Tron (1982), a recap (part 2 of 6)

Previously on Tron: We learned that the computer world is becoming more and more advanced. A certain program that calls itself the Master Control Program pretty much dominates it. However, after it gets rid of a program that looks like Jeff Bridges, the MCP sends for someone called Dillinger, who isn’t the gangster.

We see Ed Dillinger (Warner) being taken to Encom, the computer corporation of which he’s the CEO. The cool glow in the dark helicopter where we first see him reminds us of the perks that come with being a CEO. Dillinger enters his office, and being a cultured villain, politely tells his secretary Peter (Tony Stephano) to leave after he greets his boss.

Once alone, Dillinger pushes some buttons on his desk, which is also a computer that still looks cool today. After logging in, we hear the MCP thanking Dillinger for returning to the office on such short notice. We also see the text of the MCP’s words on the computer/desk. How nice; this is an artificial intelligence that may be bent on world domination, but it can still take the time to abide the hearing-impaired. Even HAL wasn’t this considerate.

The MCP informs Dillinger that Flynn has attempted to hack into their systems again. Dillinger is assured that the info Flynn is looking for is still safely hidden away. Despite this reassurance, Dillinger decides to keep everyone with Group 7 access (the same kind of access Flynn has) out of the system for the time being.

“There’s a 68.71 percent chance you’re right!” the MCP replies. Does this mean their chances here are better than getting through an asteroid field (which is, of course, 3,720 to one)?

As it turns out, one person who has the same kind of access as Flynn is his former colleague Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner). Somewhere in a cubicle farm, he’s attempting to access his program Tron, but his screen tells him his access is suspended and he has to talk to Dillinger about it.

Alan quickly goes to Dillinger’s office after telling the nebbish in the cubicle next to him that he can help himself to the popcorn he was snacking on. Dillinger sees Alan approaching via the cameras that are part of his desk/computer and promptly shuts the MCP interface off before Alan enters. Dillinger informs Alan that he’s been briefly cut off for security reasons, as someone with Alan’s kind of access has been tampering with the system. But he assures Alan that he doesn’t suspect him, and asks him about what he’s currently working on. Alan says it’s a security program called Tron, which monitors the contacts between systems. He also informs Dillinger that Tron is a program that runs independently of the MCP. Dillinger gives a polite smile and assures Alan that everything will be back on track before long.

After Alan leaves (giving his boss a not-quite-enthusiastic thank you), the MCP begins to bitch to Dillinger about a program that’s independent and is potentially monitoring him. While this is never directly expressed, a program such as Tron could make Alan as much a thorn in the MCP’s and Dillinger’s sides as Flynn has become.

At the moment, however, Alan’s frustration with machinery is continuing as he almost puts his fist into the elevator doors that are taking too long to open (I know the feeling). Once inside, he hits the button that will take him to Laser Bay 2.

Inside this bay, Alan’s colleague/sweetheart Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan) is working on an experimental laser with her colleague Dr. Walter Gibbs (Barnard Hughes, who would later be the grandpa on Blossom). The two engage in cute banter while making the final preparations. Soon, they put on safety goggles and see the computer image of an orange, which is their laser’s test subject. The laser activates, causing the fruit to vanish until it reappears mere seconds later. Lora and Walter congratulate each other as Alan cheers them on while descending a nearby staircase to join them (I guess Alan doesn’t need those same goggles).

Walter explains the laser to Alan, who subsequently asks if it can send him to Hawaii. Lora (tongue-in-cheek, I’m guessing) says it can, but he’d have to “purchase your program 30 days in advance.” It’s just that simple, huh?

Alan then vents his frustration that Dillinger has cut him and everyone else with his access level out of the system. Walter consoles him with the fact that computers and programs can’t think, although Alan says that at the rate everything’s going, some may begin to do that. Walter laughs, saying that soon the programs will be doing all the thinking rather than the people. Putting aside any real-life echoes some may hear in Walter’s statement, I can’t help but wonder if James Cameron took that throwaway line and ran with it when he made a certain classic science fiction film which came out two years after Tron.

After Walter bids the lovebirds a good evening, Alan and Lora walk down a corridor. She asks if Dillinger gave any reason for shutting out the Group 7 people, and Alan says that someone’s been tampering with the system. She tells him that Flynn has been thinking of breaking into Encom since Dillinger fired him, and that he has the same access as Alan.

“Flynn had access to you, too,” he grimly notes, referring to the fact that Flynn and Lora were once romantically involved. Despite his tone, Lora convinces him to come with her to Flynn’s arcade to bring him up to speed on what Dillinger’s been doing. Alan reluctantly agrees, wondering what Lora ever saw in him. She replies that she loved him for his brain (a brain that can create video games like nobody’s business, so I guess I can see his appeal).

Lora and Alan walk through the busy arcade until they spot Flynn playing the game he created, Space Paranoids. The screen is the same one that Clu was on earlier when he was shooting down Recognizers. Unlike Clu, though, Flynn doesn’t have to worry about any debris from them knocking him off course. He gets thunderous cheers from the crowd gathered around him after he breaks the game’s record.

He greets Alan and Lora, and after the latter says they need to talk, he escorts them to a room on the upper level of the building. As Flynn changes clothes, Lora cuts to the chase and asks if he’s been trying to break into Encom. Flynn chuckles at how blunt she is before asking Alan if she still has a tendency to leave her clothes on the floor. Alan says no, and then Lora tells both of them to cut it out, as this is just the kind of banter a girl wants to hear when she gets both her former and current boyfriends in the same room.

To his credit, however, Flynn does admit that he’s been trying to hack into Encom. When Alan asks him for details, Flynn says that it all began three years prior when he was working with Encom as a software engineer. His work there led to his inventing the aforementioned Space Paranoids, among other games. At the same time, Dillinger was in the same department as Flynn and managed to confiscate those games. Three months later, Dillinger presented those games as his own, eventually getting him into the comfy position he now holds with the company. Since then, Flynn has made ends meet by running the arcade.

When Alan asks what Flynn has to gain by going through all the trouble of breaking into Encom, Flynn forcefully states that proof of Dillinger’s theft must be in there somewhere. That when Lora informs him that Dillinger has blocked out the kind of access that Flynn has, and is thus closing in on him. Flynn chuckles, and seems to just toss his hands up at this tidbit, but Alan states that things could potentially turn around if he had access to Tron. This gives Flynn the realization that he could make that possible if he could get to a terminal at Encom. With that, Lora whips out her car keys and asks, “Shall we dance?” And our heroic trio is off.

As they arrive at Encom, Walter is following Alan’s lead and directly going to Dillinger to ask WTF is going on. Dillinger replies to his complaints of people not being able to access their programs with the MCP, saying something is amiss. Walter points out that the MCP itself is part of the issue, but Dillinger says things are much better with the MCP around, and that user requests should be secondary.

Walter: User requests are what computers are for!

Dillinger: Doing our business is what computers are for!

Okay, I’m not a software expert and the closest I’ve ever come to being a programmer is when I set up my blog. I’m also not a business executive, let alone a ruthless one. But as Encom itself is a computer company, I would think user requests and their business are one and the same.

The two argue a bit more until Dillinger tells Walter he’s fired, although if I were Walter, I’d be more saddened about my granddaughter dating Sheldon Cooper.

At the same time, Alan and Lora are having trouble getting in until Flynn whips out a homemade key card that does the job. Alan rolls his eyes, saying Flynn is like Santa Claus (a name drop we’ll get back to later).

The MCP informs Dillinger that it wants to now try frying bigger fish than mere corporations, beginning with the Pentagon, saying that the IQ of humans would make it and the Kremlin easy pickings. Dillinger reminds the MCP of who’s responsible for its existence, and then the MCP threatens to expose Dillinger’s illegal acts.

Inside Encom, after breezing past a lone security guard, Lora says she’ll set Flynn up at her station in the laser bay before meeting up with Alan in his office. She also notes the convenience of Dillinger never knowing they’re in the building if they don’t go to the top floor.

Flynn playfully follows Lora while Alan sets things up on his end. Lora’s terminal turns out to be conveniently located at the target area of the laser seen earlier. After she departs, Flynn goes to work, only to have the MCP chat with him on the terminal. Flynn chuckles as he dicks around with the MCP, prompting the program to clandestinely turn on the laser behind Flynn. The laser activates and carefully but quickly digitizes Flynn before sucking his form into the laser.

Next up: Where does Flynn go? We’ll find out next time, but as a famous movie character once said, I don’t think he’s in Kansas anymore.

Rob Kirchgassner

Rob is a blogger, critic, and author. His latest novel is a western: The Search West is available now from Amazon.

Multi-Part Article: Tron, a recap

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  • danbreunig

    Nice to really see Tron getting the Booth treatment now. We already got The Black Hole a few years back so now we get its flip side. Plus just seeing it written in fleshed out words really connects what might have slipped my mind the last time I saw it, which I think was in the last five years. There could be a few more humorous blurbs but they can still come up in the next installments.

  • Dave Theurer must have gotten a chuckle from the idea that designing a very profitable video game is the stepping stone to becoming CEO.