Tron (1982) & Tron: Legacy (2010)
My first encounter with this sci-fi classic and cinematic innovation Tron (1982) was when Homer Simpson found himself in a computer generated universe, a early treehouse of horror which has never left me, due in part due to the big departure and experimentation made from the traditional hand drawn animation of The Simpsons to C.G.I. was incredible, the same year as Toy Story (1995). I always wondered what Homer was going on about, something that only Chief Wiggum did too.
I next encountered Tron whilst watching a Pixar documentary which saw the progression of the small start-up company right through to Wall-E (2009). A small mention was made of this film from the eighties, my attention was reignited my interest in this film which I have finally caught. I knew already that both the dude Jeff Bridges and David Warner were somehow involved in this C.G.I. world that turned out to be a gaming universe created by Encom, with Ed Dillinger (Warner ) sitting at the top complete with a powerful computer system that responds to his voice. For the 1980’s this is impressive and as I realised quite prophetic in some-ways too. Learning that the Master Computer (Warner also) wants total control, especially when an independent program is being developed and a hacker/ex employee Flynn (Bridges) is trying to get hold of his files. You can already sense that a powerful man-made force is trying take over the company, something that even Dillinger is unsure of this move by a program that believes its experience alone makes it more powerful.
To stop the number one hacker getting into the system all level 7 people are locked out of the system, unable to develop games and programs, such as Alan Bradley’s (Bruce Boxleitner) new program Tron which runs independent of the master computer, an wanted threat. Whilst down below in the development centre we find Dr Walter Gibbs (Barnard Hughes) and Lora (Cindy Morgan) working on something that is out of this world, pure science fiction, transporting matter to replicate it in the digital world of the computer. I already was starting to put two and two together, but wasn’t sure how it would work out. Needing to get Flynn back into the building to take down the master computer. Now spending his time as one of the best players of computer games, wowing kids at his skills.
Once breaking into Encom with Lora and Alan the fun really begins for our heroes as soon enough we are transported into the world of video games. Having already had a few tasters of this world that looks dated to a modern audience, still having the power to spark the imagination even now at the possibilities of this world that sees humans in a virtual world for the first time. It does look clunky now, with the occasional Mickey Mouse moniker thrown in. We see our heroes move from the trials of the game, as a man who helped create this world turns against it to ensure it’s very freedom from the powerful Master Computer, who wants total control of it and players who have a belief system of the user.
A man made program fights for supremacy with figures from the outside world who gave it the power in the first place, and populating it. There is so much to consider in the new world that sees a milestone in film-making, made possible by Disney who have been known for pushing the visual boundaries for entertainment, making us wonder what if. Maintaining that we, the players of the games and in life are in control, not a higher power who wants our obedience. Leaning towards being agnostic at times, trying more to install a sense of self-assurance in ourselves to determine our destiny, be it in the real world of virtual.
Then what seems to come out of nowhere is a sequel, moving and updating the action to the 21st century. It wouldn’t have been Tron Legacy (2010) without Jeff Bridges returning as Kevin Flynn the first of many, many nods to the classic which are there in an updated more stunning form. It seems C.G.I. has caught up with the concept of Tron.
With the loss of the master computer in the original a new foe is needed for Kevin who we catch up with after first meeting his 27 year old son Sam (Garret Hedlund) who we learn was left in the care of his grandparents after Kevin left and never came back one night. There are many rumours to where he went, even suicide. Something that Alan Bradley never believed. Who after receiving a page, yes a page, he tell the son and head of Encom now releasing new software in a direction far from what Flynn ever dreamed of. Younger Flynn has gone of the rails in the years after loosing his father and eventually grandparents, living alone. Not the life we expected for the boy who was the son of a CEO of a tech company.
After some convincing and a bike rider later, Sam finds his dads old arcade which leads him to a world that is even beyond the imagination of the audience who remember the clunky C.G.I. of the early eighties. To find a polished world that could have easily come out of a PS3 game. This is one of the few films where I feel that C.G.I. is warranted free rein, being a computer game that has become so much more, steeped in history as we learn. Once again a Flynn is thrown into the arena of gaming, fighting for his life, which doesn’t last long once he meets Clu (Bridges) a younger version of Sam’s dad, having never aged. Something that visually doesn’t gel when we meet the real Kevin who lives off the grid, away from the world he created years ago.
With father and son reunited it’s time to understand the world we are in and its history, the whys and hows that make the film so deeply rooted with the original and not just a reboot, which it could easily have been, looking at the time gap between this and the original. Filling in the gap between where we left off and pick-up this film. It doesn’t feel like an excuse to make money (which is probably was) but as return to something that is loved and respected, and that’s what I get from this film, with all the flashy special effects, even the scary young Bridges who was shaved and made younger on the computer. With a funky techno soundtrack courtesy of Daft Punk who also put in an appearance as d.j.s fitting right into this ultra modern world. They have embraced Bridges persona into the film, with all the things that worked, updating others for a new audience who may have never seen the original, there is enough to enjoy just here.
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