Tron 1982


TRON (1982)

Rated PG

Directed by Steven Lisbergere      Walt Disney Pictures

Starring Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, Cindy Morgan, David Warner, Dan Shor

 A computer programmer is sucked into a digital world of his own design where he must defeat a devious artificial intelligence intent on taking over the whole system.

Opening Thoughts

This is a movie I was force-fed as a child due to my brother’s passionate love for it. See, when my brother and I were kids, there was a video store right next to the grocery store, and my mom would take us there and leave us every Saturday when she went grocery shopping (ah, the 80s, aimright??) We were each allowed to roam around and pick one movie which we could rent for one week. I usually went for the Disney classics, Parent Trap, Swiss Family Robinson, etc, but my brother always, always rented one of three movies. Tron, a Disney classic about the Civil War called The Great Locomotive Chase, or an animated movie called The 12 Tasks of Asterix. He’d rent one, say, Tron, and then he’d bring it back the next week…and rent it again. He’d do this for weeks, for months on end, until he got tired of it, and then move on to one of the other two and do the same thing. Then he’d rotate to the third movie, then back to Tron. This went on for YEARS.

So, why do I love it NOW? Well, it’s brilliant for starters, the early use of CGI is exciting and eye-catching, the story is cool and interesting, and I really like the characters. Flynn is funny and laid back, and was a cool nerd before the term existed, but he’s a fighter and a creative, and is determined to get back that which was stolen from him (and which is being corrupted). Tron is a great “hero” character, and a man of “faith” – he believes in the “Users” (which are like God to the programs), and he fights for his beliefs and isn’t going to back down no matter what. And not only that, he’s going to fight with everything he has to make sure other programs can know that freedom too.

This movie is also why I say “Greetings, programs!” all the time, and almost nobody ever gets it, which is just super sad 😛 Where all my nerds at??

Spoilers For TRON here!

Kevin Flynn is a young computer genius who owns and operates a video game arcade, but who spends his nights trying to break into the Encom computer system. Alan Bradley, another Encom worker, discovers his Tron program has been confiscated, and when he approaches CEO Ed Dillinger to find out why, Dillinger will only make vague references to someone “hacking” their system. Alan’s girlfriend Lora suspects that her ex, Flynn, has something to do with it, and the two go to Flynn’s arcade to warn him. Flynn reveals to the couple that three years ago he wrote the programs for several new video games, which Dillinger promptly stole and presented as his own. Dillinger then got Flynn fired while he himself got promoted several times and proceeded to reap all the benefits of the incredibly popular video games.

The trio hatch a plan to expose Dillinger’s theft, but it goes awry when Dillinger’s AI, the Master Control Program, digitally kidnaps Flynn and inserts him into the world inside the computer – the Game Grid, where computer programs take on a life of their own-literally.

Flynn discovers many of the programs the MCP, with the help of Dillinger, has appropriated, and is soon caught up in the rebellion to free the system. Leading the charge is Tron, Alan’s security program, who is trying to contact Alan in the real world to find a way to bring down the MCP. With the help of Flynn and Lora’s program, Yori, Flynn communicates with Alan at an Input/Output tower and receives instructions on how to terminate the MCP once and for all. Yori and Flynn are captured but Tron continues on, finally battling one on one with Sark, Dillinger’s personal patrol program. He is unable to attack the MCP head on until Flynn distracts it by sacrificing himself. Tron destroys the MCP, and Flynn is sent back to the real world, where he finds a printout waiting for him with the proof of Dillinger’s theft. The movie ends with Flynn, Alan, and Lora celebrating his promotion to CEO.

So What Did God Show Me?

-The scene where Crom is talking to Ram, and Ram asks him if he believes in the Users. Chrome responds, “Sure. I mean, if I don’t have a User, who wrote me?” It is a question many people ask themselves, and one worth taking a closer think about. I know there are beliefs in this world like we evolved on our own from apes, or that we just happened to exist because of cosmic events. I don’t buy it. I happen to believe that I’m far too amazing of a person to owe my existence to chance.

But seriously, I believe that not only is God a creative God that loves to create, but that He’s a personal God. He created us because He wanted relationship with us. And not a “master/servant” relationship, but a father/child relationship. He made us to create alongside Him, and to take joy in that creation. And because He created us, we bear His creative DNA, so like a child who resembles the father who passed on genes to him/her, we are made in His image. As so the computer programs also bear their creator/User’s image.

-I like the scene when Flynn is explaining to Lora and Alan what he’s been trying to do by breaking into the company’s mainframe – that Dillinger stole his work and has been exploiting it, and he wants to take him down. It shows that while he’s a goofball, a gamer, and a nerd, that’s not ALL he is. He is a creator passionate about his creation, and angry that it’s been stolen from him, and will do anything to get it back…even journeying to a foreign world in the guise of a commoner to win back what was lost. 😉

-Allen and Lora’s colleague, Walter, makes a comment about how technology is advancing, and soon the “computers and programs will start thinking, and the people will stop.” This is more true today, over forty years after this movie was made, than it ever has been. We live in a world where AI (artificial intelligence) can generate your term paper for you, or write a movie. At first glance it seems to make our lives easier, but is it making it better? While AI has been shown to have some benefits, I and many others I know have grave concerns over how it is being used and could be used in the future. When AI is brought up in conversation, most of the time I respond with, “This is how we get Terminators, people! RUN!” I’m only about 25% joking. Truthfully, this is a whole ‘nother post, I don’t want to go on for paragraphs about this here (because I definitely could). I don’t hate technology as a whole, technology is letting me write this blog post to share with all of you. But I just want to drop a short quote from Allen Arnold’s new book, “Risk the Real: How to Defy the Rise of the Artificial”. I’m only about a quarter of the way through the book so far, but it’s good. Anyway, he says, “No longer is AI about information or just making your life easier. The battle is for intimacy. Who or what will you be most fascinated by, look to for answers, spend the most time with? Things are accelerating in this world of unreality…and whichever agent gets to have that primary intimacy relationship in your life will win.”

-When Flynn first arrives on the Grid, he is brought before Sark with a bunch of other programs in the computer world that have been “hacked” and stolen by the MCP. They are given the option to recant their belief in “Users”, and if they do so, will be given more prestige and opportunities. Those who refuse are forced to compete in gladiatorial style games where they usually end up “derezzing” (dying). This reminded me so strongly of what Christians were forced to endure back in Roman times, and even today, all over the world. We should never take for granted the freedom we have as Christians, and that we live in a time and place where we are free to speak about our faith. As we have seen in the past and in other stories, that can be taken away in a moment…it’s already being attacked, every day.

-When Flynn notices Tron and asks about him, he’s told, “That’s Tron, he fights for the Users.” Yes! Tron unashamedly is fighting against the evil that’s holding him captive, and after every battle that’s won, he holds aloft his weapon, his identity disk, the source of who he is, to honor his User creator. He’s like all the warriors of the Old Testament, Joshua, David, giving glory to God in their victories.

-When the MCP tells Sark that he’s brought a User into their world and he wants him destroyed in the games. Sark’s all, “A User? Uh…Users wrote us.” Sark’s giving a rare show of his fear, and rightly so. Imagine going up against God?? Even Sark is feeling humbled by the thought. Only the MCP would be ballsy enough to think that he could overcome and destroy a User. It’s like when Jesus was walking around on the earth, and people actually thought they could destroy Him and take Him out permanently.

-I like that Flynn shows mercy when he’s competing with another program. It’s like in Gladiator when Maximus spares the life of Tigris of Gaul, not only is he not interested in saving his own life, he’s sending a clear message of defiance, that he will not be controlled by his enemy.

-I like the scene where Flynn, Tron, and Ram are fighting together in the lightcycles on the game grid. The CGI is great and I like how they all work together to win the game. I mean, Flynn wrote this game, he knows exactly how it works and how to play it and win it. Then Flynn decides to escape and he invites the guys along, gives them a chance to grab hold of the freedom they’ve been denied for so long, a chance to overthrow the warlords. This is a terrific example of the power of friendship, and working together towards a common goal. Where each person is unique and brings something different to the table, but that all of those things can work together to accomplish what otherwise would be an impossible task.

-When Tron, Flynn, and Ram come across the pure power source and take the time to rest and “recharge”, I love how this allows Tron to feel Alan-1’s presence and call more strongly. We can all take a lesson from this! In this crazy world where we have made ourselves continually available via texts, emails, smart phones, Zoom, etc, taking time to get away and “recharge” is key to being able to draw closer to God and hear Him more clearly.

-The scene where Tron and Yori go to the I/O tower so that Tron can communicate with his maker, “Alan-1” is so great! I love the joy on Tron’s face that he is finally, freely able to communicate with his maker, and that his maker gives him information on how to be free and to free everyone else by defeating the Master Control Program. “This code disk means freedom.” The information on his disk is powerful enough to bring down and destroy the enemy and bring life and restore all the programs to their places. We have all been given that same knowledge to share with everyone we meet, that they can be free and don’t have to live under the enemy’s rule anymore!

-Ha ha ha, the scene where Flynn has been captured by Sark, and Sark tried to attack Flynn’s identity with lies. “There’s nothing special about you, you’re just an ordinary program.” Flynn is confident in his identity, he knows who he is, a User, and that nothing Sark can say will change that, so he is able to respond placidly, “So are you. One that should have been erased.” Enraged, Sark yells at him, “You’re nothing!”, to which Flynn just laughs, infuriating Sark. When the enemy tries to hurl lies at us about who we are, that we have no value or nothing to offer, remember who you are, and that nothing the enemy can say or do will ever change that.

-I like how Flynn is kind of a Christ figure in this movie, in that he’s a User that “came down” among the other programs…but he’s not a program, even though he looks and acts like one. He is there to help bring freedom to all the other programs, and at the end, he sacrifices himself, but then is “resurrected” back in the human world.

Closing Thoughts

So, how did I go from eye-rolling this movie as a kid to having it be among my top faves as an adult? Well, nostalgia for one, but really, like He’s done so many times before, God opened my eyes. There’s so many themes here about the program’s relationships with their Users, and how when they are finally freed by a sacrificial User who “came down” among them, they are able to pursue what they were made for.

I love the actors in this movie, Jeff Bridges’ enthusiasm especially, and I still think the special effects, sound effects and such are incredible, even if they do seem dated by today’s standards. But mostly it’s just a fun movie to watch, where the hero is whisked away into a fantastical land (I’m a sucker for portal fantasy) and fights the bad guys and wins, yay! Oh, and I like that it made being a nerd cool. 😎

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