Sunday, March 22, 2015
Tron is one of those films that's difficult to get away from when someone brings up CGI. Directed by Steven Lisberger, Tron has inspired a number of filmmakers, animators, artists, and musicians since it was first released in 1982. This Disney film was the first to use computer generated imagery in a motion picture, something that audiences now expect in their summer blockbusters. But in the early 80s, audiences didn't receive Tron very well. Until the arcade game became popular, the film was generally panned by critics. Now, Tron is somewhat of a staple in popular culture and had been referenced in many TV shows such as Family Guy, South Park, and The Simpsons, just to name a few. But we're here to talk about endings, so before we hop to the end and see what it's all about, let me give you a run down of this cult classic.
A brief plot summary of Tron could be explained like this: “A computer programmer unwillingly travels inside the computer to retrieve evidence that proves he wrote video games that were stolen from him.” On its own, this plot summary is not very exciting. What is exciting, however, is the journey Flynn (Jeff Bridges) embarks on -- he discovers a world inside the computer. A tyrannical program has imprisoned other programs and appropriates their skills, and Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) is among these prisoners, who will be eventually eliminated in gladatorial combat. They must break out and get Tron to the Input/Output Tower so that he can get instructions from his user, Alan 1 (also played by Bruce Boxleitner), in order to defeat the Master Control Program (MCP) and send Flynn home.
The journey Flynn (Jeff Bridges) takes inside the computer as a User among programs reveals many thematic layers that speak to an audience. Flynn embarks on a quest of historical correction: Conquering the MCP restores Flynn’s authorship of the video games he created; however, he also represents a higher power in the electronic world – one who descends from the heavens, restores peace and order, and finally ascends into the air, returning to the world of the Users.
In the final moments of the film, Tron saves the day, hurling his identity disc into the MCP while Flynn distracts him by jumping into the MCP's large rotating column of light. The MCP is killed (or "derezzed"), restoring a new order to this electronic landscape and freeing the persecuted programs who believe in the Users. Tron gets the girl, Yori (Cindy Morgan), and Flynn goes home. He floats above the electronic world, retracing the path he took on his descent, until he rematerializes in the real world. Seated at a computer terminal, a document prints out with the proof he's been searching for. Ed Dillinger (David Warner), who stole Flynn's video games, arrives at Encom and boots up his computer, but instead of a greeting from the MCP, he's met with the same evidence that will be his undoing. He reclines back in his executive suite, the sun rising through massive windows behind him, leaving him to his thoughts.
Back in the real world, we see Flynn arrive at Encom via the same helicopter used at the beginning by the MCP's creator, Dillinger, and we learn that Flynn is now “the boss” of Encom. Viewers can only assume that Dillinger has been indicted for his crimes of stealing Flynn's video games, and Flynn has finally received the promotion that had been previously denied to him. He takes the place of the tyrannical icons on both sides of the screen (Dillinger and the MCP). Hugging Alan and Lora (Yori's creator, also played by Cindy Morgan) on the helipad, Flynn shouts "Greetings, programs!" and the film fades to black over a time-lapse view of the sun setting on a bustling city of light.
Viewers are left to consider the relationship between Users and the computer programs they create and with which they interact. The film as a whole acclimates audiences to this electronic world and thrusts them into it. In this world of the Other, they encounter computer programs created in the image of the Users. Since viewers did not have the same relationship with computers that we now take for granted, they are exposed to a relationship that anticipated the future -- a place where humans and programs, creators and their creations, co-exist and work together synergistically.