the Master Control Program, which bears a remarkable resemblance to GOD in South Park. He is good in a role that could have been embarrassing, displaying the right amount of stuffiness and managing to look menacing in a rather ridiculous outfit.

The problems with Tron is that the film doesn't actually make much sense, and other than the Light-Cycle games, isn't actually that much fun. The pace is quite plodding and confusing and as great as the visuals are, you need a film to be something more than just looking good to enjoy it.

IMDB gives Tron 6.7, but I'd give it about 6. You can see how they tried to revolutionise cinema, and why they failed. Maybe the sequel will be better.

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