Friday, December 3, 2010

Original Tron way ahead of its time

When I got my latest issue of Wired in the mail and saw the cover story was on the upcoming movie, I dismissed it as just a typical magazine link to whatever is hot in pop culture at the time. The story, largely about how the original movie came to be, wasn't entirely riveting.

Then I got the new video game, which is out in stores this upcoming Tuesday, in the mail and I embarked on some research. Since the new movie, which hits theatres on Dec. 17, is a sequel to the original - and the game is a prequel to Legacy - I decided it would be prudent to go back to the beginning.

I vaguely remember seeing the original Tron movie when I was a kid. It came out in 1982, when I was only eight, so all I could really remember were a bunch of dudes running around in glowing costumes. The movie didn't perform overly well, making $33 million on its $17 million budget. What did do well and what I do remember vividly were the various Tron video games, which grossed more than the movie. I remember being thoroughly addicted to the original Tron game, which made you ride light cycles and fight cyber-spiders. Here's that original game in all its primitive glory:

So I sat down yesterday and watched the original 1982 movie, and boy was my mind blown. I was struck by how amazingly imaginative it was and by the sophistication of the computer graphics, which were in their infancy at the time. Tron is considered by many to be the first real CGI movie, which is probably an accurate description given that most of the movie is computer generated.

We take this for granted today given those many movies, like Avatar, are now almost entirely CGI. But if you're a fan of history or anything retro, the original movie is definitely something to check out. The story involves a pair of software engineers (Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner) who come into conflict with the boss of a company named Encom. The boss is in league with the Master Control Program, a piece of software that is becoming increasingly intelligent - and ambitious - my enslaving other software programs.

The two protagonists meet up in a cyberworld of sorts to take on MCP and its various minions; Bridges is accidentally scanned in by a laser while Boxleitner is represented by a security program he created called Tron (hence the title). What I liked about the plot is that this introduced us to the idea of avatars well before the term became commonly accepted today. In the movie, the "programs" represent the "users."

Here's the original trailer:

The plot was a little techie and probably quite hard for people of the time, who were not used to such jargon, to follow so ultimately I'm not surprised it didn't do too well. Nevertheless, as far as movie making and imagining the future go - and there's quite a bit that turned out accurately - Tron was truly ground-breaking. I can understand why Wired chose to spotlight it.

I'm looking forward to the new movie, even if some are predicting it could also turn out to be a financial flop - it apparently doesn't have much to appeal to females. The film may actually turn out to be something of a loss leader for Disney, which is promoting it big time. It's pretty clear the studio is hoping the movie helps launch Tron as a big-name franchise. That shouldn't come as a surprise because the concept is tailor made for everything from video games to books to television, especially now that the technology - and people's comfort level with it - has caught up to the original idea.

And oh yes, my review of the game will be up on CBC on Tuesday.


Post a Comment

Newer Post Older Post Home