Tron (1982)

Directed by
Prescient and influential
Reviewed by Simon on 2003-05-10

How TRON has an average 6.8 score on IMDB I don't know, as it is surely one of the best and most important films ever made. There are very few films that can actually claim to have changed the world, but TRON is one. TRON changed the way we view computers, programs and games indelibly - it shaped the future, and now seems almost prescient as a result.

Most importantly, TRON made *me* cool. It's hard to believe, but prior to TRON computer games were considered "geeky". Now of course everybody recognises that programmers are heroes and video games are sexy, and a video game programmer like myself can rightly take his place at the top of society. Thank you TRON.

What's most extroadinary about TRON is the consistency and creativity of its vision. "How does a computer program see the world?" and "How will the world see us when computers become smarter than man"? Humans are largely in denial about it, but that day IS coming... machine intelligence is a reality, and it's only a matter of time before the first electronic lifeforms are created. In fact, who's to say this hasn't happened already - it's perhaps only due to our anthropomorphic definitions of life that we haven't recognised it in our own creations. Admittedly, in 1982 the prospect of artificial lifeforms looked even closer than it does now, after initially great successes in artificial intelligence creating machines capable of logical thought that way outstripped human ability. Unfortunately, that success brought about the realisation that humans aren't actually much good at logical thought anyway, and it isn't that important a component of what we call intelligence. There's still some way to go before we can create programs that perceive the world and their own relationship to it in a similar way to us.

Anyway, TRON isn't set now, it's set in a future when man has succeeded in creating just such programs. Developed by man to perform his tasks, the programs have evolved to a state where they develop awareness of the world they live in. Not the bricks and mortar world that we recognise, but a global network of software, systems and information. TRON realises that world brilliantly, giving us a great visual analogy for how a computer program would perceive reality. The special effects were incredible in 1982, and frankly they're incredible now. Technically they look very dated and primitive in an age where special effects have attained the look of absolute reality... but artistically they are still unsurpassed. The goal was never to create a digital copy of our reality, after all - it was to create a truly digital reality, another world entirely. TRON set the standard for this, and even now presents the best and most accurate representation of the computer system world.

Truly, TRON was prescient as much as it was influential. It was made by people who really understood the technology of the time, and the potential it contained and what this meant for the world of the future. Perhaps the low IMDB score is because even now the majority of the world audience haven't understood this as well as they did. Humans still fear technology but imagine they can control it. They can't - it's something we've created but now it exists it has a life of its own. Technology will improve, will become more powerful, will supercede its creators in every respect. When that happens, what will our relationship with our creations be? THE MATRIX gives us one possible answer, though TRON's suggestions are 1000 times more realistic. The human race really has no idea what its future holds though, and I only hope to live long enough to find out some of it for myself.