A cat I work with wanted to see the original Tron before the mega budgeted 3D enabled Disney epic gets released but he can’t find a copy of it anywhere. The word on the street is that Disney pulled this movie from the shelves because apparently some test audiences they presented it to were, shall we say, less than impressed and thus they felt any negative word of mouth shunted towards the original would affect the bottom line of the 300 million dollar belated sequel. 300 million dollars. They sure do drop a lot of coin on these things nowadays. Fortunately for this guy I happen to own the 20th Anniversary Tron collector’s edition DVD, which I let him borrow. In retrospect I really shouldn’t have done this since I see some clown on Amazon Marketplace is selling his copy of this movie for 500 dollars. Seriously dude? I will gladly let mine go for 450. The thing is I don’t even know why I even own this DVD since I don’t remember seeing Tron back in 1982. I know I did see it, but I do not remember one single thing about this movie outside of the fact that it takes place in a videogame, and after revisiting it, even that’s not entirely true. However I have revisited Tron, interested to see how the new and old films will relate to each other, and while I’m glad I saw it again, which felt like the first time to be honest, I can see why Disney might’ve waited almost thirty years to release ‘Tron 2’.
Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is one perm sporting, arcade owning disgruntled ex-employee of the Mega Soft Corporation. I can’t remember the name of the company even though I just saw this movie like an hour ago. Anyway, Kevin in his spare time made the most successful video game ever but his evil boss Ed Dillinger (David Warner) stole his work and has prospered mightily from it. Now Kevin spends his days trying to hack into Mega Soft’s network to find evidence that proves his work was stolen. A couple of things here. I don’t know how it worked in ’82 but today if you create something on a company’s hardware, then the company owns whatever you created. Also, what kind of idiot would park information incriminating him on his company’s server? Delete brother, delete.
Dillinger has his own issues in that the program that runs Mega Soft, Master Control Program, has become self-aware and thinks he can do things better. This is never a good thing. Eventually we will meet super smart programmer Allan Bradley (Bruce
Boxleitner) who has created a monitoring program called Tron, a program which doesn’t make MCP very happy considering the MCP is into all kinds of devilment, and we will also meet Allan’s lady love Lora (Cindy Morgan) who has just created a device which digitizes stuff and rematerializes this stuff somewhere else. Oddly enough this little device will play a significant part in what happens next. Go figure.
So these three break into Mega Corp to get some info, Flynn starts hacking away to get his incriminating evidence, MCP asks him to stop and when he doesn’t it digitizes his ass right into his realm of the circuit board and ‘Tron’ becomes what made it like no other movie ever created. While at the same time being like almost every other movie ever created. That is the magic of ‘Tron’.
In 1982 ‘Tron’ was a miserable commercial failure even though Disney doubled the budget in box office receipts, but they expected so much more. Still, I found this perceived failure odd considering how evolutionary it was at the time. But when I mentioned to another friend that I was going to sit down and watch it ‘Tron’ again, he curled up his lip and sneered with ‘it sucked’. When I asked him why it sucked to him way back in 1982, he told me when he went to see this movie back in the day he was expecting something like Star Wars and he didn’t get Star Wars. So there you go, in the early 80’s folks wanted to see variations of Star Wars and that certainly wasn’t this movie.
What ‘Tron’ turned out to be was a technical tour de force, admittedly dated by today’s standards, but still a technical marvel bracketed by one of the more mundane and benign narratives you’ll ever want to experience. It wasn’t that the story of Flynn, Tron and the spunky chick attempting to bring down MCP was terrible, it’s just that it was so very run of the mill compared to the relatively amazing visuals that were accompanying it.
Another thing that might’ve affected the audiences affection to this movie back in 1982 was that this movie could’ve been too technical for its own good. Today, considering how computer literate even three year olds are right about now, the techy talk probably wouldn’t have been an issue, but back in 1982 all of this tech talk and programming double speak might’ve went over the audiences head a little bit. I’m just guessing though. Maybe this movies perceived failure is as simple as ‘It wasn’t Star Wars’.
But personally I have a soft spot for the original Tron. The light cycles, the super Frisbees, Jeff Bridges curly perm, Cindy Morgan’s super snug data crunching outfit. Seriously, what is ‘The Matrix’ except Tron on steroids? All these movies we're seeing now… at best they might be evolutionary. This one here was revolutionary. The same rules apply of course as any good movie should be deeply rooted in story and character with Tron coming up a little short on both of those, but this is still a movie that changed the game and one I’m glad I own. Unless somebody wants to seriously give me 450 bucks for my gently used DVD copy. I’m listening.