In an age where computer graphics sometimes seem more real than reality, it can be difficult for movie viewers to watch older movies and appreciate them in the same way that they were appreciated when first released. Sci-fi movies, which deal heavily in technology and extra-terrestrials, are often the most difficult to admire even a scant few years later.
Disney’s “Tron,” released in 1982, is a movie about a hacker named Kevin Flynn, (Jeff Bridges, “TRON: Legacy”) trying to access information proving that he designed the money-making arcade game that his former co-worker took credit for. When he sneaks into the company to access the thief’s computer files, he is digitized and turned into a computer program by the powerful Master Control Program (MCP for short). The MCP sends his program minions to capture Flynn, and force him to participate in gladiatorial games on the Game Grid, where he will eventually die. Flynn meets Tron and Ram, two other programs forced to participate in the games, and together they hatch a plan to escape and take down the MCP.
With the recent release of “TRON: Legacy,” a direct sequel set roughly 20 years in the future, the technological advancements of the past decade are a glaring contrast to the state-of-the-art technology of 1982. The bright and colorful realm of the computer interface is blocky and plain. It is riddled with vectors and grids and structures that, while impressive at the time, resemble what would now be the most basic layer in the computer graphic design process.
Viewers who thrive on stunning graphics are often put off by what they consider to be sub par, thinking it cheesy. The same can be said for the setting, clothing and film quality of the time period.
Although cinematic technology has certainly changed, what viewers who immediately dismiss older movies often forget about is the talented acting. Most of the main actors of “Tron” played at least two roles; a human role, and the role of at least one program that the human character uses. Jeff Bridges played both Flynn and Clu, (who played only a minor role in this movie,) Bruce Boxleitner (“51”) played both programmer Alan Bradley and program Tron while David Warner (“Black Death”) played ENCOM CEO Ed Dillinger, computer program Sark and the MCP. Other actors played similar dual roles as well.
While certain personality traits are shared between user and program, the environments and lives of both are so different that they are easily viewed as different personalities (the funny light-up outfits of the programs aren’t the only difference).
To be able to portray two completely different characters in one movie is talent, and it’s talent that we often don’t see in the movies of today. Too often we find actors who can’t change their personalities from one movie to the next, much less within a single motion picture.
In addition to having better acting than many recent movies, it is also- wait for it- original. That’s right, original. A man is digitized and transported to a world of programs and must fight his way out while trying to liberate the other programs in the system and prove that he is the rightful creator of a hot-ticket arcade game. “Tron” is about as original as a band of four teenage ninja brothers that happen to be giant turtles trained by a giant rat living in the sewers of New York City. You can’t get much more unique (or 80s) than that.
Disney’s “Tron” is an oldie, but given how technologically superior it is for its time, how fantastic the acting is compared to many of the movies of today and how deliciously unique the plot is, this movie is definitely worth hunting down.