Let us look back to a time before the advent of photo-realistic CGI and its accomplishments, such as the shape shifting T-1000, the annoying Jar Jar Binks and the tragedy that is Gollum. Specifically, let us look back to the year 1982 and one of the first films to extensively use computer graphics; Tron.
Tron tells the story of hacker/arcade owner Kevin Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges) who is desperate to prove that the hottest videogames from software corporation ENCOM were stolen from him by a former co-worker Ed Dillinger (David Warner), who is now a senior executive there. Flynn’s efforts, however, are made fruitless by ENCOM’s megalomaniacal Master Control Program (MCP). One night, the MCP catches Flynn in an attempted hack and pulls him into the virtual world. Flynn finds that the MCP is making life in the virtual world just as, if not more, miserable as in the real world. Flynn’s only hope is to find Tron (Bruce Boxleitner), a heroic independent system security program, and help him destroy the MCP to bring order to both worlds.
Tron is celebrated as a milestone in the computer animation industry. Disney had turned to the four leading computer graphics firms of the day: Information International Inc., MAGI, Robert Abel and Associates and Digital Effects of New York City for the effects in this movie. It’s amazing to note that the computer they had to work with had only 2MB of memory, with a disc that had no more than 330MB of storage, which put a limit on how detailed the background could be. Because the technology to combine computer animation and live action did not exist at the time, these sequences were intercut with the filmed characters.
These stylish visuals and the interesting cyberpunk-ish storyline make a hugely enjoyable piece of escapism which has stood the test of time.
So if you’re in a retro mood and wanna see some glowing neon and light cycles, load up Tron and catch up on the simpler times when home computing was just beginning and arcade games ruled the day.