When I was 6, my parents took me to the drive in to watch a movie called Tron. My life, what little of it there was at the time, was changed forever. I saw it 3 or 4 more times after that. Always having to wait through something I thought was boring like Bambi at the double feature.
Now that Tr2n (The film sequel to Tron), now called Tron: Legacy, has been announced more publicly, I thought I'd finally put some of my thoughts down about the movie.
Some quick tidbits to respond to some common questions that I see go unanswered:
- The original character throwing discs of light around that we now call Tron was invented by director Steven Lisberger for a radio TV spot in the late 70s. Later he started work on the movie.
- Tron 2.0 was actually the new video game that was released in 2003. The main character played is Allen's son, Jet.
Religious themes of the first film
Superman is thought of as a modern Jesus Christ. Well, in a way, Flynn's character is a virtual Jesus. I'm not a religious person and have only casually read the bible many years ago, but I see these similarities and religious elements in the film:
- The programs often make allusions to users being gods as if they are infallible.
- In Sark's orientation with new programs, he gives the programs the choice of renouncing their superstitious and hysterical belief in the users".
- Programs are "persecuted" and made to play gladiator games for their belief in the users.
- Flynn in the real world, created much of the digital world in the movie. This makes him the creator (God). He is even called the Creator properly in Tron: Legacy.
- Flynn falls to "the digital world" (Jesus) and then at the end sacrifices himself in order to save the people of it. When he does so, they visually show him falling into the MCP beam (Jesus decending to Hell) then assending back up into the real world (Ascending to Heaven). They even make him look like a spirit when he goes down and up. Yori then says to Tron "He saved us, he really did".
- In the scene where Tron visits the Dumont, the tower guardian, they pause for a moment and all bow their heads while Dumont states as if he is preaching or saying a prayer "All that is visible must grow beyond itself and extend into the realm of the invisible."
- During the ending credits, the Tron theme switches to being played on a church organ. This may not have been intended as a religious reference, since Wendy Carlos is known for modernizing classical music. But nonetheless its odd since the world deals with modern technology and a church organ more of a metaphor for old tech.
- Whether the MCP or Sark is supposed to represent Satan, Caesar or whoever is debatable. Most movies have an antagonist. He does however have red lines and his helmet has "devil's horns".
There is very little official talk about this anywhere. Nothing even in the interviews on the 20th anniversary DVD set. Oh well. Looks like some people have tried to add this info to Wikipedia, but the citation nazis got to them.
UPDATE: Interestingly, I found this old usenet article from 1982, which explains that the meaning of TRON actually is from a PDP/DEC-10 assembly language command which essentially translates to the octal mode 666. You can corroborate this meaning on this page showing PDP-10 opcodes. I find this quite interesting given Tron's religious elements. I can find no other mention of this online and wonder if people either don't want to bring it up and ruin the movie or if Stephen Lisberger is hiding the true origin of the name? It would be easy for him to deny this origin since the word can come from multiple places that also make sense. It could just be coincidence. No doubt, I think if some people knew this it would change the public perception of Tron, not that anyone really cared before anyways.
While hopeful that Tron: Legacy will be as inspiring as the first film, I'm a bit skeptical about the potential for it. The original film had people involved in it with vision and they pushed Disney to the edge in making that film. It was so far ahead of everything that they didn't get the award for special effects because they thought it was cheating to use computers (go figure). But when I see some of the trailers for the sequel, I get the impression that it was made by people who don't understand Tron. Perhaps a bunch of interns and lackeys who just think of evolving the movie instead of complementing it. many think that Hollywood is running out of ideas and this could just be the latest example. After all, according to the credits on IMDB, Steven Lisberger seemed to have a very minor role in the creation of this movie. That should tell you something.
Some initial nitpicks from watching the trailers:
- The lightcycles, while they look awesome, bend their walls instead of the much more visually striking 90 degree turn. While most people say "Well its a more advanced computer program so it can make curves now instead of squares", I say that light cycles were meant to make 90 degree turns. In the computer world, there is no gray. There is only 1s and 0s and even a Bézier curve is much harsher in the code.
- Flynn "puts on" a coat. WTF? IMHO, the suits are not supposed to be suits. They are supposed to be fully integrated you can't take them off 24/7/365 we don't close, like 7-11.
- I feel like this "remake" of the world of Tron has the same rediculous over the top failings that the newer Star Wars films had. Like they attempt to overdo all the things that make Tron what it is instead instead of balancing them. Do I sound like a crogidy old fanboy yet?
Disney's mixed support
This whole re-emergence of Tron is a bit unnerving. For years Disney and the industry seemed to ignore Tron and even call it a film with a "cult following". Yet, now its talked about in a different light, most likely for marketing the new movie. I went to Disney World back in 2006 and at the Disney store in Downtown Disney. There they have lots of things related to various Disney franchises in multiple stores. Everything from the Princesses to Swiss Family Robinson. But not one mention of Tron. I was even told by one of the storekeepers that its too obscure.
I'm curious to see what will happen in a few years after the new movie has come and gone.
The first Tron film was released just 3 years after the advent of Usenet newsgroups. A few years ago I got curious and found some old Usenet posts that had been archived on Google groups, one of which included the now amusing statement of "It's enough to make one leave applications programming and go into graphics......" I was curious as to what the poster James Blasius was doing now so I found him and wrote him (he was still alive and online). I asked him if he did end up going into graphics programming:
On Wed, Jan 02, 2008 at 03:51:23PM GMT, James C Blasius said the following: Yes, I think it was me, but no, I never ended up in graphics. Still in programming though, now working for the MCP. I have a greater respect for Rotoscopy (?) than I once did.
- This set of reviews shows how people at the time of release thought that the graphics where incredible and also acknowledged that Hollywood couldn't get the state of tech right.