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When Flynn hacks into the mainframe of his ex-employer to prove his work was stolen by another executive, he finds himself on a much bigger adventure. Beamed inside by a power-hungry Master Control Program, he joins computer gladiators on a deadly game grid, complete with high-velocity "Light Cycles" and Tron, a specialized security program. Together they fight the ultimate battle with the MCP to decide the fate of both the electronic world and the real world!
For more about TRON and the TRON Blu-ray release, see TRON Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 25, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan, Barnard Hughes, Dan Shor
Director: Steven Lisberger
» See full cast & crew
TRON Blu-ray Review
"Classic" is a stretch, but 'Tron' is still worth a spin...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 25, 2011
Try not to think about Tron too hard. You risk realizing how silly it is and spoiling all the fun. I know, I know... take a breath. "Silly" is a bit harsh, I'll admit. Naively nonsensical perhaps? Deceptively brainy? Endearingly campy? Whatever the case, it's safe to say the film's psychedelic silliness, existential mumbo jumbo and spongy ideas haven't exactly withstood the test of time. But it's precisely these things that make Tron such a nostalgic blast from the past. Between its groundbreaking, still-inimitable visuals, grandiose set pieces and charismatic Jeff Bridges performance, it's easy to overlook all its plot holes and even easier to shrug off its script issues, uneven pacing and low-fi CG. It isn't an indispensable classic, but it is a tried-and-true cinematic milestone. It isn't a mind-boggling trip down the rabbit hole, but it asks plenty of lofty questions. Its plot practically invites criticism, but not enough to undermine the spirit of the adventure. All that is to say this: Tron isn't perfect, not by any means. But what early '80s sci-fi head-scratcher is?
This is the story of two worlds and the beings who inhabit them. One of these is our world... the one we can see and feel... the world of the "Users." It lies on our side of the video screen. The other, an electronic micro-civilization, lives and breathes just beyond our grasp. This is the world of the "Programs." Because we, the Users, have created this new world, part of us lives there too, on the other side of the screen...
Scorned software engineer and ex-ENCOM employee Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges, True Grit) is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore. Rival engineer Ed Dillinger (David Warner, The Omen) stole Flynn's codes and programs, presented Flynn's videogames as his own, and rode the wave of subsequent success into a senior executive office. But when Flynn breaks into ENCOM with the help of his friends, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner, Babylon 5) and Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan, Falcon Crest), he angers the company's Master Control Program (voiced by Warner), a vindictive artificial intelligence system that uses a quantum teleportation laser to transport the intrepid young programmer inside of the ENCOM mainframe. In this virtual world, Flynn encounters a civilization of living, breathing Programs who resemble human beings; entities designed to service the MCP and keep the whole system running at peak proficiency. But not every program is created equal. The MCP's right-hand-program, Sark (Warner), begins hunting the renegade Flynn; one of Bradley's security programs, Tron (Boxleitner), helps Flynn escape Sark's clutches; and Tron's would-be lover, Yori (Morgan), who also devotes herself to serving the Users. Racing to defeat the MCP and find a way home, Flynn encounters heavy resistance, competes in a series of gladiator games, and comes face to face with Sark and the godlike MCP.
It's a bit like opening the hood of your Corolla and finding a colony of grateful gerbils -- some more militant than others -- have been keeping everything running smoothly for you all along. The ideas at the heart of Tron are big and frothy: programs as blue collar workers and dutiful soldiers, circuits as freeways, religious zealotry punishable by death, videogames as gladiator battles, data streams as energy-renewing water, Pong reimagined as a bitter fight to the bloodthirsty end, security measures as deadly war machines. Writer/director Steven Lisberger's sophomore outing (remember Animalympics?) sometimes feels like a brainstorming session gone haywire, but his seemingly limitless imagination fuels Tron every step of the way. Likewise, while some of his narrative threads lead to undeniably dizzying dead ends, others are eerily prescient. Moreover, his surreal, neon-steeped visions and flights of circuit-board fancy are the stuff of '80s childhood legend. Tron not only paved the way for the CG spectacles we so readily indulge in today -- Tron: Legacy among them -- it did things that had never been done before or since; things that continue to resonate artistically well into the 21st Century.
Bridges, Warner and Boxleitner keep it all clipping along, and it's hard to imagine Tron without them. (Morgan is okay, but her vacant gaze is best suited for Yori, not Yori and Lora.) Even amidst the frenzy of light trails, plink-plonking data bits, and seizure-inducing flashes of red and blue insanity, the actors infuse their characters, User and Program alike, with genuine soul. Bridges and Boxleitner compete for screentime, but seem more than eager to step aside and allow the other to work. The Dude plays Flynn as a descended deity determined to intervene rather than interfere, and his slack jawed awe, genial grin and innate decency make Flynn a genius worth rooting for. Boxleitner toys with dual roles, creator and in-his-own-image creation, and the similarities and differences between Bradley and Tron are all the more intriguing for it. Warner oozes sleaze as Dillinger, growls convincingly as Sark, and makes the MCP a threat deserving of the fear it inspires. Along with Lisberger's one-of-a-kind visuals and digestible glimpse-into-the-computer, their performances make for a movie that, while terribly flawed and grossly outdated, is able to hold a nostalgic audience captive for the better part of two hours.
TRON Blu-ray, Video Quality
Tron -- twenty-nine-years old and counting -- will never look as polished, pristine or striking as its 2010 sequel. Between its budget constraints, production challenges, black-box sets, ground-floor visual effects techniques, and the inherent anomalies that haunt its source, the "Original Classic" seems bound and determined to flaunt its age, regardless of how much tender, loving care Disney affords it. Honestly though, I'm quite pleased with the results. Yes, Tron has lost much of its luster over three decades. Yes, its wow-factor has been hampered in the years since its early '80s release. But there still isn't another movie out there that looks anything like it, and I'm happy to report Disney has retained the film's aesthetic charms, flaws and all. You won't find any unsightly scrubbing, egregious edge enhancement or intrusive clean-up work. Lisberger, who oversaw the film's restoration, has made several seemingly minor but hotly debated alterations, but his hand is far less heavy and his presence far less invasive than that of George Lucas. Countless scratches, blemishes and marks have been carefully removed, and the whole of the film has been rejuvenated and renewed. A comparison between the Blu-ray edition and its DVD counterpart reveals just how much of an upgrade fans should prepare for.
So long as your expectations are in check, detail will prove to be impressive as well. Edges and textures are catalog-crisp and classically refined (barring the various inconsistencies that come with the territory), film grain and print coarseness are present and unimpeded, and Lisberger and cinematographer Bruce Logan's every last intention has been preserved. Faithfully, I might add. In the real world, satisfying saturation, warm colors and rich blacks create a suitably pleasing series of scenes. On the Grid, bold blues, oranges and reds mingle with inky shadows and ghostly grays, all in support of Tron's once-groundbreaking visuals. Granted, a menagerie of noise and ingrained print oddities surge and relent, flickering and contrast irregularities are unavoidable, and black levels are as bullish and oppressive as any well-informed Tron junkie will expect. Even in the real world, shadows are so heavy that they stamp out background detail whenever the lights go low. Early shots of Dillinger arriving at Encom under the cloak of darkness are downright impenetrable. But seeing as Lisberger and Logan are making parallels between Flynn's computer construct and the real world, it's almost entirely forgivable. Welcome even. Better still, Disney's technical encode is sound. While it's a bit difficult to discern inherent anomalies from those, say, caused by compression issues, it quickly becomes clear that Tron has been given its due diligence.
I'm sure a contingent of modern filmfans will write off Tron's transfer from the outset, unsure as to why Disney didn't simply shove it through a computer and gloss over its imperfections. I'm sure those unfamiliar with the film's endearing charms will scoff at its low-fi effects and the many shortcomings that come with them. And I'm sure those intimately familiar with Lisberger's original version of the film will scowl at many of the changes he's made. But Lisberger's intentions rule on high in Disney's Blu-ray release of Tron, and the majority of fans and newcomers will be more than satisfied with the results.
TRON Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Disney's strong and steady DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is a rewarding one, even though the original elements tend to show their age. Dialogue is bright, clear and intelligible throughout, but voices have the at-times shallow ring audiophiles associate with twenty-nine-year old films. Ambient effects and music cues sometimes stampede the soundscape, acoustics are thin and limited, and directionality is hemmed in as well. That being said, the track boasts the kind of age-defying precision, LFE strength, rear speaker faculties, and immersive properties that work wonders when it comes to a cinematic artifact like Tron. The mix is front-heavy but decisive, singularly focused but altogether involving, measured but dynamic. And there aren't any jarring distractions to be had, at least none that trace back to Disney's restorative efforts. I'm sure I'll hear some grumbling for awarding Tron's lossless track a higher score, but as far as I'm concerned, the mix deserves praise. It surpassed my expectations, admittedly low as they were, and I have a good feeling it will surpass yours as well.
TRON Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Tron arrives on Blu-ray with the same gratifying special features fans of the film have been privy to for years: a filmmakers commentary, a feature-length documentary, production materials, deleted scenes and more. Disney has even tossed in two fresh, exclusive featurettes (presented in high definition, no less).
TRON Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The original Tron is just as flawed as its twenty-eight-years-later sequel and tends to buckle under the weight of its age. Still, Bridges, Boxleitner and Warner's performances and Lisberger's trippy glow-stick visuals make it a trip down memory lane worth taking. Disney's Blu-ray release helps justify the return trip even more. With a terrific video transfer, a solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and a healthy helping of special features, Tron stands taller than it might have otherwise.
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TRON Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray - April 5-11 - April 5, 2011
Today Disney is releasing TRON: Legacy on Blu-ray, the long awaited sequel the hit 1980's video game inspired film TRON. While the film is unlikely to cause the same amount of uber-fandom as the original - to include the infamous "TRON Guy" - those same fans who ...
• TRON: Legacy 3D Blu-ray and TRON Blu-ray Announced - February 12, 2011
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has officially announced TRON: Legacy and the original 1982 movie Tron for Blu-ray release on April 5. Legacy will be presented in several configurations: a 2-Disc BD/DVD Combo Pack; a 4-Disc BD 3D/BD 2D/DVD/Digital Copy Combo ...
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