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Buena Vista / 96 Minutes / 1982 / Rated PG / Street Date: April 5, 2011
Growing up as I did in the early 80's, I was addicted to video games. Pac-Man, Defender, Dig Dug... you name it, I played it. And one of my all-time favorites was, of course, TRON. I still so much love that game that I even bought one - an honest-to-goodness, standup, big-time real one - at considerable cost. So it was with fond memories and high hopes that I decided to visit the movie world of TRON once again since way back in that glorious summer of 1982.
Perhaps it is hard to grasp today, but the idea of going into the world of a computer on film caused breathless excitement amongst science-fiction and computer geeks like myself the world over. Remember, at the time the idea of the personal computer in every home seemed like something out of 2001. Just to have a mere 64K of memory was a mind-boggling, mind-blowing proposition (and to think in terms of megabytes, forget it!) So, when Walt Disney announced TRON, it was heralded as a new era in moviemaking, the surefire blockbuster to end all surefire blockbusters. Or so it seemed...
Alas, time and history can be cruel. Although not a total flop, TRON was not the revolutionary force expected, and didn't come anywhere near to matching the box office might of a Star Wars, an E.T., or even a Poltergeist, which was its direct competition on opening day. This is somewhat of a shame, as seeing it yet again 20 years later (feel free to let your jaw drop, yes it has been that long), the experience is quite disarming. The film is still quite imaginative, lucid, stirring and visually striking, and yes, dated, cheesy, ham-handed and silly. The actors are all but overwhelmed by the visuals, the story is thin, and I'm not a fan of the influential musical score as much as most. But the film remains so beloved... why?
Perhaps because TRON, like so few films today, really had a vision of what it wanted to be and stands on its own as a weird work of techno-art. The combination of grainy B&W live action footage, extensive matting techniques, computer animation, rotoscoping, and traditional hand-drawn animation creates a surreal, lubricious tapestry. Add that goofy score, the overacting, and almost subversively sexual imagery, and get set to enter an artificial world that is one-of-a kind - both synthetic and organic. The scenes outside of the computer world still don't work - I maintain that the film seriously dulls its impact by revealing the computer world at all before the end of the first act - but who cares? When all is said and done, this movie is still pretty fucking cool, so long live TRON!