Title: TRON (1982) Rated:PG Written by: Steve Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird Directed by: Steve Lisberger Starring: Jeff Bridges as Flynn/Clu Bruce Boxleitner as Alan/Tron Cindy Morgan as Lora/Yori David Warner as Dillinger/Sark Barnard Hughes as Gibbs/Dumont
Pre-screening memories: It’s hard to tell a story about a play, like it’s hard to perform a play about a book, like it’s hard to write a book about a movie, like it’s hard to make a movie about a video game. I was too young to understand the subtleties of that idea as a child, but I think I grasped the general concept. An avid fan of video games, I would watch or read anything even vaguely video-game related, and even then I found myself underwhelmed by what Hollywood had to say on the subject. By their very nature video games demand to be played, rather than watched, and movies that featured them could never seem to conceive of a way to engage their audience as viscerally as handing them a controller could.
And then there was Tron. While I may have missed the film in theatres, I was absolutely aware of Tron, and enthralled by what little I knew of it. The film’s creators hit on two important ideas. The first was to look deeper than just the surface of the games – to instead ask just what a videogame was, giving people an imaginary look inside a world that they didn’t understand. The second idea, which is both more mundane and eye-catching, was to make sure that the games themselves look far better than anything available when the movie was made. Watching people play video games that I have access to? Dull as dirt. Watching people play videogames so far advanced that I can’t imagine them – now that’s a compelling experience for a 5-year-old.
Which is most of why I watched that movie 50 times once I managed to tape it off television. It was such a ubiquitous presence in my viewing schedule that there wasn’t a moment of the film that I couldn’t recall immediately, or re-enact if necessary. Which I often found it to be, if I’m being perfectly honest. So when I went to watch it for this podcast I assumed that my ability to quote the film verbatim would mean there would be no surprises when I went back to it. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that I hadn’t seen something in the neighborhood of half of it.
I’m speaking, of course, about seeing the film widescreen for the first time. Growing up with standard televisions and before the takeover of letterboxing, it was only when I sat down to watch my new DVD that I realized that for my entire childhood I’d been watching just a fraction of the film I loved. The story was exactly as I’d remembered it, a classic adventure in the “Connecticut Yankee” mold, but the visuals blew me away to a degree that I’d never expected.
I’d always known that the movie was visually arresting, but seeing it widescreen was an entirely new experience. Only now do I really understand just how brilliantly composed every frame of Tron was. And beyond the improved look of the film, I was missing jokes by watching it pan-and-scan – a hidden Pac-Man, one of the first references to cubicle farms in fiction, and the true size of that door.
Maybe it’s a little strange, but the only new feeling I took away from this most recent viewing of Tron is that I didn’t get a chance to see it on the big screen when I had the chance. Now I just hope that the upcoming release of Tron: Legacy will give me another one.
Download Natsukashi’s ‘Tron’ podcast here
or interact with our on site audio circuitry device
Our featured guest: Cindy Morgan
Cindy makes her return visit to our podcast, this time to discuss her other iconic role, that as Yori, the shapliest computer program of its time.
With Tron: Legacy in the works, there is a movement afoot to get her into the picture, and you can do your part by signing the Facebook petition here. In this edition, Cindy shares with us the experience of working with some of the screen’s earliest CGI, the video games they played on the set, the film’s fervent following, and her own inner nerd.
We also hear of a few hidden elements in the film that only the keenest eye would observe.
We are grateful to Cindy for hopping on her time-traveling Light cycle and remembering her time spent behind the scenes of Tron.