Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Group 7 Access Restored.

Here’s the intro scene I want:

Jack Palance, looking like he did circa 1989, strolls through a dimly lit, dust-shrouded room cluttered with arcade games, Timex Sinclairs and Atari 2600 consoles and Commodore 64s hooked up to small televisions. A VHS player hums while WarGames silently unfolds. Jack looks into the camera as he walks, fingers brushing the artifacts as he passes. “John Booth,” he says, “was 11 years old in the summer of 1982. He shoveled quarters into video games like coal into a ravenous locomotive engine, wore Atari joystick blisters like badges of honor and dreamed in pixels when he slept. Lasers and lightsabers and robots and spaceships and computers were the ever-whirling sparks in his brain, setting fires that would burn for years to come.”

“And yet he never saw Tron.” (Trademark Jack Palance inhale & pause, then…) “Believe it … or not.

Totally true.

The closest I ever came was in middle school, when my math teacher decided to show it on video during the last week of school – maybe even the last day of the year. It was hard enough to see the TV up at the front of room, because I think he’d invited another class to join us, so kids were all sitting on their desks and stuff, and at any rate, the impending summer vacation had everyone so hyper that I couldn’t hear the movie anyway.

Not seeing the movie, of course, didn’t stop me from plugging countless quarters into the original Tron video game over the next few years, or from buying my little brother “Surround” for our Atari because it was the closest thing I could get to a light-cycle race. (Digression: One of the “Surround” configurations allowed you to hold down the joystick button and, for strategic purposes, stop leaving a destructive trail. My favorite way to play the game was selecting that option,  clamping down on the button for several minutes while the game speed increased to its peak, then letting go and trying to run a full-throttle head-to-head battle, which usually lasted all of 10 seconds.)

Every so often since those years, I’d get the notion into my head to watch Tron, but I never did.

I honestly don’t recall which version of the sequel trailer – the 2008 San Diego Comic Con version teased TR2N while the newer edition last year revealed the title as Tron Legacy – pushed me  once and for all into the “gotta watch the original before the sequel comes out” territory, but I eventually remembered to put in a library request, and the 20th Anniversary DVD edition of Tron finally made its way to my house last week.

Now, while the Tron Legacy trailer really got me excited, a friend of mine warned me when I mentioned last Friday that I was staying up late for my first-ever Tron viewing, “OK:  You REALLY need to put your mind back into its 1982 pre-teen geek mode. Try to imagine NEVER having seen CG before…”

I was already sort of preparing for this, since I’ve had my heart wince more than a few times when I’ve gone back and taken a look at the things of that era I remember enjoying. (Saturday morning Godzilla cartoon, anyone? >shudder, whimper<)

So when I shut off the lights and settled in for 97 minutes of retro, I did so with an attitude of “If nothing else, this will be fun.”

I was utterly unprepared to find myself thinking, “Um, wow: This movie kind of kicks ass.

Maybe it was because Jeff Bridges is ridiculously entertaining and cool as a video gamer while still subtly hinting at the darker side of his character, and David Warner is, well, David Freaking Warner, even in a goofy foam-rubber-looking King Tut-eqsue helmet.

Maybe it was because of Wendy Carlos’ amazing synthesized soundtrack: While I’d never seen this movie, big chunks of the musical score lived in my head courtesy of that arcade game, making it even easier to spend awhile in that still-12-years-old corner of my mind.

Maybe it was because the visuals, which, while obviously dated, hold up remarkably well in terms of mood and aesthetic and which yes, while primitive by today’s standards, fit so cleanly and neatly into that world and that narrative that they don’t feel fake or hokey. (It was only while doing a little research for this that I learned that Tron wasn’t even nominated for Best Visual Effects award in 1982 because the Academy felt that using computers for special effects was cheating. (“Hindsight?” “Yes, John?” “Take the DeLorean and go slap the 1982 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Hard.”)

Yes, Tron‘s concept is a bit goofy: computer programs imagined as tiny “people” and a laser-scanning thing that takes real world objects – and Bridges’ Kevin Flynn, of course – into the virtual world? Of course it’s cheesy. Then again, how about a computer network that becomes sentient and invents time-traveling killer robots, or another one that – get this – farms humans as batteries to survive?

As a script, Tron suffers from nothing unusual, really: Stiff, cartoony dialogue, a bit of clunky storytelling, the old standbys of elderly mentors and life lessons.

But I enjoyed the hell out of this movie in much more than a nostalgic way, which was a wonderful surprise. And I’m glad that over the past decade or so, it seems to have earned the wider appreciation which eluded it for so long.

Also, now I’m just stupid psyched for Tron Legacy. End of line.

February 28, 2010 - Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Film, Games, geek, science fiction, video games, Web/Tech | , , , , ,


  1. Always loved synth pioneer Wendy (Walter) Carlos’ work! A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Tron… great, classic stuff!

    Comment by AB | February 28, 2010 | Reply

  2. […] I just saw Tron for the first time last month, I’ve remained in this mood to go back and check out these […]

    Pingback by Way post-post-apocalypse: Mad Max & The Road Warrior « Cornfield Meet | March 12, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] So here I am, at the first of (hopefully) a regular series of reviews and reactions to Eighties Movies I’ve Never Seen Until Now. (2012 note: How’d that work out? Not so hot. Although I did write about seeing Tron for the first time in 2010.) […]

    Pingback by Flashback: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure « Cornfield Meet | August 9, 2012 | Reply

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