Saturday, 12 February 2011

80s Movies: TRON (1982)

TRON didn't really need a sequel - the first film was so iconic that it still stands the test of time. A blend of live action, CGI and Disney animation gives it a look all of its own and has helped to make sure that, although it looks very 1980s, TRON doesn't look dated - it just looks like that's when it was set.

Having mentioned the sequel, though, it's probably worth pointing out that TRON: Legacy has a fairly similar storyline, look, sound and feel to the original, yet that's just fine. Any Jeff Bridges is good, and any return to the TRON universe is welcome here. I just really hope some people who've never seen TRON are inspired to give it a go, having seen the 2010 version.

The Plot

TRON is a triumph of live action merged into a virtual world, where computer programs take on human-like personas. Into this universe is thrust Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), creator of The Grid - the world in which the programs live.

However, all is not well in his supposed-to-be perfect world. After (somehow) arriving in digital form on The Grid, Flynn finds his programs engaged in a series of death games which he, in turn, is forced to take part in. There's a bit of time-killing while we watch him play some games, but it's all building storyline.

The real bread and butter of the movie comes when Flynn teams up with the eponymous hero, Tron - a security program tasked with protecting The Grid - in order to bring down the dictator-like Master Control Program. It's a nice visualisation of how the inside of a computer might work, if it only had the power to come alive - and a truly unique movie, really.

The Music

TRON's soundtrack is as fresh today as it ever was - because this isn't a film that's set in any one time, or any one place. It's a virtual, effectively timeless place once you're out of Flynn's Arcade, and the music - although decidedly 80s in terms of its use of synthesisers - belongs to that virtual world and not to our own 1980s Earth.

The 2010 release of TRON: Legacy really picked up on that fact, as Daft Punk's music was true to the first film, yet some of the most original instrumental compositions there's been in years. With another movie rumoured in the pipeline to 'complete' what has apparently now become a trilogy, there's still life in the TRON universe three decades later.


Just a couple more things I wanted to say but didn't know where else to put them - first of all, while I've said TRON is pretty timeless - and it is - it's still very much inspired by the era in which it was produced. The fascination with computers, which were entirely new to most people in the early 1980s. A better awareness of the insides of computers that came from the fact that, well, there weren't so many graphical user interfaces making things look pretty. But also that us-versus-them mentality coming from the Cold War that fed into films like this and WarGames.

On a separate note - light cycles. Without a doubt, my single favourite thing from the TRON universe. They're just so cool - they look incredible, and they leave a deadly trail of energy behind them. Sure, it's a bit of a boy thing, but they're basically TRON's Batmobile. Awesome.

80s Movies

In February, POPSICULTURE are dedicating the month to a look back at the iconic films of the 1980s - a decade whose films continue to draw massive audiences when they are shown on TV. To follow posts in this series, check the 80s Movies label or sign up to the dedicated RSS feed.

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