Tron (1982), a recap (part 3 of 6)

NOTE: This article is a work in progress.
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Previously on Tron: The Dude was trying to hack into his former employer’s computer system to prove he was screwed over. But he ended up getting punked in the most electronic way possible. The good news is that there’s no Ashton Kutcher around, so what happens next won’t be all that bad.

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After the MCP digitizes Flynn down into tiny little electronic pieces, it sucks Flynn into the laser. We then see what’s pretty much a computerized version of the star tunnel from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Flynn is then rematerialized inside the computer world, now outfitted with the cool armor we see the other imprisoned programs wearing. He understandably bugs his eyes out at what’s transpired, but he doesn’t have time to take it all in, because Sark’s guards quickly appear and tell him to move his ass. One even jabs Flynn with his stick, prompting him to make a smartass remark about parking tickets.

Aboard his command center, Sark goes into his Vader chamber, where the MCP informs him that there’s a new prisoner who Sark will find quite the challenge, so long as he gets the same treatment as the other captives. Sark is pleased with this until the MCP informs him that Flynn is not a program but a “user”. This gives Sark pause, and he reminds the MCP that users are the reason everyone in this world, including the MCP, exists. The MCP basically says fuck ’em all, but when Sark presses the issue, the MCP begins to painfully draw power from him. Sark relents, as the MCP tells him to get his ass going on this.

Flynn is led into the same cell block we saw Crom led into earlier in the film. There he meets Ram, as well as Tron (also played by Bruce Boxleitner). Thirty-three minutes into the movie, and we’re finally meeting the title character. I’ll have more to say about this later, but Ram and Tron lament that Flynn is the latest in the long line of captured programs. But Tron is hoping the users will still come through. Flynn attempts to get within conversational distance of his new roommates, but the force fields stop him. He asks Ram where the hell he is, but Ram just answers that he’s a guest of the MCP.

This brings up an interesting (although, within the framework of the finished film, irrelevant) question: What do the residents of this computer world call their home, anyway? We never find out, so for all Flynn knows, he could be in Pleasantville. Ram also informs Flynn of the video games the MCP will have him play. Flynn is delighted to hear about this, given his expertise with them, obviously expecting that the worst that can happen is that he loses a few quarters.

The guards, standing on the glass ceilings that cover his prison, break up the male bonding, and order Flynn to go one way and Tron the other.

Flynn is led to what looks like a chasm, along with other recently captured programs. Sark’s ship appears, with its captain personally addressing them. He says that the MCP wishes to test what they can do on the game grid. Sark also pooh-poohs the idea of the users, and informs the captives that they will each be given a special disc, upon which their actions and experiences will be imprinted. He concludes his speech by saying that if they lose their discs or don’t do as they’re told, then their asses are grass.

As Flynn and the others are led back to their cells, he catches sight of Tron engaged in a game. This game has Tron going it alone against four of Sark’s lackeys. All four are duking it out with their discs, which instantly vaporize opponents on contact. While it may have taken some time before we met this film’s title character, we quickly see how bad-ass he is as he takes out all four of his opponents. I especially love the “I’m screwed!” face his final opponent gives before Tron vaporizes him.

Back in their cell, Flynn and Ram shoot the breeze and get to know each other a bit. Ram tells him that he was previously a program for an insurance company. Flynn tells him that he doesn’t remember much about what he was before he was taken prisoner. Sark’s guards suddenly appear again to take Flynn to play a video game, with Ram wishing him luck. En route, Sark tells his men to pit Flynn against another captured program.

As it turns out, that opponent turns out to be Crom. They enter the gaming arena, with jai alai-looking cups attached to their right hands. Flynn has a shit-eating grin on his face, while Crom looks pissed off. The two go to opposite ends of the room. Once they stop, a rod emerges from above them and drops a ball of light that Crom catches. He laughs at the notion of Flynn easily taking him out. Before Flynn can reply, Crom begins the game by tossing the ball at him. Flynn misses it and nearly falls over his platform, beneath which is another bottomless chasm.

As Crom laughs at this, Ram and Tron are in their cell chatting about Flynn. Ram points out that there’s something unique about him.

Flynn quickly begins to match Crom’s skill at the game they’re playing. Before long, Flynn tosses a shot which leads to Crom dangling precariously over his platform. Flynn stops playing, with a look of concern about what’s happening. Seeing this, Sark pushes his aides aside and angrily tells Flynn to finish Crom off. Flynn replies by angrily telling Sark to go screw himself.

But Sark renders the discussion moot when he pushes a button that causes Crom’s platform to vanish. Crom cries out as he falls and disintegrates. Flynn is apparently bracing himself for the same fate. This bring me back to that Santa Claus reference from earlier as Sark looks at another button, which will presumably kill Flynn. But he’s stopped short when he hears the MCP reminding him that he wants Flynn to die playing, just like the other captured programs. So I guess just like Santa, the MCP knows when you’re being good or bad.

With option number 1 taken off the table by the electronic Kris Kringle, Sark angrily goes for option number 2. This involves pushing a different button, which causes two of his guards to magically appear to take Flynn away. The game room itself quickly dissolves as they leave.

However, Flynn isn’t brought back to his cell. Rather, he’s about to embark on another game. This time he has Ram and Tron alongside him, and Ram expresses happiness that Flynn survived the last game. Flynn, though, is shocked upon apparently seeing his friend Alan in this world. However, Tron (in a rather angry tone, I should say) tells Flynn that he’s not Alan, and Alan is actually his user. He asks how Flynn knows Alan, and Flynn lies that his user knows Alan. Flynn also adds that he’s starting to remember more about himself, adding that his user wants him to stop the MCP. Tron says that Alan wants him to do the same. They give each other suspicious glances again after Flynn tells Tron that he knows that.

Another shot of the video game terrain brings us to Flynn, Tron, and Ram materializing on another grid. From his office, Sark presses a button with a lightcycle on it. Glowing rods then rise up in front of our heroes. As they take hold of them, the rods turn into cycles (Flynn’s cycle is gold, Tron’s is orange, and Ram’s is red), while on the other end of the grid, three of Sark’s lackeys are seen doing the same, and they all, like Sark earlier in the movie, have blue cycles.

Tron (who calls himself Gold 1) instructs Ram (Gold 2) and Flynn (Gold 3) to each take on one of the opposing cycles. Copy, Red Leader! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

One blue cycle goes up against Tron, which leads to the schmuck smashing himself into the wall. Seeing this, Flynn goes through the maze that the cycles’ trails have already made. The blue cycle beside him acts like an idiot as the guy doesn’t take advantage of the chance to smash Flynn with his cycle walls. Rather, he just smashes himself into a nearby one. Flynn then contacts Tron and Ram, telling them that he’s escaping through the hole in the wall and that they’re welcome to join him. They take him up on the offer after smashing the remaining cycle with their own cycle walls.

Outside the grid, Flynn says, “Greetings, programs,” as our trio quickly speeds away. We also hear a female voice, not unlike the computer counting down the seconds to self-destruct on Dark Helmet’s ship in Spaceballs, informing them that they must return to the game grid. Despite asking nicely, our heroes fail to comply and quickly evade two Recognizers.

Sark sees this on his monitor and angrily orders the trio caught, even if it means sending out every tank available. And I kid you not, on Sark’s screen, we see Pac-Man. What the character represents here, I don’t know, but this (intentionally or not) makes me chuckle. But best of all is that Sark drives home his resolve by bringing his nameless lieutenant (Stephano) to the ground with his fist. The chump’s fall is even accompanied by the famous sound of Pac-Man dying.

Next up: We’ll see where our trio is headed, although sadly, there will be no more cameos from other famous video game characters.

Rob Kirchgassner

Rob is a blogger, critic, and author of suspense novels, including the new thriller Past the Breaking Point, available now from Amazon.

Multi-Part Article: Tron, a recap

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  • The Pac-Man must be deliberate. There are even dots for him to eat.

  • Flynn slipped pretty quickly into role, considering how utterly insane his current circumstances are. I wonder if he thinks this’ll actually make his hacking easier once he’s out of the rigidly controlled game grid.

  • mamba

    I just thought that “Pac Man” worked for Sark and was currently patrolling the halls gathering renegade “bits” (the 1/0 thing with Flinn’s program earlier in the movie).

    Why not? every other program works for him or is forced into his bidding anyway. Though given the tech at the time, it would have been hilarious to see how they’d 3D depict a huge Pac Man floating down a hall.