Watching Tron on the big screen – back into the ENCOM mainframe

AFTER only ever watching it on TV, it was a rare treat to head for the cinema and watch Tron in all its glory on the big screen.

That was what prompted @RobinBrown78 to head for FACT in Liverpool this week, as part of a group of 50 lucky enough to have tickets for the showing.

The first surprise was that we watched the film in The Box, Fact’s viewing room with comfy sofas instead of seats – a first for me.

The second was that the film still stood up well, despite being 28 years old.

In case you haven’t seen it, the central premise is that Jeff Bridge’s character Flynn is searching for evidence his video game ideas were ripped off. While searching, he is digitised by the evil Master Control Program and put into the mainframe, to play video games until he is killed.

While there, he escapes from the video game arena with a programme called Tron, created by Flynn’s friend in real life, Alan, and they set out to bring the MCP down and free the system.

The film certainly wastes no time in setting this up and the pared down script races along at a cracking pace. Before you know where you are, you’re racing along on lightcycles and flinging ID discs left right and centre.

Yes, some of the dialogue is a bit clunky – Robin and I both laughed when David Warner as Sark yelled ‘Bring in the Logic Probe!’ – and tech heavy at times, making it tricky to follow.

And yes the special effects are showing their age now. However they still set up a believable universe and work well as a device to aid the storytelling, if you switch off the bit of your brain that constantly says ‘jeez, that looks shit.’

But the film still has Jeff Bridges, fantastically charismatic as Flynn, and solid support from Warner, Bruce Boxleitner and Cindy Morgan (who I remember fondly as Lacey Underall in Caddyshack, another of my favourite films). The soundtrack is classic 1980s synth pop too, very atmospheric.

What’s more sci-fi fans, Crom, a program who Flynn refuses to kill early in the film, was played by Peter Jurasik who would go to star alongside Boxleitner as Londo in Babylon 5. I apologise to my fellow viewers for my geek alarm going off when I saw him.

90 short minutes later Tron had triumphed, the credits had rolled and Robin and I were knocking back a pint and putting the world to rights.

While the film is good and not great, the nostalgia of watching it again with a mate, on the big screen and in its original, untampered form, made for a great experience.

Here’s to the next big screen nostalgia trip and to Tron Legacy, which has a lot to live up to.

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