I Have Never Seen ‘Tron’

By  · Published on November 18th, 2014

Walt Disney

Ashe never got to see a ton of modern classics from his youth, so we’re making him watch them all as a nostalgia-less adult. Check out the inaugural article for more info.

1980s pop sci-fi month continues! I’ve been trying to be picky because, well, there are a lot of movies that could count as pop sci-fi from the 80s and there are only four weeks in a month. Tron was on my list from the get-go, however, because I’ve wanted to see it for years and just never sat down and actually watched it. Now I have!

Basic plot summary, in case it’s been a while: Young Jeff Bridges gets stuck in a computer system that has more in common with retro video games than actual computers. That’s… really about it. It’s not exactly plot heavy. In fact, some of the plot makes zero sense but gets handwaved away. What exactly is the extent of Flynn’s “User” powers? Why exactly does a User get more power inside the computer anyway? Apparently, he just does, consistency be damned.

Also worth noting is that Jeff Bridges doesn’t really seem to know what’s going on at various parts in the movie. He tends to make quips that just barely make sense in context. I suspect he didn’t take the role extremely seriously, but considering the public opinion of computers and video games at the time, I guess that’s not terribly surprising, either.

But hey, it’s not like people really remember this film for the plot or acting (though both are relatively sufficient). They remember it for the style and the fancy (for its time) CG. I’ll admit, I paused the movie to check and make sure I didn’t have some sort special edition with upgraded graphics just because I didn’t think that those kinds of graphics (rudimentary by modern standards, of course) were actually possible in 1982. I didn’t, and they were.

For some reason, I was under the impression that CG didn’t become a viable thing for movies until later on the in the 80s. I know video game graphics didn’t catch up for nearly a decade.

Part of the reason for that is that no one else really messed with CG in films for a few years after, until Young Sherlock Holmes in 1985, and that was only for a short scene. And, it turns out, no one else ever made a movie with the same method as Tron, either. The backlit, neon rotoscoped animation that Tron featured so heavily also makes it unique. The method they used was so expensive and time consuming that no one else has bothered. (Obviously, they used different techniques for Tron: Legacy.)

It’s weird how the look makes the film kind of timeless, especially now that we’ve reached the point where retro computing and video gaming are accepted for what they were and are even kind of cool. It’s old school, but not in a kitsch way. It screams 80s, but doesn’t feel dated. I am, admittedly, a bit of a retro electronics nerd. (I still have my old NES, for example.) So maybe I’m biased.

I feel like I shouldn’t have liked the movie. It was corny, the plot and dialogue were silly, the performances were pretty average, but I got sucked in. I liked it despite my reservations. It was the world. It was just cool.

The video game influences, the weird techno retro-future, the colors and designs. Now I wish I had seen this one when I was younger, because I think young Ashe would have absolutely adored it.

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