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The original "Tron:" A joint movie review by an old dude and a whipper-snapper

By APRILL BRANDON
Dec. 15, 2010 at 6:15 a.m.
Updated Dec. 16, 2010 at 6:16 a.m.


It's been almost 30 years since the original "Tron" movie hit theaters. Unfortunately, back when it was released in theaters in 1982, it was a box office dud (it reportedly cost $17 million to make and made only $4.7 million its opening weekend).

Nonetheless, the original "Tron" was still lauded for the advanced filmmaking and graphic techniques it used at the time.

But how does it stand up today, where movies like "Avatar" blew away audiences and critics alike?

To find out, we forced, er, politely asked two people from different generations and different genders to watch the movie and tell us their thoughts. The poor schmucks, er, generous volunteers were Robert Zavala, the Advocate's 53-year-old multimedia editor and resident random fact guru, and Aprill Brandon, the Advocate's 29-year-old senior junior reporter and amateur spelunking enthusiast (two Advocate interns also joined in on the screening, but our suspicion was that they were only trying to get out of work).

Q: So, what did you think of the futuristic world built by filmmakers back in 1982?

Robert: Mr. Dillinger's black, glass-topped desk with its touch-screen keyboard and multiple built-in screens is still way cooler than any desk I've ever had. The scenes in cyberspace with no people still look kind of cool. Scenes containing real people in cyberspace look about as convincing as a 1980's MTV video.

Aprill: A lot of the scenes reminded me of when you see a leaked copy of not-yet-released-in-theaters movie and some of the scenes with digital effects aren't finished yet. Not that I've ever seen a leaked copy of a not-yet-released-in-theaters movie. Cause that would be illegal. And wrong. How many people did you say read Get Out again?

Q: Considering 30 years have passed, was there anything about the movie that still resonated with you as a modern audience?

Robert: When a cyberspace character named Ram answers Flynn's question about what he did before he got there, Ram tells him he was an insurance program. As Ram excitedly explains why insurance is so important, Flynn replies in a bored tone "That's nice." Just goes to show that people were just as bored with insurance talk in 1982 as they are today, in cyberspace and the real world.

Also, when the renegade trio of Flynn, Tron and Ram find a pool of liquid, they get excited and begin drinking greedily. Soon afterward, they act both relaxed and re-energized. Later, after napping, they seem groggy and confused. I'm pretty sure the liquid was Red Bull and vodka.

Aprill: Not really. Although it did give me a ton of new phrases to use in everyday conversation, such as, "Oh my User!," "You'll be de-rezzed" and "They haven't built a circuit yet that could hold you." Of course, no one will get the references any more. Hmmm.

Q: What did you think was the most forward-thinking aspect of the movie?

Robert: Although Tron's production was billed as futuristic, forward-thinking and groundbreaking for its time, it was downright old fashioned compared to Disney's choice of Wendy Carlos to score the movie's soundtrack. Carlos had a chart-topping hit back in the 60s with the all-synthesizer recording "Switched on Bach." Of course, she was better known back then as Walter Carlos, and was a man. Carlos got sex-change surgery in the 70s and revealed it in a Playboy interview just three years before "Tron" was released. The fact that the House of Mouse hired her? Now that's really mind boggling.

Aprill: That they had the foresight to realize that some day computers would become smarter than us and eventually take over. Oh sure, call me a nut job, but if you've ever played the "Angry Birds" game app on your cell phone, you too would realize how close they are to world domination. Ninety-eight percent of my friends play that game, myself included, and while we're playing it, we have no idea what is going on even right beside us, let alone out in the world. They're just biding their time and then BOOM! They're going to swoosh in and take over, and we won't realize it until it is too late because we're still slingshotting birds at fat pigs. Just sayin.'

Q: Any final thoughts?

Robert: The company that did the computer-generated imagery for the movie had to pay so much for the state-of-the-art supercomputers they used that they went bankrupt after the movie premiered. It occurred to me that the three women I watched the movie with, who weren't even born when this movie started production in 1980, all carried smart phones more powerful than any of those systems.

Aprill: One of Sark's underlings is named Null Unit. Wasn't that the name of one of Frank Zappa's kids?

Robert: Hey! That was my line.

Aprill: Um ... I don't think so.

Robert: Yes, it was. I e-mailed it to you. Don't make me go through my sent folder.

Aprill: Ugh. Fine, you big baby. Um, final thoughts, final thoughts. Who knew that at one time Jeff Bridges was a hottie? I mean, YUM! And all my generation got was Bridges as The Dude.

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