TRON movie review
What’s really going on?
The movie is about a company that’s being secretly run by an A.I. which eats other programs and keeps gaining functions and intelligence. Even the CEO of the company, Dillinger, is controlled by the A.I. called the Master Control Program (MCP). The MCP analyses the internal network of the company, Encom, as well as hacks into other companies’ networks, and government networks, even military networks for the US and the Russians. Think of the MCP as the grandfather of Skynet. The MCP keeps growing more each day. At times it reminded me of Colossus from the movie Colossus: The Forbin Project. The MCP can even talk, like Colossus can, in the later part of that movie.
One of the heroes of the movie is a hacker Flynn, who keeps sending programs he writes to try to infiltrate the company but they keep getting caught and deleted. Everything that we make happen in the real world through computers, has an analogical parallel in the world of computers. Alan, a programmer that still works at Encom is having problems at the company because the MCP confiscated his security clearance and he can no longer work on TRON, a security program that Alan created, which monitors internal and external network activities and transactions.
Flynn used to be one of the top hotshot programmers at Encom but Dillinger canned him after he screwed him over, stealing the copyright to arcade hits that Flynn authored, but Dillinger put his name on. Ever since then Flynn has been trying to hack into the Encom network to try to get the original source code for his games that show his signature on the code, as well as any other dirt on Dillinger.
After getting his access suspended Alan goes to see his girlfriend Lora, which happens to be Flynn’s exgf. Alan tells her how Dillinger (nobody knows the MCP is running Encom, except Dillinger) suspended his security access, crippling his work. Lora convinces Alan for them to go talk to Flynn because he would be able to do more damage from the inside of the corporate HQ as opposed to dialing in through a dial up modem to try to hack the network. Flynn, despite having written many arcade games which made Encom a megacorp, runs his own arcade. After Flynn explains how Dillinger screwed him, he gives Lora and Alan the idea for them to sneak him into the Encom building so that he can forge a new security ID and retrieve the data that would prove Flynn is the original author of those games, as well as would get Dillinger thrown out of the company.
Dillinger is enough of an asshole that you see him arguing with Walter, one of the original founders of the company. The argument ends with Walter saying that “sometimes I wish I were back in my garage”, where he was when the movie was a start-up. Dillinger replies “That can be arranged, Walter” and “Don’t worry about Encom anymore. It’s out of your hands now.”
Lora and Walter both work in a department for Encom that has been developing digitalization. Basically, digitalization entails using a special beam, a laser, which translates matter into data. This kind of technology would allow near instant global travel and shipping. Think about it. Even back then you could call places internationally. Imagine how this would allow global teleportation over the speed of the internet.
Lora sets Flynn up to do his hacking in her workplace, which happens to be in front of the digitizing laser. The MCP tries to dissuade Flynn from his hacking but Flynn just laughs at him. “Remember the time we used to spend playing chess together?” The MCP threatens Flynn that he’s going to put him on “the game grid” buy Flynn laughs again. That is when the MCP fires the digitizing laser and turn Flynn (a user, a god in the computer world) into data in the computer world. See, all the things that get digitized appear into the computer world that I mentioned is paralleled to actions by computers and electronics earlier. This is when the movie starts.
Concepts that will help you understand this movie better:
Users, in other words US, are gods to programs. Programs look like avatars of their authors or users, depending on the story of the movie or whoever uses them the most or has influence on them. The last part I believe the most as a theory, since the Users are their deities. It’s also illegal on the network of the MCP to worship Users.
Video games are all gladiatorial battles for survival. They can represent playing actual video games on this world and forcing programs and pixels to die for us, as well as program battles between different pieces of code trying to delete each other or hack each other across different computer systems. I believe that most programs killed in the video games get absorbed by the MCP.
There’s a religious war and a guerilla war happening inside the Encom network. Believers in the Users are all sent to die in the video game arenas. Non-MCP-approved programs that have been caught spying around are also sent to die in the arenas.
When program die (get deresed [deresolution]) they stop existing, either becoming part of the MCP if they were killed by it or they break apart, freeing up the resources that made them up, releasing energy in the computer world. In the real world, such a death would be freeing up storage capacity (whether floppies, tape drive, or hard drive space, considering that this movie takes place in the 80s) as well as RAM for local systems where they ran and processing power.
Of electronic music fame and even more so for the soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange, Wendy Carlos created an even more unique soundtrack for TRON.
Here is one of my favorite songs from the movie, Sea of Simulation:
The soundtrack is both tenseful and sounds very electronic, which goes along great with the unique atmosphere of the movie and the TRON universe. I loved the soundtrack enough that I bought the original CD for it.
Although TRON came out during the same year as Blade Runner, this movie was the most advanced movie to have pure computer generated visual effects. The feel of the movie is completely unique.
To explain the wonder of how they created this world, I would recommend reading the wikipedia entry.
How the world saw it and its effect:
Many critics did not understand this movie. The typical movie goer did not understand it either. There’s even a joke in an episode of the Simpsons where Homer shifts into a 3D world where stuff looks like TRON. They ask him what it’s like and he says “Has anybody seen TRON?” Nobody understood what he was talking about.
Many techs and science fiction fans did however get the movie back then and as the movie gets older, it’s easier for us to understand it even more because unlike most sci-fi movies, which usually age badly, TRON gets more realistic as time goes on. Sure, the technology might be primitive but most of the concepts of what’s going on in relation of the computer world to the real world make perfect sense today.
Although I didn’t see this movie until around 1988-1989, and I had already considerable interest in computers, this movie further cemented that passion. This has happened to many of my computer friends. This similar like of the film and its vision of the future/present was even shared by avid sci-fi fans that are not necessarily computer people.
Flynn is played by Jeff Bridges. He does a great role, playing a much more smartass version of what would later be “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski but with a geeky, hotshot twist to his character.
TRON/Alan is Bruce Boxleitner. He does a great job, especially as TRON. He’s a dedicated warrior on a mission to take down the MCP on the orders from his User Alan. What’s interesting is that Bruce Boxleitner was later Captain Sheridan in Babylon 5, along with Peter Jurasik, which was Crom in TRON, one of the gladiators that Flynn has to duel against. Peter Jurasik is one of my favorite actors of all time, especially for his role in Babylon 5 for his role as Ambassador Londo Mollari. J. Michael Straczynski must have been a big fan of TRON.
David Warner plays the roles of Dillinger, Sark (the lieutenant of the MCP), and the voice of the MCP. He does such an amazing job, especially as Sark. Many scenes in the movie are pretty powerful, especially when things go wrong for Sark and he gets angry and violent. The look of rage in his eyes is really well captured. David Warner has been in a lot of movies and even does voices for cartoons (such as in Batman’s Raz Al Ghul).
Cindy Morgan plays the role of Lora/Yori. Cindy Morgan is just so yummy. Thinking of her as either the geeky Lora in those nerd glasses, coding away, designing lasershas been like my doom, as that would be my ideal girlfriend/soulmate. She even looks super cute with her hair covered as Yori, and a girl without some hair is usually a deal breaker for me. Just thinking of her makes me want to make nerd babies with a Lora/Yori/Cindy Morgan clone! Anyways…
Dan Shor plays a most memorable Ram. Ram is just a poor program which somehow wound up in the Encom network, probably kidnapped by the efforts of the MCP. Originally, he was an accounting program for an insurance company. He’s skinny, and weak, and a really nice guy. Dan Shor does such a good job portraying the best character in the movie.
Tron 2.0 and Tron Legacy:
Although the sequel to TRON, Tron Legacy is coming out near the holidays this 2010, in 2003 a really great FPS game came out on computer by the name of Tron 2.0. See, I was never expecting anything like Tron Legacy to happen, especially since I read years ago that some people in Disney were bitter about having paid to get TRON made. However, Tron 2.0 was made and that was even better than TRON!
I’m sure that the movie studios will just ignore the existence of Tron 2.0, although based on the latest teaser trailer, it does seem to take a bit from it.
I will try to find my original copy of Tron 2.0 and put out a review for you guys. The game is extremely hard to find these days. It’s been out of print for a while and even the pirated version is impossible to get. If you have it, consider its value. If you know somebody that has it, I urge you to play it!
The teaser trailer for Tron Legacy is the following:
The original trailer is better, I think. Click here, since the embedding is disabled, to see it.
Based on the trailers, the main character is probably Flynn’s kid, and Flynn which has been “dead for years” is now the new MCP. Who knows how time differentiates on the computer world vs the real world. Oh yeah, Wendy Carlos is out for this one, Daft Punk is in. Although I like the music of Wendy Carlos, the Daft Punk sound might fit in well, especially since they are probably fans of the original film.
TRON is a milestone sci-fi computer movie. The franchise is coming back to life in the era of District 9 and Avatar. I always think that times of recession are great times for science fiction and horror. Sci-fi makes people think about problems other than their real lives. Horror has the violence that people crave in times of trouble. But enough of my theories… go watch the movie. And look below for some pictures from the movie!
Pictures from TRON: