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Review #212, Movie #283

Year Of Release

Steven Lisberger

Donald Kushner

Steven Lisberger, Bonnie MacBird

Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan and Bernard Hughes

Inspired by, of all things, the videogame Pong, writer/director Lisberger envisioned a world that incorporated videogames and real life and he initially made a 30 second animation of the character TRON based on the ideas that were in his head.

Another thing that spurned Lisberger on was that games and films were separated by the cliquey nature of the fans. A modern day equivalent is the difference between Xbox and Playstation users. Lisberger wanted to bridge the gap between the two factions and create something that both could appreciate.

After the short animation Lisberger created was met with praise though, the idea of animating the film was dropped in place of using cutting edge FX and filming techniques for a live action film crossed with computer animation and rotoscoping, eventually leading to Disney getting involved due to their high budgets, and Disney then had input into the script.

In a move that mirrored the story of the film though, Lisberger and his producer and friend Donald Kushner were both given a cold reception by Disney because they weren’t part of Disney’s own closed group, yet the two filmmakers still obviously wanted to have maximum input into the creative side of things, seeing as it was their baby in the first place, rather much like the way the “Master Control Program” in the film reacts to Flynn and TRON.

TRON is a shortened, stylised version, of the word Electronic.

The computer (yes, computer, not computers) used to put the effects together for the backgrounds in the film and some of the other animated effects like the Lightcycle sequences, had only 2MB of RAM and only 330MB of storage. My near-10-year-old phone has more than that!

This lack of computing power caused a catchphrase among the animators: “If in doubt, black it out”… which is why a number of backgrounds are simply black with only slivers of colour around them.


Kevin Flynn, a computer games designer and computer genius at ENCOM, has been slighted by a co-worker called Ed Dillinger.
Dillinger stole a number of Flynn’s game programs and passed them off as his own and in the process he got promoted… and then fired Flynn.
Flynn has been working hard to hack into the Master Control Program (MCP) to find his files and bring justice to Dillinger for Plagiarism and Theft. But the MCP is a cunning Artificial Intelligence that is locked into almost every aspect of ENCOM’s database and stops Flynn at every turn. So Flynn makes another move and sneaks into the building to use a computer inside….

… and using cutting edge Laser Transportation Technology developed by ENCOM, the MCP “beams” Flynn directly into a digitized world called The Grid, that is run by the tyrannical MCP and it’s second in command called SARK…

Absolute Classic.

TRON has a number of faults if you compare it by modern day sci-fi… yet for all its faults TRON has one thing that makes it stand out.


What the viewer is treated to, is a first of its kind computerized world within a world and it never lets up in original and clever ideas that are incorporated throughout. Anything from glowing energy that programs consume like water, Lightcycles (motorbikes) that are used in death-race style games, or the very idea of having to wear particularly snazzy outfits with memory discs attached that double as weapons.

Then there’s the idea of the world itself. The Grid is basically the Granddaddy of the modern, real life, RPG game and is filled with incredible detail for history.

What makes the whole thing tie together though, is the idea behind the programs within the digital world looking physically like their Creators (Creators are known as “Users” inside The Grid).
It allows Flynn to interact with them without them getting suspicious. It means that the cast seen at the start of the film are utilized within the digital realm and allows the audience to connect with their humour, plight and tragedy and allows the audience to really get behind the characters in their quest.

Which brings me to the acting.
Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn (seen at the start as the program he created called “CLU”)… perfect choice.
Jeff has played the sci-fi and fantasy thing a few times, Starman, King Kong… but here as the computer genius with a bit of muscle to back up the brain, he really hits the nail on the head. He makes for a great, yet fallible hero with the difference of actually being a normal guy.

Bruce Boxleitner plays Alan Bradley, and also the titular TRON. A Security Program that teams up with Flynn. TRON is basically a Warrior… the modern equivalent is an Anti-Virus…
Bruce is fantastic in the part. He plays two very different “people” when he’s seen as Alan, then as TRON.

David Warner also makes a great showing as Dillinger and as SARK… he’s basically the same in both roles, but his natural talent for being stony-faced and slimy but also pathetically weak is perfect for the thief/plagiarist and second in command to the MCP.

Back up comes from Cindy Morgan, Bernard Hughes and Dan Shor, all of whom play dual characters.
Cindy Morgan in particular plays a love triangle between Flynn and Alan… and also Flynn and TRON which makes an interesting dynamic.

The effects and action though… wow.
Cut backs as I mentioned with the lack of computing power don’t actually make much of an impact. The film is stylized almost to perfection… a fault maybe is that lack of background visual detail is a problem, but it gives the digital world a great edge over other films through sheer style.
The action also rewrote the rulebook… all I’m saying is Lightcycles.
Exciting choreographically, brilliant when it comes to the fact that you care about the characters who are in peril… fantastically original in terms of the “games” that are played and filled with some iconic, and I don’t say “iconic” very often, but yes, iconic visuals.

There’s also a cracking digitized soundtrack backing it all up that throws you into the world you’re witnessing.


All in all, the original, original, and I’ll say it again, an iconic movie that blazed a path for modern sci-fi movies, modern movie effects and also computer gaming.

Great acting, exciting action, funny, tragic at times and filled with brilliant ideas and little snips of tech that was and still is, years ahead of its time.

My rating: 100%