Kevin Flynn, a former top-notch video game programmer, has been hacking his way into the mainframes of his ex-employer, Encom, attempting to unearth the evidence that Encom executive Ed Dillinger stole his code and passed the games off as his own, leaving Flynn to eke out a meager existence as owner of a video arcade. Dillinger begins locking every Encom employee out of their projects at the behest of his artificially intelligent management program, MCP. Programmer Alan Bradley is denied access to his work in progress, a security program called Tron. Alan and his girlfriend Lora, another Encom employee, decide to enlist Flynn’s help. Lora sneaks Flynn into Encom and into her lab – the home of a potentially hazardous teleport experiment. The MCP detects Flynn’s attempts to hack into it, and activates the teleportation equipment, sucking Flynn into its circuitry.
Flynn finds himself in a world where people’s bodies glow in circuitry patterns, and the people aren’t people at all – they are programs, each of them bearing their creators’ likeness. Flynn encounters Tron, Alan’s security program, fighting its ways through numerous video games whose deadly opponents are controlled by the MCP. Tron, imbued with Alan’s desire to override the MCP, is already planning its escape, and in the course of its resistance Tron has earned itself a formidable enemy – Sark, Dillinge r’s program which herds the rest of Encom’s programs into the MCP’s domain and keeps them there. Tron, Flynn and fellow program Ram escape during a light cycle tournament and begin working their way toward the MCP. Ram is killed en route, deleted from memory by the MCP’s video game warriors, and Tron has to abandon Flynn at one point. Determined to follow and help Tron, Flynn could use a lot of help, but receives only a bit. Though Flynn is only a trespasser in the electronic realm, he discovers that what d eletes programs will kill him too, and surviving his many challenges and defeating the MCP is the only way to work his way back into his own body in the real world.
Cast: Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn/Clu), Bruce Boxleitner (Alan Bradley/Tron), David Warner (Ed Dillinger/Sark), Cindy Morgan (Lora/Yori), Barnard Hughes (Dr. Walter Gibbs/Dumont), Dan Shor (Ram), Peter Jurasik (Crom), Tony Stephano (Peter/Sark’s Lieutenant), Craig Chudy (Warrior #1), Vince Deadrick (Warrior #2), Sam Schatz (Expert Disc Warrior), Jackson Bostwick (Head Guard), Dave Cass (Factory Guard), Gerald Berns (Guard #1), Bob Neill (Guard #2), Ted White (Guard #3), Mark Stewart (Guard #4), Michael Sax (Guard #5), Tony Brubaker (Guard #6), Charles Picerni (Tank Commander), Pierre Vuilleumier (Tank Gunner #1), Erik Cord (Tank Gunner #2), Loyd Catlett (Conscript #1), Michael J. Dudikoff II (Conscript #2), Richard Bruce Friedman (Video Game Player), Loyd Catlett (Video Game Cowboy), Rick Feck (Boy in video arcade), John Kenworthy (Boy in video arcade)
Notes: Bruce Boxleitner and Peter Jurasik would appear together again in the 1990s SF series Babylon 5, which, much as Tron did for movies, forever changed the landscape when it came to television’s use of computer-generated effects. Vince Deadrick would late become Patrick Stewart’s full-time stunt double for Star Trek: The Next Generation and the movies that features the Next Generation crew; Stewart would face off against David Warner in that series as well. (By that point, Warner had also appeared in Star Trek V and VI as different characters.) Dan Shor also appeared in Star Trek: TNG and Voyager as a Ferengi.
LogBook entry and review by Earl Green
This is a movie that people either loved or hated the moment they realized what it was about. Early video game enthusiasts and computerphiles were able to grasp its tenuous plot, and few others seemed interested. After all, there were plenty of breakdancing and roller-skating movies on the market around that time – why should anyone wish to see a film which seemed to concern itself with something as ephemeral as video games? Truth be told, this movie has gotten alarmingly better with age. So many of the concepts in Tron which seemed unlikely in 1982 are easily explained now with the advent of such things as the Internet, and even though the movie is brimming with acoustic modems, Apple III computers, and video games which seem primitive compared to today’s overblown Nintendo and Sega epics, the concept itself could perhaps be given better and more serious treatment if this film were to be made today.
Still, while I may lavish praise on Tron, it seems obvious from watching that there was a lot of story which didn’t make it onto film – the result of Disney asking the director/writer to tone down the tech? Or was it never that well thought-out in the first place?
Of course, I often comment on the music in movies, and Tron was a true revelation for me way back when, and I still highly recommend its musical score today. The Wendy Carlos score was an ambitious mix of very 1980s-ish synthesizers (appropriate enough, given the film’s subject), an orchestra, the UCLA choir, and even pipe organ (in the end credits). Carlos composed many interesting and video-game-esque action cues, but the music also dared to address something the script didn’t tackle head-on: the Godlike regard in which the “program” characters hold their respective users. The sequence in which Tron receives new instructions from his human alter ego is given a magical and spiritual underscore, and in many other places the music makes this movie.
The ultimate verdict – is it good or bad? Both. But good or bad, Tron left a huge conceptual footprint on an entire generation – there’s an enormous number of visual references and mentions of it in pop culture, leaning heavily on the movie’s one-of-a-kind, flashpoint-in-time style.