This is a question I posed to myself while watching through the original Tron movie yesterday. I’m not sure if I had seen the whole film before watching the film, as certain things I didn’t seem to recall. I have seen bits and pieces of this film beforehand, but this was my first real time sitting through the entire film. So… What did I think of it? Well, it was okay.
That’s the short answer, the long answer is that I’m divided on what I really thought of this film. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Tron is a cult-classic 80s film. It was made by Disney and featured Jeff Bridges in the leading role, and was based off an arcade game released to coincide with the film. I guess you could say that the Tron franchise was one of the first multimedia franchises ever!
The film revolved around a young programmed named Kevin Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges) being sucked into a computer world after attempting to hack a database in order to get back some important data. From there, Kevin gets captured by a rogue control program called the MCP, and has to deal with his lacky Sark. On top of this, Kevin also has to deal with an army of opposing programs, and get back to the real world.
Now, that seems like a lot to pack into one film. Sure, it’s only a few sub-plots, but they seem substantial enough to warrant a fairly long run-time. Surprisingly, Tron is only about 90 minutes long. That’s a pretty short film for such a extensive plot! Due to the film’s short length, it ends up making the plot feel rushed.
As soon as Kevin enters the computer world, everything going on in the real world becomes superfluous. We don’t revisit the real world until the last few minutes of the film, and it’s really just to wrap things up. Stuff just kind of happens in this film, sometimes with little explanation. A lot of stuff that happens in the computer world is not fleshed out at all. For example, there’s a part where Flynn and his new allies drink a strange kind of virtual water inside this computer world. What is the water? Where did it come from? Why do programs need to drink it? None of this is ever explained.
Another example is this part where they show these weird computer bugs, and one character warns not to go near them. These bug things are never seen or mentioned again, and are heroes never encounter them. Why bring up a potential threat for our heroes and not really do anything with it? Now, do I think the story and is terrible? It’s shoddy at times, but it definitely is enjoyable.
Characters work off each other really well and the acting is top-notch. The first 30 minutes spent in the real world (despite its superfluous nature) are actually really well-written. It’s just when our heroes enter the computer world is when things start to lose steam. Speaking of the computer world, the next part of the film I found to be divisive was how it looked.
Tron’s most unique aspect at the time was that it was one of the first films ever to use CGI. Tron used a bizarre mixture of several different special effects and animation styles in order to create a world that felt diverse. Unfortunately, these sequences look horribly dated. I noticed on Netflix that the film had a 1 and a half star as its rating, which may be influenced mostly by how it looks.
The CGI is horribly dated, and looks amateurish by today’s standards. I can kind of forgive that, mostly due to this being a very early attempt at such a style. However, I have to say that the 2D sequences weren’t implemented that well into the structure of this world. The constant use of different styles and effects made this move feel more like an experimental film than anything else.
To be fair, this film was an experiment. It was an attempt to craft a world that felt like it was inside a computer, and even depicted computer games as a gladiatorial death-match. Other series like Reboot feel like they borrowed a lot from Tron, and to this day it remains wholly unique.
The thing is that Tron just does not look good by today’s standards, and the plot is just riddled with holes and lacks explanations for a lot of its mechanics. Tron has good characters, but fails to expand most of them. While some things about this film I find pretty cool, (like how every computer program is played by the same actor who created them in-universe) it just lacked so much attention to detail.
Now, do I think Legacy is better? In some ways, I certainly do. Legacy has better effects, a more well-designed world, better action sequences, and a far better soundtrack. Behind all of Legacy’s fancy effects and amazing soundtrack, is a film with fairly stale characters and a somewhat bland and formulaic plot. While the original Tron’s plot had a lot wrong with it, you could still get a fair bit of enjoyment out of it.
So, in the end, I’m divided on Tron. Maybe I’m just spoiled by modern film and television, but I find it so difficult to get behind this film. I guess I just prefer Tron: Uprising, and how fleshed out its world felt when compared to this film. Still, Tron is something to behold for people who have never seen it. Still, it’s impressive for the era, not so much now. One last thing I want to mention before heading out: Why were they wearing togas? No, seriously! Half the characters had togas over their computer suits, is the inside of the computer based on Greece or something? I just don’t get it!