I’ve been thinking about ‘Tron Legacy’ a lot today. Here’s a spot of cinephile autobiography: I can break down my entire existence film by film. Officially, the film that I love the most is ‘The Outsiders’ but for all-out impact for the last twenty seven years the film has been ‘Tron.’ Why? Because it made me into a heathen. Before you assume it’s because this computerised ’82 epic made me contemplate our role in the world, technology’s prominence as the new god or Flynn’s faithless conquest over dark forces, it wasn’t that. I was four for fuck’s sake. On the run up to the film’s release I got hyped. Probably more hyped than you’ll ever know. Sick. Ill with the hype. So much so that my folks began to worry that I could be autistic.
I pored over every page of my storybook adaptation of the film, marvelling at images of disc combat and the Master Control Program. I sought arcades on holiday to experience the game I’d been told about. I wanted a Tomy ripcord-powered Light Cycle too. Like Lynch’s ‘Dune’ two years later it was on notebooks, lunchboxes and pencil cases long before anyone at school saw the actual movie and realised how slow paced and baffling it was to a young mind. By the time of its winter ’82 release, my older brother and father announced a visit to the cinema to see the movie, which had now gathered near-mythic status, egged on by my equally excited sibling. One catch – they would go, and I wouldn’t. Worse than that, I attend a particularly premature (mid November?) sunday school xmas party.
Stood in the corner of a church, rocking brown cords and sandals with Christ-knows-what soundtracking a game of musical chairs, I quietly renounced Christianity and religion altogether, knowing that no god would place me in such a situation while half my family got to watch what had now surpassed any conceviable religious experience in my tiny mind. Think of it as a psychlogical version of Oldman’s bombastic sword/crucifix interface at the beginning of Coppola’s ‘Dracula.’ On returning, my brother waxed lyrical about what he’d seen, dismissing my storybook as barely coming close to the ‘Tron’ spectacle.
Twelve months or so later (bear in mind Disney were slow to release VHS of their films), after the film reputedly underachieved at the box office I finally saw it. It was interesting – it wasn’t underwhelming like ‘The Black Hole’ (Maximillion didn’t disappoint though) – it was visually arresting, but the expressionist looks of the heroic computer denizen’s was off-putting to me and the pace was slow. Looking back at it, things flow with all the smoothness of the animated star of Dire Straits’s ‘Money For Nothing’ promo. I’d preferred the build-up to the main event, but ‘Tron’ mania left me a changed person, I think, for the better.
Now, in an era where people flood to see dreck like ‘2012’ and ‘Transformers 2’ as event flicks, I can acknowledge that ‘Tron’ (or in the US, ‘TRON’ or best of all, in Australia, ‘Tron: The Electronic Gladiator’) is a masterpiece. How the hell did it ever get made?
Team Tron “Uh, we need seventeen million dollars to make a film?”
Disney “What would it be about?”
Team Tron “It’s about computer programmers and corporations battling it out in a computer realm.”
Team Tron “It’s gonna have new effects with no proven track record.”
Team Tron “People in the computer world will look like the stars of old black and white films…but futuristic versions!”
Disney “Who will star in it?”
Team Tron “Jeff Bridges – the guy from ‘Heaven’s Gate’ and the ‘King Kong’ remake.”
Disney “Hmm…anyone else?
Team Tron “David Warner!”
Team Tron “You know – the guy from ‘Nightwing’ and ‘Time After Time”
Disney “Doesn’t ring any bells.”
Team Tron “Oh yeah, and we want Wedny Carlos to do the music.”
Team Tron “You know; the avant-garde composer who had a sex change years ago.”
It’s a miracle the film ever got made. Most films (think ‘The Bishop Of Battle’ segment of ‘Nighmares,’ ‘The Last Starfighter,’ The Wizard,’ ‘Brainscan’ etc.) using computer games can be well regarded, but they’re horribly dated too. ‘Tron’ doesn’t look like any game I ever played. It’s its own aesthetic. There’s no sense of any precedent – it’s a true original. The amount of designers, musicians and programmers left altered by the film are legion. Some missed the point – the adicolor ‘Tron’ shoe is the work of someone who didn’t “get” whatever “it” is when it comes to ‘Tron’ and neither did K-Swiss. ‘Tron’ was apparent in the design of the Nike Air Max 97 and Zoom Spiridon, or when Apple upped the ante with the coloured iMac collection – more characters altered by exposure to the film. Between 30 and 50, there’s a generation ‘Tron’ dispersed across multiple age brackets.
It’s been nearly three decades now. Offering a sequel for December 2010 that scoops up youngsters nostalgic for a decade they missed, and oldies obsessing over past glories feels a little cynical. By its very nature, Daft Punk offering some gnarly-sounding Carpenter synths and a visit back to those stark visuals with a 21st century tweak is reverse-engineering that’s at odds with a pioneering original. But hey, it looks like fun, and if it leads even one small child to rethink their whole faith system? Job done.
Thanks to the magic of YouTube, here’s a few ‘Tron’ related music videos and performances. I’ve omitted Infernal’s pop dance hit ‘From Paris To Berlin’ because it’s shit at every level.
Journey’s ‘1990’s Theme’ is their idea of what the 1990’s would sound like. It’s from the ‘Tron’ OST too. It’s amusing when you consider that Steve Perry from Journey may be the least futuristic man that ever lived.
Scott Grooves ‘Mothership Reconnection’ (Daft Punk Mix) is ruined by some atrocious late ’90s computer graphics that look worse than anything delivered in ’82. It does however, have a CGI Bootsy Collins, which can only be a good thing.
The Strokes ’12:51′ is my favourite ‘Tron’ inspired video. They’re unlikely candidates for these visuals, but it worked.
Undeniable flyness from Kanye and Daft Punk at the 2008 Grammys. Kanye-bash all you like, but it beats a stage sleepwalk over a DAT.
Bonus level – nerds talking ‘Tron’ toys.