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Re:tro Re:view – Tron!

Disc Jockey Jondee here at the Grid,

Tron marquee outside of the El Capitan Theatre on August 10th, photo by the author.

Greetings, programs! Tron came at an unusual time for me, one computers were put together machines that you programmed in BASIC, then there was the Apple. Plus, it was the height of arcades, every mall had one, wall to wall arcade games; Centipede and Robotron 2084.  Simple games with minimal graphics. Then, came Tron. It literally put you inside of a video game, not a console with graphics on a screen, you were inside the neon splattered world. It predated many things; Tron came out in 1982, Neuromancer was published two years later, and The Matrix was 17 years later! Surprisingly, Tron was not even nominated for special effects since the Academy was confused about them. It came out in a difficult time since the box office was dominated by Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Tron was a failure, but it’s trail blazing caught on with video tapes and re-runs until it gained a small following that filled the theater at the El Capitan last night for Throwback Thursday alongside it’s sequel Tron: Legacy (2010). There was also an animated series Tron: Uprising (executive produced by Once’s Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who also wrote the pilot).

Thursday’s showing of Tron also had some special guests including the director, Steven Lisberger, Bill Kroyer, who worked on the visual effects of the film and especially the Light Cycle scene, and Tron himself, Bruce Boxleitner. On the film’s forward thinking, Linsberger joked, “Did Elon Musk think of the light cycle?” Boxteitner told stories about how he became familiar with the frisbee, but haven’t touched one since the movie. Then, they screened the movie. The movie’s logo is pierced so we get a digitized world of data clouds and streams that so resolves into a night city landscape. Also, I have to note the surreal synthesizer score by Wendy Carlos is brilliant and got a cheer from the audience. This moves to Flynn’s arcade where we see a player put in a coin to play a maze game of Lightcycle. It moves into the screen where we see the video game world. The vehicle designs smack of Syd Mead. It is thrilling to see it on the ground level with the Sark (David Warner) easily taking down the player. Warner was known for his villain roles, this, and Evil in Time Bandits (1981), but also Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country (1991). There is elegance in his performance, but also bravery in delivering eccentric lines. Again, this scene made we think what is behind all of the circuits and other things.

He enters a platform that seals around him to form the Master Control Program (the MCP). Who has a new challenge for Sark. A new program is brought by guards to the cell, Crom, played by Peter Jurasik who was later Londo Mollari in Babylon 5 (which also starred Boxleitner). Then, we get back to the real world with Kevin Flynn, with Jeff Bridges giving all of the swagger of a master hacker (before the term became used). Bridges is of course a genre treasure with Obadiah Stane in Iron Man (2008), now in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and of course revisiting the Flynn role in Tron: Legacy. Flynn’s typing becomes dialogue with his program, CLU (Codified Likeness Utility) also played by Bridges so we know the Program/User counterpart. His light tank is threatened by hordes of Recognizers, giant, flying vehicles that reminded me of paper clips. The system security program captures CLU and he is thrown onto a wall to be tortured by the MCP. Then, he is de-rezzed, shredded digitally piece by piece.

Tron Throwback Thursday poster at the El Capitan, photo by the author.

The MCP asks for Dillinger and we get a shift to the real world with Dillinger’s helicopter landing on the Encom building’s roof. I like the glow panels on the helicopter to make it like a thing out of the Tron world. Dillinger walks into his office to type in his access to the MCP, really the coolest desk ever made, and then talks to Master C (the MCP’s hip hop name?). It suspects Flynn is trying to hack into it’s files. Dillinger closes access to the system to stop Flynn. Within Encom is programmer, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), in glasses, but that doesn’t Superman-hide Boxleitner’s heroism. He is trying to develop his Tron program which will monitor systems. Alan complains to Dillinger about theshut down and is told about the security concerns. At the lab, two scientists are working, Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan) and Walter Gibbs (Barnard Hughes). They are all doctors which predates the Big Bang Theory by 25 years! Morgan also has a dual role with Lora’s counterpart, Yori. It is a fun part, no identity disc slinging, but Cindy Morgan is a missing part of the sequel. Walter is one of the founders of Encom. Hughes also plays Dumont, the Alice in Wonderland-like Caterpillar guardian of the I/O Tower. This is the conduit that allows Programs to contact their Users.

The test, a de-rezzing laser, the Shiva laser, to transfer a living organism, an orange, into data. Basically, a transporter out of Star Trek, it is a success, and they are joined by Alan. Lora and Alan are a couple and she takes them to Flynn’s arcade to warn him. There’s some great chemistry between this trio. They sneak into Encom, love Bridges’ line about the door, and Lora sets up Flynn at her work station. The MCP uses the Shiva laser to bring Flynn to fight in the video game arenas. The cinematography is impressive, since skin tones are rendered in gray while patterns on the armor are glowing blue (for the video warriors) and red (for the bad guys). Flynn is taken to a cell where he meets Ram played by Dan Shor who has guested on many tv series. Ram explains that the MCP is using the memory from useful programs and the rest are sent to the arenas. Sark explains the games on his carrier. Flynn faces Crom in the disc warrior game, but refuses to finish him off. Then, Flynn is grouped with Ram and Tron to fight in lightcycles. Really, this reason enough to seed this film. Somehow, Tron must try to contact his User, Bradley One, and Flynn has to take down the MCP, free the system, and return home.

Five Identity Discs out of Five! End of line.

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