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Tron Of Thought

November 28th, 2010

A couple of the geek magazines that I read, Wired and Game Informer, have recently referred to Disney’s seminal cyberspace flick Tron in ways that suggest that it may be something their readerships barely remember, if at all. I’m surprised. I’d expect that of a general audience, but hardcore nerds? It may be a generational thing, but for dorks of a certain age, Tron is one of the watershed movies of 1982, itself a significant year for the sci-fi/fantasy crowd.

I’ve argued that Tron is a unique film in the pure sense of the word. There is, of course, a sequel about to come out, but it won’t be the same. That’s not a knock on Tron: Legacy, but a recognition that the methods used to simulate a digital world in 1982–a combination of early computer animation, traditional cel animation, impressionistic sets, reflective costumes and black-and-white photography–are no longer necessary.

Tron was a financial failure in its day, but it was one of the earliest visual depictions of cyberspace, a concept that early ’80s audiences were only beginning to comprehend.

One thing that’s always intrigued me about Tron is its handling of the “Man Who Would Be King” trope. That’s when a traveler encounters a less-advanced civilization and is treated as a god. The difference here is that the computer programmer played by Jeff Bridges really is a god to the denizens of the digital domain.

In case you can’t tell, Tron is a film that, despite its occasional cheesiness, I love unironically. And I cannot wait to revisit that world a couple of weeks from now.

I wonder how today’s audience will react. Some of Tron‘s core visuals–the light cycles and the flying discs–were intended to evoke specific video games of thirty years ago such as Snake and Pong. Will they mean anything to a generation weaned on Wii and World of Warcraft?

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