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Logline: A computer hacker is transported into the digital world where he is forced to participate in gladiatorial games.

Review: Steven Lisberger’s Tron was released during a time when computers were still unfamiliar to people.  Using a computer with 2 Mega Bytes of memory, or 1/2000th capacity of the average PC, the filmmakers created something truly groundbreaking at the time.  A painstaking process to make, the film includes a mix of live action with backlit and computer animation.  There has never been a film that looks quite like Tron before or since its release.  Its visual language still works today and transports the viewer to another world.

Despite its cool visuals, there are various elements holding Tron back from being something truly great.  The narrative is weak particularly the story in “the real world.”  The story in the digital world presents some interesting ideas about the liberation of a society in which basic liberties, such as freedom of speech, are violated.  However, these ideas are not always well executed.  Save for Jeff Bridges’ Flynn, the characters are all pretty bland and the performances a little wooden.  The film’s namesake, a heroic security program is not as compelling as one would hope.  The film’s score was written by pioneer electronic musician Wendy Carlos.  The synthesizer infused music works well within the context of the film but feels dated even for 80s music.

Despite its shortcomings though, Tron is a fun film whose influence cannot be denied.  John Lasseter, one of the founding fathers of Disney’s Pixar studios, once said, “Without Tron, there would be no Toy Story.”  Toy Story was the first fully computer animated film and it was released about thirteen years after Tron.

One must give credit to Disney for financing an incredibly ambitious project.  The film was only a modest success but has gained a large cult following in the years since its release.  The film has been imitated and parodied in various forms over the years.  In 2010, a sequel entitled Tron: Legacy was released starring Garrett Hedlund and Jeff Bridges.  I have not seen the film yet but have heard positive things.

While certainly not for all tastes, Tron is worth watching for the visuals alone.  The lightcycle race and disc duel are particularly memorable scenes.  Nearly thirty-five years after its release, Tron still holds up remarkably well.

Rating (out of ****): ***

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