One’s ability to enjoy “Tron” depends wholly on their willingness to buy into it. The story is hackneyed and cheesy, and the digital animation, while innovative and visionary, becomes nauseating to watch after a while. But if you are open to suspending your I-can’t-believe-that’s-CGI-disbelief and embracing your computer love/fear complex, “Tron” is worth the lightcycle ride.
Significantly younger Jeff Bridges plays Flynn, an arcade owner and programmer who finds himself unwillingly digitized into a neon-lit computer world. Here, programs have human bodies and personalities, carrying themselves with the same lifeless swagger and boring watercooler talk you’d encounter at any lifeless corporate job. The big bad guy is the MCP or Master Control Program, an omnipresent digital god of sorts who rains old testament wrath in this new age world.
To help Flynn abolish the program is Tron, a noble, talented program version of his friend in real life, Alan Bradley (played by Bruce Boxleitner). You could make the argument that Tron is the true hero of the story, the movie does share his name. But you probably won’t be focusing on plot fundamentals or character dynamics as much as speeding lightcycles and computerized, floating pillars of doom. Even though its cheesy and looks out of place with everything in its near surroundings, this movie has a bold, distinct feel unlike any film we’ve seen before. The fact that motion sickness contributed to my experience of “Tron” really does illustrate how much this film is transporting you to another world, even if it you don’t want to take that journey.
The only thing I couldn’t stop thinking about is how massively different this “Tron” was from its sequel, 2010’s “Tron: Legacy.” Even in the serious moments, “Tron” always feels lighthearted, smart enough to realize that if it takes its silly animations too seriously, we’re only going to laugh at them. “Tron: Legacy” though its sweeping and majestic, a delight for the sound and ears. But it takes itself sooooo seriously, like the creators had never actually watched the original film. I didn’t watch “Tron” until after “Tron: Legacy,” so that disparity in tone really left me shocked throughout the film.
But “Tron” is enjoyable and worth a watch. Its revolutionary for its animation and serves as a historical keepsake for a particular moment in computer history, where we were getting smarter with machines but were fearful and didn’t really understand their full capabilities. “Tron” is a movie that didn’t reach its full capabilities, but it did enough so that other digitally-minded films could.