Over the years, video games have progressed exponentially, more than anyone could imagine. What was once mindless entertainment is now a legitimate art form. Video games became ever growing, and with the birth of the home consoles, came the death of the arcade; a hot spot for the youth of an era to come together and fight/blast away asteroids and eat bright dots as a colorful, yellow puck. Now what if you took the atmosphere and world of an arcade and translated it to a much bigger scale, something that competes two people against various challenges in a digital world, but instead of moving a joystick, you’re the character. This is what the ’80s action classic Tron explores.
Kevin Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges), the owner of an arcade and a professional hacker, is hacked into the digital world by the Master Control Program. In this digital world, Flynn must befriend with Tron and fights in mini games and one on one matches to eventually make his way to the Master Control to escape the grasps of the digital video game he is stuck in, once and for all. For 1982, this was pretty ambitious stuff. Director Steven Lisberger had a lot on his plate for this film; not only did he have to create a story and a hidden mythology of Tron and the digital world, but he had to represent it on screen and not make it look hokey or silly in any way. To sum it up, Lisberger succeeds.
Sure, the look of the digital world by today’s standards isn’t anything to write home about, and some of the special effects in the film didn’t age all that well. It still doesn’t take away from the excitement of Tron, and it shouldn’t. Just in this film alone, you have so many memorable images to choose from: the disc battles where the opponents face each other on flying platforms, the light cycle races on the digital platform, the glowing world surrounding the characters and their glowing helmets and high tech for the time suits. Even if you haven’t seen Tron before, you have surely seen these pieces of imagery in other forms of media as well.
Stunningly complex for the time, Tron isn’t afraid to dip its feet into its on insanity. The best part about Tron is that it doesn’t take it self 100% seriously. It knows the idea of a hacker being hacked into a digital world by a master controller is silly, but that’s the point, so are arcade video games. Tron used to be an extension on the love of the arcade at the time and the culture surrounding it, but now Tron can be seen as an homage to the great world of arcade video games that used to occupy your average mall. If you were old enough to experience the arcade (I’m just on the cusp of experiencing an arcade but not in its truest form in the ’80s), then you’ll understand how important Tron is to the video game culture, and to movie culture in general.
dir. Steven Lisberger
Part of the ongoing series: Somerville Theatre 70mm & Widescreen Festival
Screens at 2:30 & 8:00