Year: 1982

Production: Lisberger / Kushner / Walt Disney

Director: Steven M. Lisberger

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan

Screenwriter: Steven Lisberger

Based on a story by Steven Lisberger and Bonnie Macbird

96 minutes; Color

In this pleasing but lightweight film, a young man (Bridges) seeks evidence about dirty work in the computer company for which he works. For this he is literally deconstructed, reappearing as a subprogram in the virtual reality within the computer itself (along - just as in Oz - with analogs of two friends programmed by them to help him out). This world is ruled by the manic Master Control Program (or MCP) and its hench-program Sark (Warner), itself an analog of a real-life evil-doer. There follows, disappointingly, a standard Good-against-Evil struggle on a somewhat austere computer-generated landscape resembling that of a rather good video game. The film has moments of wit, and a stunning last shot where the now reconstituted hero looks down on the streets of Los Angeles at night, for all the world like the computer grid from which he has escaped. This suggests that perhaps the whole film is a light-hearted text about determinism, but the most of its aspires to being little more than a wide-screen arcade-game scenario. Director Lisberger made another sf film: Slipstream (1989).

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

In effect a video version of Fantastic Voyage (1966) with Bridges boldly going down the mean streets of a computer's circuits to do battle with its power-mad Master Control Program (MCP) and with the merciless augularities of computer graphics replacing the more voluptuous and romantic hill and dales of the interior of the human body, Tron, despite its occasionally winning humor, fails because it substitutes the verities of the video game for the more sinister complexities of the computer Bridges actually enters. Accordingly the beguiling speed ith which Lisberger gets his hero inside ENCOM and the deftness of the explanations of what happens to him inside, notwithstanding, the film quickly loses its metaphorical force - for indeed we clearly are being "taken over" by computers - and descends into becoming yet another exotic adventure story. In great part this is due to the cliched characters, such as Warner's Sark and the MCP who is yet another snarling, malevolent would-be world dictator.

Lisberger's aims are clearly higher, as seen in the last thrilling shot, a city panorama with its streets forming yet another grid pattern in which we human are imprisoned, but the film's execution only too rarely matches these aspirations. Indeed, the project seems to mirror the crisis of confidence of the Disney studio which, since the dosaster of The Black Hole (1979), has tried to diversify away from the solid family fare of Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977) and Return from Witch Mountain (1978) into the dangerous territory of big budgets and rather more adventurous scripts with too much caution ever to be really successful.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

Related links:
Classic Science Fiction Reviews at

Back to the List