Thursday, April 30, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Movies That Made Me (Part 4)

TRON (1982)

Ah, another one of my absolute faves. I love TRON. So much, I'm going to use capitals every time. TRON.

Disney was experimenting with some cool movies in the early 80s. The Black Hole (technically 70s, but I didn't get to see it until early 1980), Dragonslayer, and the wonder that was TRON. At a time when every waking moment that wasn't at school or playing tabletop roleplaying games, it was all about video games. Living in a seaside town meant we had easy access to a handful of arcades where we spent far too long playing all the classics - Galaxian, Defender, Tempest, Battle Zone... you know the score. And then we had access to our home Atari VCS systems, and then the ZX Spectrum.

Video games was where it was at. So when they announced this movie where the lead character goes into a video game, I was totally there.

TRON was unlike anything we'd seen before. Short of some little video shorts to show off what computer graphics could do at the time, this was all new. I know a lot of it isn't even CGI, it was carefully and painstakingly created with backlighting, negative shooting, rotoscoping, and merging it with matte painting. But it looked amazing. And, like most of the audience, I was in complete awe at the lightcycle sequence and the escape from the game grid.

Add to that the amazing Wendy Carlos soundtrack, and a great and nerdy plot - programmer wanting to prove that a big corporation had stolen his games - I was in my element. Somewhere I have the soundtrack on vinyl, and a weird LP called "The Story of TRON" where the soundtrack is narrated over with sound effects.

I remember going to the cinema to see TRON four times before they finally stopped showing it. I may have been a little obsessed.

We spent a lot of time trying to replicate the world of TRON. I remember most of us had a go at programming some form of lightcycle game on the Spectrum. I even started working out how TRON would work as a tabletop RPG, but didn't get very far.

TRON's still a big influence on me, and that whole 'escaping to a virtual and alternate world' is a major part of the RPGs I write today.

When TRON Legacy (2010) was announced, I was there like a shot. Even went to the strange preview that happened at the cinema where they showed fifteen minutes of the movie to get you excited for it. Like I could be any more excited for it. Jumped on that viral bandwagon, visited, did the puzzles and games, got my ENCOM staff badge. I was in my element.

The movie itself did not disappoint, and the 3D effects being only used for the world inside the computer was brilliant. Almost like The Wizard of Oz's use of colour.  If anything TRON Legacy is even more of an influence on the RPG I'm working on at the moment. Okay, so the de-aged Jeff Bridges was a little weird for the non-computer world version, but Disney were just getting to grips with the new tech that would de-age Marvel stars in future movies.

The TV series that bridges the gap between the two - TRON Uprising - was awesome. Super-stylised character design by Robert Valley are amazing. Just brilliant.

Still hope that one day Disney come to their senses and green-light a third movie, or a Disney+ series...

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