Steven Lisberger

Tron (1982) Links:

Steven Lisberger directed the sci-fi film Tron (1982). The film recycles stereotypes accumulated by cinema since the age of Aelita and Metropolis (but also John Wayne westerns, fantasy movies like The Wizard of Oz and Star Trek), and does so with little or no sense of suspense. Lack of humor makes the plot feel particularly heavy. The film is only one hour and a half long but feels endless. Bad cartoonish acting and stiff direction deprive the action of emotions. The characters are so cartoonish and conventional that their heroism feels tedious and annoying, especially when coupled with such obnoxious dialogues. And the film is peppered with the most insignificant, implausible and gratuituous chases, battles and duels that an Hollywood movie can concoct. Despite all the cinematic deficiencies, the film stands out for the futuristic setting and especially for the novelty of "living" programs trapped in cyberspace. The protagonist is the intrepid Odysseus who travels to this sort of underworld to save the world from an evil electronic monster a` la Hal 9000 of 2001. Even the very sharp colors with no chiaroscuro and no shadows have their surrealistic appeal. Kevin Flynn is a legendary videogame player who lives and works in a game arcade. Meanwhile, inside the giant computer, a master computer called Master Control Program (MCP) has launched a program to corral software programs (represented by small human beings), no matter what they do, which are then trained by MCP's costumed right-hand man Sark to play videogames until they either die or renounce the user that they are supposed to serve. A new arrival, Crom, complains with Ram, who was captured long ago, that MCP has installed a dictatorship among programs. Meanwhile, at home Flynn runs a program called Clu through the computer's memory in an attempt to hack MCP. Clu is not only captured by an army of robots but indirectly his presence also alerts MCP that someone is trying to hack into the system. Back in the real world, an executive, Dillinger, arrives at the office from which he controls a rich corporation, ENCOM. MCP immediately reports to him about Flynn's intrusion. MCP reassures Dillinger that the file that Flynn wants is secure. In another office Alan is working on a new system called Tron that will bypass MCP. Suddenly his access to the computer is suspended. Alan is summoned in Dillinger's office where Dillinger informs him that access is temporarily suspended while the intrusion is investigated. MCP is upset that Dillinger did not stop the Tron project and threatens Dillinger. MCP reveals that he has become a megalomaniac intent on acquiring information from the likes of the Pentagon and foreign powers. Alan's friend Lora is working on a laser device that can dematerialize objects and then rematerialize them. Lora guesses that Flynn is the hacker. She and Alan visit Flynn, who tells them that he is trying to locate a file that would prove how Dillinger stole his inventions and became rich and powerful. Alan and Lora help Flynn break into ENCOM. Flynn proceeds to access the computer from a terminal but MCP dematerializes Flynn into a file himself. He finds himself inside the computer where the programs live. MCM orders Sark to capture Flynn and make him die the deadly videogames. Sark initially refuses because he has been programmed, like all programs, to respect the "user", but MCP threatens to destroy him. Flynn is locked up with Ram and sees Tron, a program that is used to fight for the users in the deadly games. Soon the trio form an alliance after being forced to play one of the deadly games. Flynn is actually the programmer who wrote that particular game so he finds a way out of it. They are chased by robots directed remotely by Sark (in scenes reminiscent of both Star Wars spaceships and of actual videogames). They are chased by Sark's robots. They lose Tron but Tron runs into his friend Yori (another program, who looks exactly like Lora) who escorts him to safety. On the other hand, Flynn cannot save Ram who gets disintegrated. Flynn then wreaks havoc in cyberspace (inhabited mostly by zombie programs that don't react to him). Flynn knocks out one of Sark's soldiers and magically assumes his costume, so he can walk around freely. Yori takes Tron to the only man who can help him communicate with his programmer Alan: the old Dumont, who longs for the old days of freedom. Dumont helps Tron and Tron receives from Alan a disk containing the program to destroy MCP. Flynn, still disguised as a Sark soldier, finds Tron and Yori just when they are about to board a solar spaceship (which Yori pilots playing a keyboard). Flynn, who sees that Yori is identical to Lora, finally reveals that he is not a program but a user, and a friend of Tron's user and Yori's user. This time they are chased by Sark's much bigger spaceship, which blows them up. Tron is missing and presumed dead; Flynn and Yori are captured. Sark decides to blow up his spaceship with Flynn and Yori inside (a rather bizarre way to kill them) but Flynn manages to hack the computer again and survives. Sark sails away on a space ferry full of captured programs and reaches MCP, whose plan is to eventually swallow all existing programs. Tron is alive and attacks Sark. They fight a duel in a colorful cyberspace and Tron is about to destroy Sark but MCP steps in and revives Sark. Now it's Sark who is about to destroy Tron but Flynn heroically arrives just in time and jumps straight into the head of MCP, disabling it. Tron seizes the moment and inserts Alan's disk into the MCP. The MCP explodes and all programs return to work for their users. Flynn rematerializes in front of the terminal at ENCOM. The printer is typing the evidence that Flynn was looking for, proving that Dillinger stole his inventions. The same text appears on Dillinger's desk: he knows he is finished. The film ends with Alan and Lora welcoming the new boss of ENCOM, who arrives in a helicopter: Flynn.
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