Thursday, June 18, 2009

Film Review: TRON (1982, Steven Lisberger)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 96 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Jeff Bridges, David Warner (TIME BANDITS, WAXWORK), Bruce Boxleitner (KENNY ROGERS AS THE GAMBLER, GODS AND GENERALS), Cindy Morgan (CADDYSHACK, MATLOCK), Peter Jurasik (ENEMY MINE), Dan Shor (Billy the Kid in BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, RED ROCK WEST), composer Wendy Carlos (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, THE SHINING).
Tag-lines: "A world inside the computer where man has never been. Never before now....Trapped inside an electronic arena, where love, and escape, do not compute!"
Best one-liner: "It's all in the wrists."

How to describe TRON?

The "Money for Nothing" music video


Perhaps a more apt analogy would be "THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI for the Atari generation," for this is pure circuit board, neon, pixelated expressionism. And it's not just a gimmick picture, either. It's a genuine attempt to look back at human oppression through history in order to see where our increasingly (and exponentially) mechanized human society just might be headed.

With allusions from Ancient Rome's Circus Maximus to the Spanish Inquisition to Orwell's 1984, we're entreated to a rich universe soaked in meta-history; and Wendy Carlos' synthesized New Age meets Switched-On Bach score is the perfect accompaniment to this 'you must know the past to know the future' sentiment. But it's also quite fanciful. It imagines that perhaps when you get the mundanely annoying "spinning wheel of death" or a frozen screen, your search engine (represented by a tank) is fighting off hordes of giant floating robots or something.

The acting is top-notch, as well. Fresh off of TIME BANDITS, David Warner is a rather convincing as Master Control (and as his human and computerized minions), which is sort of a Big Brother/Darth Vader hybrid with a touch of ALTERED STATES. Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner (!), exude likability, pathos and truly carry the film's human element.

With perfect doses of eye-candy, intellectualism that kids can grasp, action, and adventure, TRON is everything that THE BLACK HOLE wanted to be, but wasn't. Sadly, TRON suffered the same fate as that picture, however, and Disney didn't finance another 'live-action' flick for about ten years. But with subsequent popular reevaluation and a TRON 2.0 (with most of the original cast!) in the works for 2011, it seems that maybe it's succeeded after all. Four stars.

-Sean Gill

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