Arguably the most experimental movie ever given the green-light by a major studio, Tron was a true milestone in movie special effects, paving the way for every film with a computer-animated or CGI component.
It’s incredible to think that the groundbreaking effects were executed on a computer with just 330mb of storage and a mere 2mb of memory!
Its ambition is inestimable and its visual style incomparable – there is literally nothing else like it on the planet.
Unfortunately, the groundbreaking, envelope-pushing special effects served a fairly standard anti-authoritarian narrative.
Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a video-game programmer who becomes a prisoner in a computerised world where survival rests on his mastery of deadly electronic games.
Flynn’s designs had been stolen by the underhanded schemer Ed Dillinger (David Warner) who used the stolen designs to make a fortune for the computer corporation Encom, ascending to the position of Senior Executive.
Flynn now works as an arcade owner, spending his off-hours trying to hack into Encom’s files to prove Dillinger’s guilt.
In every attempt, Flynn is thwarted by the Master Control Program, or MCP (also voiced by Warner), a sentient program with designs on world domination. Flynn teams up with Encom employees Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) and Lora (Cindy Morgan) to break into Encom and tap into the MCP.
In doing so, Flynn is zapped by a special ray, separated into individual molecules, and sucked into the world of the computer.
Inside the computer, the MCP rules, with Sark (Warner again) as its chief lieutenant. Flynn is sent into gladiatorial combat, facing off against computerised opponents in a video-game-like setting.
Among the gladiators is a program called Tron (Boxleitner again), created by Alan to defeat the MCP.
The two join up with a program called RAM and Tron’s “girlfriend” Yori (Cindy Morgan again), break out during a light cycle competition and mount a quest to communicate with Tron’s “User”, Alan-1, at the I/O port.
With the information gained from Alan-1, Tron and company set out to defeat Sark and the dreaded MCP itself, restoring balance to both the digital and fleshy worlds.
This was the first cyberspace movie, and even beat William Gibson to the punch as far as exploring the concept of physically entering a computer-generated environment. Tron proved that Disney could do more than make cartoons about fairy tales and talking mice.
It also briefly revived Disneyland’s antique Tomorrowland ride, ‘The People Mover’, by adding a journey into Tron’s Game Grid, where a room-sized curved screen projected scenes from the movie all around you.
Dr Walter Gibbs