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Tron (1982) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 05 April 2011
ImageNote: This review is based on the disc contained in the 5-disc “Tron: Legacy”/“Tron” Blu-ray package.

Categorizing “Tron” is actually tougher than you might think.  The film is nostalgic on the one hand and terribly inconsistent on the other.  The CG is horrendous today and yet amazing for its time.  The acting is engaging but the script is underwhelming.  “Tron” is nonsensical yet filled to the brim with deeper issues.  However you view the film, it is fairly undeniable that “Tron” is a true representation of the early 1980s.

The box labels this film as a “Tron: The Original Classic.”  Classic may be taking it a bit too far.  However, I am sure there are those out there that would whole-heartedly disagree.  But here is why I would argue against the classic stance.  For someone that watches the film for the first time today, they are much too distracted by the inferior graphics and visual effects.  A distraction of this magnitude keeps the film from been a tried and true classic.  However, those that watch this as a throwback to their youth will find the film intoxicating once again.

“Tron is the story of Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a young and brilliant software engineer.  After being fired from Encom he turns hacker.  He is searching for proof in the Encom mainframe system that his rival, Ed Dillinger (Warner) stole his programs and passed them off as his own, resulting in the best video games in history.

Flynn is aided by two friends that still work at Encom, a software developer Alan (Boxleitner) and Lora (Morgan).  Together they sneak into Encom so that Flynn can get into the system and find the proof.  At the same time they are trying to take down the Master Control Program, a type of artificial intelligence.  The MCP has taken over the system and prevents a free system.  Alan has developed Tron, a sort of anti-virus, system protector that is dedicated to the Users and a free system.
In “Tron” there are two groups, the Programs and the Users.  The Users are the creators in the real world and the programs are the digital information in the computer realm.  When the MCP detects Flynn in the Encom building he uses a molecular laser to transport Flynn into the computer world.  It is there that Flynn must join forces with Tron, the protector and find a way to stop the MCP.

Along the way we find all sorts of deeper meanings.  There is a link to organized religion, with the Users being considered deities and the Programs the slaves.  There are environmental issues contained in the presence of a pure water power source and with the circuit paths symbolizing freeways.  The list goes on and on and it becomes a bit exhausting trying to find all the hidden or symbolic meanings in each segment.  Instead, it is better just to take the film at face value, though that is not seemingly how it was intended.

“Tron” has poor CG by today’s standards, but it was “Tron” that paved the way for mattes and CG/Live Action integration.  It is hard to imagine today’s CG without the presence of “Tron.”

How is one to categorize the video quality of this Blu-ray transfer?  In a word, faithful.  Don’t expect to pick up this Blu-ray and find that Disney has polished every flaw and graphic into a pristine image.  “Tron” has been left alone for the most part.  This is welcomed on my part.  I love to see the film as it was originally sourced.  The CG flickering and the contrast imbalances are all welcomed in my book.  What Disney has done is meticulously repair the print.  You will not find a scratch or blemish on the transfer.  The studio didn’t simply scrub the print, they fixed the blemishes with great detail.  This allows for details to be better than ever.  While the transfer is not without its source problems, just compare the Blu-ray to the original standard DVD and you will be floored by the quality increase.  Black levels are a bit of a problem.  However, again this is attributed to the source.  The black levels swallow up everything in their path.  Shadows black out every bit of detail.  Colors are accurate both in the real world and the computer realm.  However, in the computer realm the contrast issue create a bit of a disconnect between the gray and the colors.  Still, most of this is attributable to the groundbreaking visual effects.  Fans of the film should be most pleased with the video transfer.

The star of this disc is the audio track.  Disney provides us a remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track.  Engineers have painstakingly remixed all the elements of this film.  And the result is excellent.  Remember, the original sound is used so there is no getting away from the source sound quality.  The frequency response is limited.  But nevertheless, play this 5.1 audio track in a true home theater and you will find immersive qualities that you have never heard before with this film.  The surround channels are constantly engaging.  Reverb and ambience in the rear channels provides an enveloping nature.  While these ambiences are band-limited, it is nice to have them spread out.  The dialogue is typical of the response for a 30 year-old film.  Still the dialogue is intelligible, falling by the wayside on a just a few occasions.  The LFE channel provides great support to the main channels.  Directionality is quite good considering the remix elements.  There is no doubt that the audio track will provide a more pleasant viewing experience of this film.

The “Tron” Blu-ray comes with over five hours of bonus materials.  Most are presented in standard definition.  There are two additional high-definition featurettes.  The rest of the content has been available previously.  The filmmakers’ audio commentary is a wealth of information, as fans already know.  “Photo Tronology” is a new featurette that digs through the original concept art for the production.  “The Tron Phenomenon” is the second new featurette and it discusses the legacy of the film.  “The Making of ‘Tron’” is a 90-minute documentary.  “Digital Imagery” is a brief but informative piece on some of the groundbreaking visuals.  “Development” takes a look at the preproduction phase.  The Blu-ray also comes with a featurette on the “Music,” “Publicity,” “Storyboarding” and “Design.”  Lastly, the disc contains three deleted scenes and some photo galleries.

“Tron” is imperfect and doesn’t real stand the test of time for new comers (hence the creation of “Tron: Legacy”) but it will bring a smile to faces of many fans.  The audio and video qualities are as good as they are going to get while maintaining much of the original source.  I highly recommend this title.

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