Movie Reviews

Movie Review: TRON (1982) – 1980’s Video Games Come Alive

Written by Steven Lisberger, Bonnie MacBird, and Charles S. Haas
Directed by Steven Lisberger

I can remember seeing the film TRON when it first came out in 1982 and being dazzled by it.  Not only was it a terrific story concept, but the special effects for the time were impressive.  This was a time before computer-generated effects which meant that a lot of the effects seen here were achieved through tedious methods such as having to pain each individual film cell with the needed effect.

The story was excellent in 1982 and does still hold up quite well today.  David Warner is Ed Dillinger, the head of a computer corporation who doesn’t mind appropriating other people’s ideas.  One of his programmers Alan Bradley (portrayed by Bruce Boxleitner) is developing an independent security program that conflicts with the purpose of the Master Control Program (MCP) Dillinger has running things.

Dillinger plays off the problem as a result of hacking by former employee Flynn (portrayed by Jeff Bridges).  Alan and Lora (portrayed by Cindy Morgan) go to confront Flynn about being the cause of the security issues.  Flynn claims Dillinger stole an immensely popular video game from him which he built the corporation on. Alan teams up with Flynn to try to get the evidence of the stolen program.  When Flynn attempts to hack into the system, MCP uses a laser to suck him into the computer.

Once inside, he learns it’s something of a gladiator world. Competitions are held where the losers are erased and die.  He encounters Tron, who looks just like Alan and turns to him for help with the MCP.

Even though this is dated in terms of today’s special effects, I thought this was a terrific film that held up well.  The feel is definitely a 1980’s feel, but it’s also a lot of fun.  The acting is good, particularly for those who have seen Boxleitner and Bridges in so much since then.  They work together quite well here.  It’s also notable that a secondary character is portrayed by Peter Jurasik who would co-star with Boxleitner in the series Babylon 5.  David Warner is his usual villainous self and is terrific.

The DVD, if you can find it, is pretty good.  There are not a lot of special features, but I was pleased listening to the feature commentary as to how the film came about and how they achieved the effects.  For those of us who remember the time, it’s an enjoyable blast from the past and the early days of video games. I haven’t seen it on blu-ray, yet, although it is available for streaming on the Disney+ app.


Commentary with Writer & Director Steven Lisberger, Producer Donald Kushner, Associate Producer and Visual Effects Supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw, and Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Taylor

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