Ok so now that my Godfather review is up and I feel comfortable that I have started strong, I can relax and take my time choosing my upcoming reviews. I didn't need to think that much for this review because the movie "TRON" just popped into my head out of the blue and told me it was perfect.
My idea of science fiction usually involves flying cars, futuristic guns, aliens, and time travel. "TRON" challenges all those preconceptions while managing so remain dead center in the genre. When "TRON" came out in 1982 it became part of the Sci-Fi craze of the 80s. They say that a decade always starts right before it begins and that is definitely true for the 80s. Movies like "Back to the Future", "The Terminator", "E.T", "Aliens", and "The Empire Strikes Back" were all products of a fad that begun in the late 70s with "Star Wars", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", and "Alien". "TRON" stands out from all of those films because of its surprising originality in both its premise and its visuals.
A beardless Jeff Bridges plays Kevin Flynn, a man who literally gets absorbed by technology and finds himself inside a video-game world. Before he can get out, there are various games within the game he has to play, among them one played with discs that resemble Frisbee's and another played with the now infamous "light cycles" which are futuristic looking motorcycles that leave impenetrable walls of light in their wake. If you have ever played a video-game that predates the era of first-person-shooters or mmorpg's then you may find it cheesey but enjoyable to watch some scenes that pay tribute to those games such as when Flynn drinks a special liquid and regains health.
This film has gained cult status over the years and there is no questioning why. The idea of virtual reality had never been explored before "TRON" and has since only been used successfully with "The Matrix" and to some extent "Inception" and "Avatar".
The other thing that is so original about this film is its visual style. Everything inside the game world is genuinely breathtaking to a level that you could almost call it beautiful; a word that seldom describes a science fiction film especially of the 80s. The art direction, the cinematography, the costumes, and the effects all contribute to what I could only describe as an orgy for the eyes. The visuals are so original because they don't try to be futuristic or science-fiction-looking; instead they achieve their purpose of creating the world of the insides of a computer which writer and director Steven Lisberger imagines as something that is constantly under a black-light.
Jeff Bridges does such a great job being Flynn that I am surprised he gets recognized more often for his work as "The Dude" in another cult film "The Big Lebowski". In fact every actor in this film delivers a splendid performance and gives life to it.
Unfortunately though the film's focus on style over substance becomes the Achilles heel of the production. I am usually not one of those critics that brings up style over substance as a negative because that type of film can work very well if done correctly, as is the case with some of Zach Snyder's films or the aforementioned "Avatar", but in this case the visuals and originality are not enough to get bast the dead story-line. While the idea of entering a video-game, riding motorcycles, and throwing Frisbee's around might be very original and exiting to think about, it is very poorly written in and the result is a lethargic bore-fest with a confusing plot but brilliant visuals.
Watching "TRON" is like walking into a restaurant and seeing dish that looks and smells so great but you can't afford to pay for. Dont get me wrong I enjoyed this film quite a bit for all the reasons I mentioned above, I just couldn't get past its flaws. I'm glad I watched it though and I think you will be to, whether you agree with my criticism or not. Nice try "TRON"!
But what about you guys? What is your favorite 80s Sci-Fi movie? Click here to cast your vote.