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In an effort to place movies I enjoyed in my youth in their proper perspectives, I have decided to rewatch some of my favorite flicks of yesteryear through the critical eyeballs of adulthood. This is not a malicious attempt to invalidate anyone’s childhood, but I hold, if you are old enough to give your life for your country, you’re old enough to know the truth about some of your movies that just don’t hold up as well as you remembered now that you’re all grown up.

TRON Reviewed: by Joe Oesterle

It’s fun to find a TRON fan, and tell him the movie sucks. (Trust me, I’m not being chauvinistic, if you find a TRON fan, you have also found a him.) The truth is it only kind of sucks, but only in the way all-live action Disney movies after 1978 sucked. They still have some measure of charm, but it kind of feels like Disney films had been fighting a losing battle of making wholesome entertainment for a couple decades since the Beatles made long hair on teenage boys fashionable and hadn’t figured out how to produce films that the public would enjoy and still not compromise their family-friendly values.

This movie owes everything to the success of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, and while some scoffed at the special effects at the time, especially when compared to the aforementioned George Lucas classics, what should be noted is TRON is probably more visually compelling now than when it originally hit the theaters.

CGI was barely in it’s infancy in 1982, but the artists and designers for this film truly deserve most of the credit for making this movie stand above some of Disney’s other efforts of the time (see Herbie Goes Bananas.)

Every single frame of film during the “inside the machine” sequences is a work of futuristic minimalistic art, and visually, comparisons to Fritz Lang’s classic silent sci-fi, Metropolis, are well warranted.

The problem starts and ends with the logic that is laid out to us by the films’ antagonist; the super-computer, “Master Control Program.”

Master Control Program happily informs us in one scene that it is 2,415 times smarter than a human being. You know why that’s hard to believe? Because if it truly were 2,415 times smarter than us that computer would have killed us by now. We humans are nowhere near that many times smarter than cows and we kill the shit out of them on a daily basis.

The bigger point is, right after bragging about being 2,415 time smarter than us, it asks a human to download a file so it can speak Chinese. If that computer is so damn smart, how come it never heard of Babblefish.com? This isn’t even Cantonese… we’re just talking regular Chinese here.

If we as a species were only 50 times smarter than we are today we’d all speak Chinese. No problem. Obviously the Chinese would, and there’s a ton of them, so that’s a lot of humans already speaking Chinese and that’s a huge head start. But I’d venture to bet if cows were 2,415 times smarter than they currently are they’d all speak Chinese fluently enough to order Beef and Broccoli, in Swahili if they so chose. They’d also be smart enough not to order beef and anything, because they don’t want to catch Mad Cow Disease, but now we’re getting off topic.

The heart of the matter is this computer is nowhere near as smart as it pretends to be. If you’re 2,415 times smarter than humans, speaking Chinese has to be in your arsenal. That computer is either padding its stats, or it’s the laziest computer ever.

The moral of the story is simple enough, man will always be better than machine because man has a few inherent game-changing intangibles – love, friendship, teamwork and the undying ego of software engineers.

Another moral might be, all cows are evil and need to be slaughtered, cooked and smothered in sauces ranging from ketchup to Béarnaise before they become smarter than us. They’ll barbeque us and eat us if we give them half a chance. Look it up on any super computer.

I rate this movie as “cool hoke.” Expect nothing, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Expect anything, and expect disappointment.

Here’s a link to TRON 2.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1IpPpB3iWI

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6 Comments

  1. I think you focused a lot on the part where the computer lied about being ~2000x our intelligence. That’s a valid point, but what about the fact that the inside of the computer was either somehow a magical other place where a few lines of a program written in BASIC or FORTRAN or whatever on a 1982 computer was a sentient person, or it was the most inefficiently programmed computer ever requiring complicated 3D simulations and artificial intelligence just to have simple accounting programs.

    • ranting from a misquote?
    • Posted March 26, 2010 at 11:15 am
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Uh, but that’s not what it said. It said that it was 2,415 times smarter than *itself when it was first written*, not 2,415 times smarter than humans:

    Ed Dillinger: Now, wait a minute, I wrote you.
    Master Control Program: I’ve gotten 2,415 times smarter since then.

    So unless you think Dillinger wrote something in 1982 that was as smart as a human when it first started up, you’ve really mis-fired here.

    • Uh, that’s still irrelevant. My point has nothing to do with how smart the MCP is. It has to do with the fact that the individual programs are full, sentient people on 1982 computers.

  2. Sorry, read your post.
    1) Your “facts” are wrong.
    2) In 1982, there was NO INTERNET, so “babelfish.com” didn’t exist.
    3) You’re really just trolling. Get a life and stop trying to irritate people who enjoy their hobbies and nostalgia.

    • Dear, A Tron Fan,

      My facts are fine, and speaking of facts, I find you have one point disguised as three.

      Your main point is apparently I’m trolling, but I’m not sure what it is I’m trolling for, unless it’s to be accosted by you, which I assure you I was not.

      If the “facts” you’re talking about was the fact that babelfish didn’t exist yet, or there wasn’t an internet yet, that’s not really a point. I was making a joke. Perhaps you didn’t understand it because you were too preoccupied thinking I was out trolling for you.

      The review is a very light-hearted look at a movie I didn’t enjoy when it came out, and like more now that a couple decades have passed. It’s an interesting movie considering what was going on at the time in sci-fi cinema, and I quite enjoyed the futuristic/minimalistic Art Direction.

      If you’ve come to this site to pick a fight, feel free, but my opinion won’t change. I stand by my review. I liked the movie more when I expected less from it. It’s a decent movie, and good in some areas, but not great, and no one is poorer for never having watched this film.

      It doesn’t compare to Sci-Fi classics like Clockwork Orange, Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, or The Matrix.

  3. Just a heads up, I’m a Tron fan and I’m definitely not a him. My friend is Tamara. That is all.


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