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Steven Lisberger
Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan, Barnard Hughes, Dan Shor, Peter Jurasik
Writing Credits:
Steven Lisberger (and story), Bonnie MacBird (story)

In the future video game battles will be a matter of life or death.

Experience the original landmark motion picture that inspired a new generation of digital filmmakers and became a favorite of fans and critics across the world. Relive the electrifying thrills of TRON with an all-new, state-of-the-art digital restoration and enhanced high definition sound.

When a brilliant video game maker named Flynn (Jeff Bridges) hacks the mainframe of his ex-employer, he is beamed inside an astonishing digital world and becomes part of the very game he is designing. Complete with never-before-seen bonus material, it's an epic adventure that everyone will enjoy!

Box Office:
$17 million.
Opening Weekend
$4.761 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$26.918 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 4/5/2011

• Audio Commentary with Director Steven Lisberger, Producer Donald Kushner, Special Effects Supervisor Richard Taylor and Visual Effects Supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw
• “The Tron Phenomenon” Featurette
• “Photo Tronology”
• “Development”
• “Digital Imagery”
• “The Making of Tron” Documentary
• “Music”
• “Publicity”
• Deleted Scenes
• “Design”
• “Storyboarding”
• Galleries
• Sneak Peeks
• Bonus DVD


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Tron [Blu-Ray] (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 28, 2011)

Sometimes groundbreaking movies turn out to be classics in their own right. Look at two Disney flicks, for example. 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first feature-length animated film and it remains one of the all-time greats. In addition 1995’s Toy Story offered the initial full-length computer-generated feature, and it’s still an absolute joy.

Another Disney flick entered new territory but it doesn’t enjoy the same stellar reputation as those other two. 1982’s Tron provided some of the first use of computer graphics in a film, and it integrated them to an unprecedented level.

All of this seemed extremely cool to those of us who were young at the time. I was 15 when Tron hit screens in the summer of 1982 and I definitely fell into its target audience, not just because of my age. My family obtained our first personal computer - an Apple III, for the record - a few months earlier, and I was deeply in love with the wonderful world it introduced. I’ll always remember the summer of 1982 as my first big experience with computer games; I spent a spooky amount of time playing Wizardry, which remains one of the greatest games ever, in my book.

When I heard about Tron, it looked like it’d be terrific. The graphics were so awe-inspiring that the flick just had to be killer, right?

As we’ve learned over the years, terrific visuals have absolutely no correlation with product quality. While Tron provided state-of-the-art graphics for its era, the movie itself was little more than a warmed-over pastiche of action flick dynamics that did little to differentiate itself other than through its visuals.

Tron follows talented computer programmer Flynn (Jeff Bridges). He currently runs a videogame arcade and seems like a fun-loving sort, but it quickly becomes clear that he got burned in the not-too-distant past. He used to work for Encom, a computer conglomerate that produces many of the most popular arcade games. It turns out the Flynn developed these hits but his work was stolen by an unscrupulous executive named Dillinger (David Warner).

As such, Flynn spends a lot of his time trying to crack the Encom security code to find proof that his material was pilfered. Eventually he recruits ex-girlfriend Lora (Cindy Morgan) and her current beau Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) - both of whom still work at Encom - to assist him as he gets into the system.

Along with older scientist Dr. Walter Gibbs (Barnard Hughes), Lora’s been working on a device that will dematerialize and then reconstruct objects, kind of like the transporter on Star Trek. Once Flynn starts to taunt the Encom MCP, the latter takes charge of that object. It uses it to zap Flynn and place him within the world of the computer.

You see, Tron posits that there’s life in them thar chips. There’s a whole struggle that takes place beneath the cyber-surface, all of which is run by the oppressive MCP. Flynn enters this environment and quickly gets caught up in the fight for freedom led by Tron, the computer alter ego of Alan (and also played by Boxleitner). He meets doppelgangers for Lora (called Yori in the bits), Gibbs (Dumont), and Dillinger (Sark) as well as other characters like Ram (Dan Shor). Because he’s really a “user” - viewed as god-like figures by those in the computer world - Flynn has super-powers, and he helps the others on their quest while he also tries to find the proof that Dillinger stole his work.

On the positive side, I definitely respect the pioneering work found in Tron. During this disc’s supplements, Toy Story director John Lasseter relates that without Tron, we probably would never have gotten the great flicks that have come from Pixar. I don’t know if that’s really true; even if Tron itself never existed, someone would have made a movie with then-fresh computer imagery.

Nonetheless, the flick definitely had a positive effect in regard to the use of computer graphics in movies, and it deserves credit for that. Almost 30 years down the road, it’s hard to remember just how amazing Tron looked back then. Today, the film’s computer work would look poor in a Playstation game, but back then, it was amazing stuff.

Unfortunately, Tron mainly feels like it was an excuse to show us state-of-the-art graphics with little else behind it. The story seems like an uninspired combination of Spartacus and Star Wars, and it never catches fire in any way. Bridges brings a modicum of spark to the role of Flynn and Warner lends his usual dark elegance to both Dillinger and Sark. The other actors are acceptable but more mundane; none do much for the flick but they don’t actively harm it.

Mainly, Tron just comes across as a bland and generic experience. It seems like so much emphasis was put on the technical elements that little time was devoted to story and characters. In that way, Tron strongly resembles a more recent innovative piece of animation: 2001’s photo-realistic computer work Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. As with Tron, Fantasy shows us the best imagery for its era but it really doesn’t bother to do much more than that. I thought it was a watchable film, but the material failed to live up to the graphics.

Unfortunately, Tron doesn’t look very impressive anymore, though it has some still-cool elements. To represent the computer world, some very unusual methods were used above and beyond the normal CGI. These create a unique appearance for the film that still allows it to stand out in the visual realm. The computer animation comes across as very dated and weak, but some of the other graphic elements are still compelling.

Even if the movie retained all of the visual impact it had nearly 30 years ago, Tron would remain a fairly lackluster piece. The flick seemed watchable but bland when I was 15, and it comes across the same way now that I’m 43. Actually, this more recent viewing may have been a little more satisfying; I had high expectations for it when I was a kid, but I didn’t anticipate much from it today. Overall, Tron seems moderately entertaining but it fails to present much excitement or depth.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus A

Tron appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.20:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The movie offered a surprisingly terrific presentation.

Tron created a slew of opportunities for the image to look bad. Many of the scenes that took place inside the computer world used multiple composited layers, and each one of those introduced additional possibilities for problems. To be sure, some issues revolved around those segments. However, the image still managed to present a very pleasing impression.

Sharpness largely appeared distinct and concise. A few wide shots demonstrated some minor softness, but those concerns seemed infrequent. Otherwise, the picture looked accurate and well defined. Moiré effects and jagged edges offered no problems, and I also witnessed no concerns related to edge enhancement.

Although compositing often introduces many source flaws, that didn’t seem to be the case for Tron. The image took on a flickery look that also appeared to stem from the compositing and other technical elements, but this actually worked within the computer world, so it wasn’t a distraction. Actual print defects remained absent in this clean presentation.

Colors varied dependent on the setting. In the “real world” shots, they consistently appeared vivid and natural. Inside the computer, the hues tended to appear heavier and more artificial. I don’t know how much of that was intentional and how much just came along with the processes used, though I feel much of it occurred by design. In any case, the hues always looked fine, and I thought they seemed good to great throughout the film.

Similar issues related to black levels. During the real world scenes, they came across as nicely deep and intense, but they could seem a little murky when we entered the computer. This didn’t create any problems, however, and shadow detail appeared solid. Low-light sequences were appropriately opaque but not overly dark. In the end, I felt impressed with the image; it took a difficult film and made it look stunning much of the time.

I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Tron. Given the vintage of the film, I didn’t expect much from the mix. To my surprise, it turned out to be a very active and engaging affair.

The soundfield created a rather vivid and involving setting. The forward spectrum offered nice stereo imaging for music, and effects also were well placed and blended together reasonably cleanly. At times, I thought the mix seemed a little speaker-specific, but as a whole, the various elements meshed well and created a solid setting.

Surround usage was quite positive, especially for an older movie. The rears worked actively through most of the film, and they added a fine layer of reinforcement to the audio. They also contributed a high level of unique audio and created a nicely enveloping presence. A reasonable amount of split-surround usage occurred, and the mix seemed quite vibrant at virtually all times.

Audio quality also came across as well above average for its era. Dialogue seemed natural and distinct, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music appeared bright and vivid, and its dynamic range sounded full and rich. Effects showed no signs of distortion; they came across as clear and realistic at all times.

Bass response was extremely heavy throughout the movie. Frankly, I thought it was too heavy, as the LFE channel frequently threatened to destroy my house. My poor little subwoofer feared for its life, as this track absolutely poured on the low-end. I love bass as much - if not more - as the next guy, but this was a bit much. Nonetheless, that was a small mark against a soundtrack that otherwise stood out strongly among it age-based peers.

How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the 2002 DVD? I thought the audio remained comparable. The Blu-ray tamed the overwhelming bass a bit; the DTS-HD low-end seemed less intense, and that was a good thing. Otherwise, both were a lot alike.

Visuals took a much bigger leap forward, as the movie looked much better here. The image was significantly better defined and smoother, and it seemed cleaner and less messy as well. This was a splendid visual presentation that blew away the DVD.

The Blu-ray includes all of the original extras plus some new ones. Also found on the DVD, we get an audio commentary from director Steven Lisberger, producer Donald Kushner, special effects supervisor Richard Taylor and visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw. All four men were recorded together for this running, fairly scene-specific piece. Ported over from a 1995 laserdisc boxed set, this track occasionally seemed somewhat dry, but it offered a reasonably interesting discussion of the film.

Not surprisingly, technical considerations dominated the piece. The participants provided a lot of remarks about various effects techniques and challenges. However, we still got some good material that went over other areas. They talked about a nice mix of issues that related to the production and generally made this a compelling program; heck, they even made fun of some of the movie’s sillier elements at times. The commentary was a little flat on occasion, but overall, it seemed informative and worthwhile.

Next we locate the two Blu-ray exclusives. The Tron Phenomenon runs nine minutes, 45 seconds and includes notes from Lisberger, conceptual artist Syd Mead, Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski, Legacy producers Justin Springer and Sean Bailey, Legacy writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, and actors Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen, Olivia Wilde, and Garrett Hedlund. This acts as an appreciation for the film and discusses some of its innovations. There’s a lot of back-patting here, but a few behind the scenes clips make it occasionally worthwhile.

Under Photo Tronology, we find a 16-minute, 37-second piece. Lisberger and his son Carl head to Disney to dig through their Tron archives; along with them, we see shots of Steven and other participants during the production. We see more modern video footage of the Lisbergers than I’d like – the ratio of video:photos is too high – but we still get a nice selection of shots. The Lisbergers also add interesting commentary; that adds value to the reel.

Most of the remaining extras fall in various subdomains. Under Development we get five programs. "Early Development of Tron" offers a two-minute and 37-second piece that consists of interviews with writer/director Steven Lisberger and producer Donald Kushner. Based on the quality of the piece and the styles displayed by the participants, I’d guess that it comes from the period in which Tron was made. Lisberger discusses his inspirations and his insistence on the use of computer animation, while Kushner tells us how they ended up working with Disney. It’s a short but reasonably informative featurette.

Next we find "Early Lisberger Studios Animation". Basically a 30-second promo logo that I suppose was meant to tout the studio, the traditionally-animated clip seems silly and dated, but it shows some of the roots of Tron and is a nice addition for archival reasons.

"Computers Are People Too" provides a snippet from a May 1982 TV program of that name. The piece looked at that era’s top-of-the-line computer work, and we hear from Lisberger and co-supervisor of special effects Richard Taylor in this Tron-centered segment. In many ways, the four and a half minute clip just acts as a preview of the movie; we get a little information about the techniques used in the flick, but essentially it emphasizes the basics. It’s another piece that’s nice to have for archival value, but it’s not terribly useful otherwise.

Lastly, "Early Video Tests" intends to include a 30-second reel commissioned by Disney to prove the viability of the film’s techniques. Unfortunately, this area provides the wrong material. It shows a 1981 test reel displayed to exhibitors, not the bits created to prove the styles would work.

The same “Gallery” collection shows up here and under a few other domains. It includes “Design” (130 stills), “Early Concept Art” (9), “Publicity and Production Photos” (33) and “Storyboard Art” (44). The package can be slow to load, but it includes a lot of good material and gives us nice options to view the elements.

As we move to Digital Imaging, we get another five subsections. "Backlight Animation" runs one minute, 39 seconds as effects technical supervisor John Scheele gives us a quick demonstration of the manner in which that work was done. "Digital Imagery In Tron" lasts three minutes, 45 seconds and gives us statements from Richard Taylor and Bill Kroyer; they cover some of the challenges created by working with computer imagery.

"Beyond Tron" offers a snippet of a TV special of the same name. It lasts four minutes and we get some information about the material created by a company called MAGI. We hear from MAGI founder Dr. Phillip Mittelman, and we learn about their origins and their work. Lisberger appears to relate his early exposure to MAGI and how it influenced his decisions for Tron. We even see a cute early piece of computer animation in this fairly interesting little program.

In "Role of Triple I", we get a 35-second clip from Richard Taylor in which he briefly explains how that company helped get Tron off the ground. Lastly, the "Triple I Demo" includes a two minute and 15 second example of their computer imagery from the early Eighties.

Through the various sub-sections, we get a decent look at a mix of Tron elements. However, the next extra helps tie all of this together. The Making of Tron provides an excellent 98-minute and 21-second look at the project as a whole. We hear from director Lisberger, animator Roger Allers, producer Donald Kushner, storyboard artist Andy Gaskill, Disney Motion Picture Group Chairman Dick Cook, visual effects supervisor Richard Taylor, associate producer/visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw, director of photography Bruce Logan, background painter Tia Kratter, storyboard artist/animator Bill Kroyer, Pixar chief John Lasseter, as well as actors Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, Barnard Hughes, Cindy Morgan, and Dan Shor.

“Making” covers quite a lot of the production. We learn about the film’s genesis, its casting, and all of the challenges that occurred along the way, technical and otherwise. The participants seem surprisingly blunt at times; while the show includes no true dirt, they express concerns and disagreements, issues that don’t usually appear in this sort of show. Overall, it’s a consistently interesting and entertaining piece that really is the prime supplement on DVD Two. The others are nice but most will mainly appeal to diehards; “The Making of Tron” will be all that most people need.

Music simply offers some unused scoring. We get the three-minute "Lightcycle Scene With Alternate Carlos Music Tracks" and the five minute, 15 second "End Credits With Original Carlos Music". Both are for completists alone, I’d think, as they don’t seem very appealing for more casual fans. Not that I’m complaining, as I appreciate their inclusion here.

Publicity includes a five minute and five second promo reel created to show the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), while “Work In Progress” runs 80 seconds and gives us an early look at the flick. An additional four standard theatrical trailers appear as well. "Production Photos" offers 87 stillframe images, while we can link to the same “Gallery” mentioned earlier.

More compelling are the three Deleted Scenes. In a two minute and 15 second “Introduction”, Lisberger, associate producer/visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw and actor Bruce Boxleitner discuss the omission of a romantic scene between Tron and Yori. We then see the 115-second “Tron and Yori’s Love Scene” as well as its follow-up, the 45-second “Tron and Yori’s Love Scene #2”. Lastly, we get an “Alternate Opening Prologue” which added three paragraphs of text that would have clarified the film at its start.

Within the Design domain we get more short pieces. "Introduction to Design" lasts 70 seconds as Lisberger briefly touches on visual inspirations. Next comes 18 seconds of “Lightcycles MAGI Animation Tests” as well as “Syd Mead Discusses Lightcycle Design”. In the 114-second piece, the designer talks about some of the challenges. We can also look at “Recognizer: Space Paranoids Video Game” full screen or letterboxed, and the same “Gallery” found elsewhere repeats here.

Storyboarding gives us another five mini-topics under its banner. "The Storyboarding Process" runs for three minutes and 55 seconds as we hear from computer image choreographer Bill Kroyer. First he guides us through a narrated look at boards for one of the lightcycle sequences, and then he shows us and discusses some diagrams created for the film to assist the computer artists. It’s a decent little piece but not overly informative.

"Creation of Tron Main Title - Moebius Storyboards" is a 15-second running look at some proposed art for the opening, while we once again gain access to “Galleries” here.

Finally, the "Storyboard to Film Comparisons" look at the “Lightcycle Chase” sequence. After a 50-second “Introduction” from Bill Kroyer, we can watch the two-minute scene in these ways: “Lightcycle Chase Split Screen” - with the boards on the top of the screen and the movie itself on the bottom - as well as “Lightcycle Chase Storyboard Only” and “Lightcycle Chase Final Film”.

If you haven’t gotten enough of the “Galleries” in the various subdomains, take heart: it appears on its own as well.

The disc launches with ads for Tron: Legacy, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Prom. These also show up under Sneak Peeks with promos for the Tron: Evolution video game, Cars 2, African Cats and The Incredibles.

A second disc offers a DVD copy of Tron. This offers a nice bonus if you haven’t gone Blu yet or if you just want a spare to watch on the road.

Almost 30 years ago, Tron offered a revolutionary visual experience that dazzled teens like myself. Today it doesn’t look so hot, so it needs to stand on its own merits as a film. Tron continues to deserve respect, but frankly, the movie itself is something of a bore. It features some decent action at times, but it comes across as a rehashing of other better flicks. The Blu-ray provides excellent picture and sound as well as a terrific package of supplements. Fans of Tron should be exceedingly pleased with this release.

To rate this film, visit the 20th Anniversary Edition review of TRON

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main