Classic Cracker: TRON (1982)

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Arguably a more enjoyable and entertaining movie experience nowadays than when it was first released, TRON has dated, certainly, but it has dated in a way that makes it even more stylish and, dare I say it, retro-cool. And it’s maybe also a big plus that we’re no longer being bombarded with clips and adverts telling us that we will love TRON. Which actually makes it easier to love TRON, funnily enough. And I absolutely love this film.

Here’s a brief plot summary. Jeff Bridges plays Kevin Flynn, a fantastic computer programmer/hacker who ends up INSIDE a computer system. The master program has dreams of unlimited growth and power, which he maintains by keeping all of the various smaller programs under a tyrannical rule, with distraction provided by pitting programs against one another in a series of deadly contests. Flynn knows that he has to stop him, and the key to it all is a security program named Tron (Bruce Boxleitner).

A lot of the credit for TRON must go to Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird, the two people who came up with the main story. It’s not just that this is a fun adventure through a world of modern rechnology, but there are also a number of potentially complex ideas, sketched out quickly in a way that makes them easily understandable to the viewer. Lisberger was also in the director’s chair, helming his first live action feature after a background in animation, and he handles everything superbly, especially when it comes to the pacing.

Technically, this remains an impressive feat. The unique look of the film blends sci-fi cool with plenty of savvy visual conceptualisations that take ideas from computer systems and manage to extrapolate them into a much wider world. And that ensures that the set-pieces are undoubted highlights. The light cycle race remains the centrepiece, but there’s also a deadly game that crosses squash with a discus, and the third act keeps everyone on their toes, the tension and threat from the master program growing and growing, making a happy ending seem like an unlikely proposition (despite this being a Disney film).

Bridges is a lot of fun in his role, which is necessary because few others make as good an impression. David Warner is the dodgy human, a man who continues to enable the growth of the master program without considering the consequences, and he’s also very good. Boxleitner is a bit nondescript, but that works when he’s portraying Tron, Cindy Morgan isn’t well utilised at all, and Barnard Hughes does what he can with his few scenes (which is good enough, because I’m always happy to see Hughes in films).

I used to think that TRON was a good film, but also one I viewed more fondly through the haze of nostalgia the longer I went without seeing it, but that’s not the case, at least not for me. TRON is a great film. Unlike other movies I have recently revisited, this just gets better every time I see it. It’s entertaining, it’s smart, it’s a classic.

DIRECTOR: STEVEN LISBERGER
WRITER: STEVEN LISBERGER, BONNIE MACBIRD
STARS: JEFF BRIDGES, DAVID WARNER, BRUCE BOXLEITNER, CINDY MORGAN, BARNARD HUGHES
RUNTIME: 96 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★★★½

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