This is part of my #21ScifiMovie Project where I watch 21 science fiction movies in 21 days – and write about it (and what do you do on your vacation?)
You can find the whole list here.
Tron is from 1982. I’ve seen the movie before in German and in English. There is a sequel from 2010. And an animated series Tron: Uprising from 2012, which I highly recommend. And I remember playing a game on my Commodore 64 that was inspired by the light cycle game in the movie.
The movie on Wikipedia and IMDB.
Not-A-Review in one Sentence
Deservedly a classic – which I watched with a mix of fresh admiration and fond memories.
Not-A-Review in a Haiku
A system, once free, now imprisoned
Friends, bravely seeking truth
Scenes of white, black and electric blue
A Thought On: Watching a movie every day – and writing about it
This is the fifth movie I watched (spanning about five decades of film history so far) and am writing about. And I begin to notice something changing in how I watch and perceive these films.
- Watching films with the intent of writing about them, I watch more closely, more consciously.
- Having written about a movie, it stays stronger in my mind.
- Having clearer memories of the different movies, I’m better able to compare and contrast, to spot patterns I otherwise wouldn’t.
A very interesting experiment.
A Thought On: Tron and Cyberpunk
Tron was released in 1982, being worked on in one way or other since 1976. William Gibson’s Neuromancer – which is often considered as the archetypal cyberpunk novel – was published in 1984. Cyberpunk itself is rooted in the New Wave science fiction of the 1960s and 70s. Cyberpunk generally depicts a dirtier, grittier world than Tron does.
Tron is sometimes cited a Cyberpunk movie, probably because of the depiction of the inside of a computer or computer network as a kind of “datascape” which you can travel in and interact with; the visualization of abstract information and processes as objects and avatars. In my view, that is confusing style with substance. There’s a certain way in which cyberpunk views the world and its (anti)heroes. And Tron does not. Or rather, we don’t really get the chance to see the wider world and society outside Flynn’s arcade and Encom’s headquarters.
I think Tron is different from Cyberpunk, but related to it. Like gorillas and orangutans, they belong to the same family, but are different species.
A Thought On: Intertextuality and references
This was the first time I noticed the sign in Alan Bradley’s cubicle. It reads “GORT, KLAATU BARADA NIKTO.” Which was complete gibberish to me, so I googled it. And wow, this is where it gets good: It’s a phrase from The Day The Earth Stood Still. Reading it spoiled the ending of that movie a bit, but it was worth it.
Why? Because, a): How cool to have such a reference at all? And because, second, if you know the meaning of the phrase, it develops the character of Alan a lot. In several ways: he’s definitely a geek; and he really believes in his work since this phrase is the failsafe that prevents humanity from being destroyed.
I really wish more references would work that way. Most other references in movies and TV series to other media I remember just serve to make a joke or to establish the geekiness or quirkiness of a character. I can’t remember a single one where it served to shine a light on the values of a character. If you do, please put it in the comments. I’m curious.
A Thought On: Pacing, character & plot
First of all, I can’t shake the feeling that the actors all had tremendous fun doing this film. Nothing I can really point to, just a feeling 🙂
The plot is rather simple, but serves its purpose. It’s mostly chasing a macguffin and using it to defeat the villain.
But what surprised me in a good way is that the pacing still works – very much in contrast with Death Race 2000 or Spaceballs. It’s a bit slower than a modern summer blockbuster, but in general, it’s tight. Very few lingering shots of people getting from A to B or working out responses. Virtually every scene has a purpose, be it advancing the plot, showing character and/or their relationships, building back story, or establishing atmosphere.
What I really never noticed before are the characters and their relationships, especially their easy chemistry. Jeff Bridges does a superb job of being playful and brilliant as Flynn. Bruce Boxleitner actually plays Alan Bradley and Tron as different characters – and so does everyone else.
What impressed me most is the relationship between Flynn and Dr. Lora Baines: I really could believe that Flynn and Lora were an item once and that they separated on friendly terms. There’s such an easy quality to their interactions.
Side note: all characters in the physical world – villain and heroes alike – are nerds. Or at least programmers and/or scientists.
A Thought On: Familiar faces
And there were so many familiar faces (and voices):
- Bruce Boxleitner. And easy one. I watched Scarecrow and Mrs. King as a teenager (called Agentin mit Herz in German. Literally: female spy with a heart/courage). And, much more important for my nerd cred, Babylon 5.
- Jeff Bridges. Even easier, since the man has been on the big screen since 1951.
- Peter Jurasik. It’s the first time I’ve recognized him.Which is strange, because I find his Londo Mollari on Babylon 5 such an intriguing character.
- David Warner. I’ve got to admit, I couldn’t place him. His face and voice were familiar, but I had to look up who he was. And then it hit me. By the stars, that man really has an incredible acting career.
Look him up. He’s been involved with Star Trek , with Batman: The Animated Series, Lois & Clark, Babylon 5 and more movies than I care to shake a stick at. I rediscovered him recently at Big Finish. There he voices The Doctor from an alternate universe. And that man has an incredible voice.
- Dan Shor. Okay, I admit, this one I only caught because I looked up the actors on Wikipedia. The only thing standing out geek-wise is his role as Billy The Kid in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Oh, and he had roles on two Star Trek series and The X Files.
- Cindy Morgan (Dr. Baines and Yori) is sadly not a familiar face. Which is a shame, because I really liked her.
A Thought On: Sound & visuals
Tron is famous for being the first feature movie to really use computer generated imagery. And it is the only feature film ever produced with backlit animation. And it certainly has a unique visual style that never really has been repeated. (Oh, and Moebius was part of the design team.)
The computer generated images are relatively simple and geometric, but that only serves to highlight the differences between the physical and the virtual world. But it works.
Something that I did not really notice on my earlier viewings is the sound. There are so much background sound and sound effects that accompany certain movements and actions – it really helps to flesh out the world inside the computer. And it is really mind-boggling when you think about the amount of work that had to go into this. Cudos.
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