DVD, Blu-Ray Review
Directed by Steven Lisberger, Written by Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird, 96 minutes, Rated PG.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
“Tron” isn’t necessarily known or remembered for its plot. The story of a man sucked into a video game, where he fights and plays Frisbee with anthropomorphic computer programs, is probably the least dazzling part of the film. Bridges stars as Flynn, but his character acts as a mere vehicle for the striking and creative visual effects to shine.
In order to prove that he is the rightful designer of a popular video game, Flynn (Jeff Bridges) heads off to the evil ENCOM headquarters to hack their mainframe for evidence. However, he accidentally triggers a human-to-computer transporting laser, which sends him into the program. Inside, he encounters a fluorescent light-based city and plays the games he designed for real.
Steven Lisberger’s script really doesn’t do much justice to the inventive special effects, but it’s as good an excuse as any to get us into this world. And it’s a good thing it works. The various settings and chases of “Tron” thrive with life thanks to the impressive and only occasionally hokey effects. The neon light schemes and Space Invaders-inspired sets only heighten its '80s charms in the best possible way.
If only those effects were enough to sustain the movie throughout it’s 97 minutes, though. “Tron” certainly has its place, but its plot loses hold soon after the film begins. As Flynn takes his time getting into the mainframe, Lisberger bounces between Flynn arguing with his old partners Bruce and Cindy and Flynn’s enemy, Ed Dillinger, playing a game of technical semantics with the computer system, Master Control. The first act drags on these two points for far too long.
When we finally make it into the world of “Tron” there’s a dramatic disconnect between the cool visuals and the boring plotting. Using the qualities of a medieval epic, the plot of “Tron” works in service of navigating us around the different landscapes of ENCOM’s mainframe but, like a computer, treats its user with cold indifference. There’s just not much to care about here.
“Tron” almost never reaches dramatic climax, but it’s still fun enough trip into the past as it showcases some of the early computer-generated wizardry that’s commonplace in theaters today. Much like “Avatar,” “Tron”’s plot is an excuse to let us experience a glorified laser-light show, and it’s a show most wouldn’t trade for the world.