Revisiting 1982 – TRON

It is time for the eighth entry in my year-long series in which I revisit some of the most classic films to be released 30 years ago in the year 1982 (the year of my birth).

This month I will be discussing a film that was, at the time, revolutionary for its use of computer-generated imagery – TRON.  As always, there may be SPOILERS during this discussion.

Let’s begin.

I suppose the best way to begin a discussion of TRON is the film’s defining feature, which is the heavy use of early CGI graphics.  I would have to say that at least 75% of the film is computer generated. While a heavy use of CGI is a normal occurrence today, as demonstrated by films such as Avatar, it was completely unheard of in 1982 and I am assuming audiences were awestruck.

However, watching the film today, it is dated as hell.  In fact, the CGI graphics in TRON looks closer to traditional animation in comparison to the CGI graphics of today.  Also, it’s very jarring that the actors are pseudo-rotoscoped into the action.  It was definitely not a film that aged well.

The film has a very simple plot, a hacker named Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is zapped into “the game grid” and must stop the evil Master Control Program and find his way back.  He is assisted in this task by two programs, based on characters in the real world – Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) and Yori (Cindy Morgan).

A common misconception that I used to have about the film was that “Tron” was the name of the world instead of one of the central characters of the film.  While Jeff Bridges gets top billing, it is Boxleitner’s Tron, who is the real hero of the film.  It’s almost a shame that the character gets a greatly reduced role in the film’s sequel TRON: Legacy.

Speaking of the sequel, I find that it was amazing that film that I considered a so-so sci-fi film would become much more epic once the technology caught up with the idea.  TRON: Legacy was one of my favourite films of 2010 and it was much more spectacular in its use of CGI.  It’s amazing what a difference 30 years makes.

I usually talk about specific plot details in these posts, but I can’t really find much to talk about with TRON.  It’s a very generic science fiction plot and the film and the film ends rather suddenly with Flynn having taken over the computer company ENCOM, after proving that he was the one that designed their hit game.  The film ends with Flynn coming out of a helicopter and doesn’t offer too much closure.  In fact, TRON: Legacy has to create additional backstory, involving Flynn’s subsequent disappearance, in order for their to be enough material for a sequel.

Next month, I will be discussing one of the classic teen comedies – Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).