About 20 years later and hell, I could make this movie off of my Mac.
A hip and cool computer programmer named Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is transported inside the software world of a mainframe computer during a computer game. This is also where he interacts with various programs in his attempt to get back out but also make the computer program “nice and civilized” again.
Watching and reviewing old-school movies like this are so hard because you always have to take them with the grain salt, especially ones from the 80’s. You have to always expect the material to be cheesy, you have to always expect it to be dated, and you always have to expect it to not be as up-to-date with the times as you may be used. This movie is even harder to review, mostly due to the fact that nerds from all over the globe hail this as their wake-up call in life, and consider it one of the sci-fi greats, along up there with Star Wars and 2001. Sorry geek fan boys, not quite up there with those classics.
No matter what it is you may hear about this flick, whether it be good or bad, you always hear that this is just one of those flicks that changed the way computers affected a movie. For instance, back in the days before the summer ’82, computers and film didn’t really need each other, except if it was for a fully-animated movie that needed help moving the pictures and graphics along. Then comes along this movie and soon you start to see actual-people, perform in front of a live-stage that’s just filled to the core with special-effects and even though it may not look as beautiful and awe-inspiring as it may have then, it still really takes you awhile to realize, “Damn, this had to really fuck people’s minds when they saw it”.
Seeing an all-out, special-effects extravaganza like Avatar and remembering your first reactions after seeing that can only give you an idea of what people thought about after seeing this movie way back when, and it’s really impressive. Director Steve Lisberger definitely seemed like he had a real hunch in his back with everything he wanted to do, how he wanted to do it, and how he wanted it look in the final-cut, and for the most part; the guy succeeds big time. In the day and age we live in nowadays, films like these only get filled with more flashy-effects and added-on with an extra-dimension, but to see something as simple but cool as this, really brings you back to the days and gets you in the nostalgia-feeling, even if you were never born when it first came-out. Hell, this is my first-time seeing this flick and yet, I still feel the breeze of nostalgia hit me from the early-80’s. Ahh, those were the days…..I think.
Anyway, the special-effects aren’t as dated as I may make it think, they are actually pretty cool to view. I used to be a huge gamer, but recently have fallen off the wagon and found myself playing video-games around once or twice a year. To some of you out there who have hemmorhoids from all-nighters on XBOX live; you may be surprised. However, to some of you that are full-time critics that just love movies; this may not surprise you. Still, watching this made me feel like I was playing a video-game and a really fun, and retro-one at that. Some of the effects may not look as cool as you’d think, but there are still some scenes full of plenty of eye-candy and glamour to feast your eyes upon and whether or not you are a gamer; it doesn’t matter because you’ll still be able to appreciate what’s up on-screen and how Lisberger and his crew were able to create it. It’s very, very impressive, but sadly, this is just one of those cases where it’s all style and beauty, but no substance.
First of all, I had no idea what the hell was up with this story. In the beginning of the movie, I really tried to understand what the hell all of this “computer and technology talk” was all supposed to mean and as soon as I felt like it was translated to me, the film throws me for a loop and not only adds more confusing bits of language to the mix, but brings a piece of tension I never understood. I never fully got why Flynn was in this world and better yet, how, where, when, and how he was supposed to get out of it. To be brutally honest, I don’t think Lisberger cared about any of those details, either, because he seems a lot more concerned with the frequent scenes of running, chasing, brawling, and in what seems to be the most awesome game of dead-or-alive Frisbee. These scenes are all cool to see play-out with the type of visuals Lisberger has on-display, but seriously: what the hell does it all add up to?
Even worse, the film has little to no tension. Other than the cool game of Frisbee I just mentioned in that last paragraph, I never really found myself tense, on-the-edge-of-my-seat, or particularly revved-up with what was going on in the movie. Honestly, I was just watching and waiting for something other than the visuals, to take me by storm and make me feel as if I was really in the mode of playing a video-game. Instead, this ends-up being the lamest video-game ever and it’s even worse when the melodrama rears it’s ugly head in and makes everything seem so corny and dated, aka, exactly what I have come to expect from a sci-fi movie of the early 80’s.
And I know some of you out there may get a tad pissed-off at me and state that this is a movie that’s more about it’s look and feel, rather than the dialogue, but seriously: what sort of defense is that? But even if you weren’t on the film’s side of it’s “style-over-substance”-argument, you still have to admit that it doesn’t matter if a flick has a lame-o script, just as long as it has enough fun and entertainment to take my mind off the crappiness. However, this flick is not one of those and as much action there may have been in the first hour or so, it all starts to go away, in a slowly but surely manner, and rarely ever gain back the excitement it once has. No matter what negatives I may have to speak about this flick, it is still great to look at, but that’s not enough to take my mind off a shit-script of Lucas-proportions.
However, when you have a shit-script, you usually have shit-actors and in a way, that’s sort of the case here. Jeff Bridges plays Flynn and is a bunch of fun as the wacky and wild dude that gets sucked into his own world he enjoys to play around with, and brings a lot of excitement to a flick that seems like it really needs it at certain-points. Bridges is always fun to watch and it’s no surprise that the guy brings a much-needed levity to a script that couldn’t be concerned with it either way. The problem with Bridges being so much fun, though, is that he is probably the best one and everybody else sort of falls by the waist-side, and badly too, may I add.
Even though he’s more or less the secondary-character in this story, Bruce Boxleitner plays Tron and is fine with his material, even though you never understand what is so damn special about this guy in the first-place. You sort of feel like Bridges should have been the only guy in the video-game world after all, and even better, should have been named Tron. I don’t know how much of that would have changed and screwed-up the story, but it probably would have made a lot more sense than just featuring two characters that could be the lead-character but yet, continue to battle-it-out for the top-spot. And not in the fun way, either. It’s more confusing and annoying than that. Cindy Morgan is Yori and, rightfully so, probably plays the most robotic member of the cast as she obviously just seems to be going through the motions of acting, without a care in the world. Maybe it worked back then when people weren’t paying attention to her acting or line-reading, but now, it’s more obvious and distracting than the elephant in the room. And finally, all the movie needed was one hell of an evil S.O.B. to take this movie and make something better, but somehow, some way, David Warner isn’t up to the challenge as Stark and just feels like less and less of a threat as time goes on. Yep, I think that the Dude is the only one who prevails in this cast but then again: are you the least-bit surprised?
Consensus: No doubt that the visuals and look of TRON are as beautiful and as polished as they once were, way back when in 1982, but it just doesn’t take special-effects to make a good film. Sometimes, you need other elements like strong acting, believable dialogue, excitement, fun, joy, action, and glee to make a good film, which is where I think this movie dropped the ball on. Okay, bring on the hate-mail nerds.
6.5 / 10 = Rental!!