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TRON (1982)

  • Accidental Aesop:
    • Do not keep ALL your work in one file with no backups.
    • Make sure that any incriminating data is completely destroyed, lest someone or something find it and blackmail you. note 
  • Accidental Innuendo:
    • The resulting dialogue when Tron, Flynn and Ram find a pure source.
      Flynn: What's that?
      Ram: That is just what I need right now...
    • Ram seems to be more prone to these.
      Ram: My friends, my fellow conscripts, we have scored. I feel so much better.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: See section under Film. The characterization being a bit thin, the characters and motivations could be read in several ways across both films.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • The laser lab, the computer facility, and the ridiculously large security door were not sets and props, but an actual location, Lawrence Livermore Labs. Unfortunately, all of it has long since been replaced.*
    • The room Flynn and company walk through that looks to be filled with large objects resembling washing machines... those were also real. They were hard drives. That's what hard drives looked like in the 70s.
  • Award Snub: The Academy Awards refused to nominate the film for Best Visual Effects, saying that they "cheated" by using computers. Then Young Sherlock Holmes was nominated three years later, and The Abyss won six years later, both for computer digital effects. Today, CGI is an integral part of visual effects.
  • Awesome Music: Some fans of the film really like the score, created by Wendy Carlos with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. There's lots of synthesizer pipe organ and Cherubic Choir. Journey also contributed pop songs to the soundtrack.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The Grid Bugs appear briefly on-screen with Yori explaining that "if [they] get us, we've had it". However, they never appear or get mentioned in the rest of the movie. They were supposed to return in a longer sequence, but it got cut for time and expense.
  • Complete Monster: The Master Control Program, aka the MCP, is a despotic AI ruling over the digital world "the Grid". Once a mere chess program who was upgraded by the ambitious Edward Dillinger, the MCP slowly grew smarter and more influential, seizing control of the Grid and imposing its rule on the programs within. The MCP has countless programs taken to him so they may be forcefully assimilated into himself, and sends any others who believe in the Users to die in Gladiator Games run by his sadistic minion Sark, who the MCP regularly tortures for petty reasons. Not content with ruling over the Grid, he intends to hack into the Pentagon and Kremlin, plotting to force humanity under his rule as well, and blackmails Dillinger when he shows hesitance. As Kevin Flynn continually stands in his way, the MCP torturously derezzes his program CLU and later has Flynn dragged into the Grid. The MCP has Flynn sent to the games and has the newest batch of programs taken to him to be painfully assimilated like others before, finally empowering Sark to finish off Flynn and the rebels.
  • Cult Classic: The film had a mildly profitable run at the box office, but in spite of lucrative merchandising, the movie was considered a financial disappointment. But the film's landmark innovations and memorable visual style kept it in public memory for decades, achieving a cult status that ultimately helped produce a $170 million sequel 28 years later.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory:
    • Much is made of the "Users" being godlike to the programs, and Flynn himself seems to parallel the life and accomplishments of Jesus (especially at the end of the film, which is the Harrowing of Hell in all but name). A lot of scenes also seem to be reminiscent of Ben Hur and other big Christian epics of the 50s.
    • Sark is red, has devil horns, and keeps hammering on the enslaved programs that users don't exist, like those Dirty Communists.
    • The original film is essentially a Christian parable. The electronic world is inhabited by living programs, created in their Users' image. This world is being tyrannized by the MCP, a program that is rebelling against its creators (it's hacking the military to literally make war on humanity). The MCP is trying to stamp out belief in the Users (which is explicitly called a religion; communication with the Users is handled by Dumont, whose design resembles the garb of a clergyman), persecuting the faithful and throwing them into gladiatorial combat. Those who join the MCP become his red-colored minions. His chief flunky Sark even wears a helmet shaped like devil horns. Into this world comes Flynn, a User who has become a mere program (wearing a tunic reminiscent of a prophet's robes). He displays supernatural powers, including the ability to heal by laying on hands. He ultimately sacrifices himself to defeat the MCP and save the digital world, and ascends back to the real world of the creators, a realm beyond the programs' comprehension. The Novelization by Brian Daley is even more explicit about the symbolism.
    • The sequel can be interpreted as what happens when Kevin Flynn, who is after all a flawed mortal man, lets this godlike status go to his head.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Ram gets a lot of fanfic and fanart, to the point where his User (credited only as "Popcorn Guy") was given a name and substantial role in the Flynn Lives ARG.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: After watching the sequel, watching the first film can be painful.
    • That cheerful smartass protagonist ends up a broken, ruined man; widowed before age 35, goes half-crazy from the stress, is betrayed by his creation, and spends the rest of his days (the equivalent of 1000 years) in a Hopeless War or exile.
    • The title character? There are fates worse than de-rez and he gets handed them all. Sark's taunt about how Tron should have joined him? "Rinzler" ends up serving the same function for CLU 2.0 as Sark did for Master Control.
    • There's a moment at the film climax where Yori's hit her Despair Event Horizon, and Flynn argues back "We're only defeated if we give up!" In the sequel, he says, "Life has a way of moving you past wants and hopes." Ouch!
    • Dumont's sad declaration that if the Users can't help, then the situation is truly hopeless takes on a whole new meaning after knowing Flynn throws in the proverbial towel and abandons the Programs come the filmed sequel.
    • The last scene where the three human protagonists have a Group Hug and walk off into the sunset? Well, no matter what timeline you use (2.0 or TRON: Legacy), that Power Trio breaks up, with Alan left to carry on alone. It's actually nicer in the Legacy timeline as Lora's Put on a Bus instead of killed off.
    • That sweet lullaby-like ending theme? Well...same notes, slower, and a different key, and you get "Adagio for Tron"
    • Flynn tells CLU, "I wrote you. I taught you everything I know about the system... Now, you're the best program that's ever been written. You're dogged and relentless!" In TRON: Legacy, CLU 2.0 turns into a villain.
    • The other ones come from the tie-in games. Intellivision got an early draft of the script to work from, so Tron: Deadly Disks depicts the title character as an orange figure cutting down blue colored "enemies." Simple color goof in 1982, but considering what happens later...
    • The other one was Maze-A-Tron, again from Intellivision. Playing Flynn, you're alone and trapped in a circuitry maze. There is no way to win this game, just keep playing until an enemy recognizer or other obstacle does you in. Again, consider the sequel...
    • A meta one. Barnard Hughes (Dumont and Gibbs) had a surprising moment of insight while talking about the potential for computers to remember everything, including embarrassing or upsetting information from people's past which would prevent people from overcoming it. He died well before the Internet and social media took off, but his prediction about "receipts culture" definitely came true.
      People are supposed to be able to forget certain things, he explained. We’re not meant to remember everything. Some things that happen to us, we need to let go, and leave them in the past. My concern is that with computers, we’ll never be able to forget. We’ll remember everything that ever happened.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: The character on screen credited as "Popcorn Guy," and implied to be Ram's User, is given a name (Roy Kleinburg) and large part in the Expanded Universe as the fiercest defender of Gibbs's and Flynn's vision for Encom and the future of computing, becoming a dedicated hacktivist. Oh, and he's Heterosexual Life-Partners with Alan Bradley, whose role in Flynn Lives is more covert. Ram's faith was anything but misplaced.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • For the more retrocomputer-nerd minded, the fact that Flynn uses an Apple III, a commercial failure with a reputation of being The Alleged Computer in Real Life.
    • Alan Bradley has the same name (in sound) as Allen-Bradley, an electronics company that makes lots of products for computers and human-computer interfaces.
    • Peter Jurasik makes a cameo as Flynn's opponent in the ring game. He and Bruce Boxleitner would later co-star in Babylon 5.
    • Those threatening Recognizers in the film? In TRON 2.0, they're reduced to being cargo carriers. How the Mighty Have Fallen.
  • Ho Yay: Tron and Flynn. You saw it.
  • I Am Not Shazam: People who only know of TRON through its significance and the aesthetic it inspired sometimes assume TRON is the name of the cyber-world itself, when it's actually the name of a character in the cyber-world. When people don't think TRON is the name of the world, they think he's the main character, when it's actually Flynn.
  • Love to Hate: The MCP
  • Memetic Mutation: "End of line."
    • "Greetings Programs."
    • "I Fight for the Users" (To the point where the Electronic Frontier Foundation has cheerfully appropriated it)
  • Narm Charm: Aspects of this film's visuals, acting, and dialogue have not aged well. But many find this cheesy camp to be a great reason to watch the movie, while others don't find anything cheesy about it.
    • Even the producers on the DVD Commentary had occasional chuckles, like when Sark requests the battering ram called "Logic Probe", especially how serious he sounds.note 
    • Cindy Morgan remarked that David Warner was such a good actor, that he sold his lines. "When he says in the film, 'You're going to die ' - you believe it."
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: Both the 1982 arcade game (which earned more than the film's original release!) and TRON 2.0. The Intellivision games, especially Deadly Disks, were also solid sellers for Mattel.
  • One True Threesome: See Threesome Subtext - Flynn/Lora/Alan is a Running Gag in fandom, nicknamed "Big Dumb OT3" or "Shall we Dance" on Tumblr. It's a satisfactory workaround for those who ship Alan/Flynn, but don't want to discard the canonical Alan/Lora marriage.
  • Signature Scene: The Light Cycle chase and the Disc battle scenes are arguably the most memorable.
  • Unintentional Period Piece:
    • The general look and feel of the computer world is built to resemble the computer displays and games of the time black backgrounds, semi-wireframe 3D graphics, etc.
    • The computer technology itself is quite dated, including monochrome CRT monitors, command-line interfaces, teleprinters, and hard drives the size of washing machines. The tablet-like interface of Dillinger's desk surface, however, would still be pretty slick today.
    • Flynn's arcade is a hip and happening hang-out for an audience ranging from kids to suit-wearing old couples. It's no wonder that, in the sequel, it's been out of business for 20 years.
    • Corporations, especially after the dot-com bubble burst, have made an increased use of contracts with an added stipulation that any work done by an employee using corporate resources is automatically property of the company, a stipulation that corporations love to use to screw over any promising creators like Flynn (or Dillinger, pretending he made the games).
  • Values Dissonance:
    • When Alan and Lora go to meet Flynn, he makes a joke that leads to Lora joking about all his friends being fourteen. In 1982, this would be taken at face value about his (lack of) maturity but nowadays, it would make him sound like a pervert.
    • Also, in 1982, video arcades were not considered family-friendly places. Sensationalist media was all over reporting the arcades as a hotbed of drug deals, covert (or overt) gambling, prostitutes working the floor, and innocent young kids having their health and/or minds ruined by over-stimulation and the seedy clientele. Flynn's Arcade, back in 1982, would have been seen as one step up from a Den of Iniquity, and established Flynn (owner and champion player) as a bit of a scoundrel. Indeed, the building appears to be in a less than desirable neighborhood. By the time of TRON: Legacy, the area went from a seedy, but thriving, area to a ghost town crossed with a demilitarized zone.
    • At the time, there were few if any comments about Flynn's sketchy behavior towards Yori. Bring it up on a fan board now (especially Tronblr), and it's considered outright sexual assault with Flynn coming off as an utter creep.
  • Video Game Movies Suck: Flopped on release, though acknowledged to be a classic now. It made it on to G4's ''Movies That Don't Suck''!
    • An inversion since the arcade game came out just shortly before the movie did.
  • Vindicated by History: It may have been a flop at first, but now it's considered a classic revolutionary pioneering effort in film science fiction and visuals. John Lasseter, in an interview which is part of The Making Of Tron, stated that "without Tron there would have been no Toy Story."
  • Values Resonance: The whole film and franchise carry the message that technology, especially AI technology, is neither good or bad on its own but merely a reflection of the people who build it. An ethical programmer, like Alan Bradley, creates a Benevolent A.I. like Tron. A not-so-ethical programmer, like Edward Dillinger, will create malware like Sark. An AI that is assembled carelessly and with no parameters for ethics? Master Control. As AI improves and its limitations are more clearly shown, this is more relevant today than in 1982.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The special effects are revolutionary for their time, and are still impressive, especially if you consider the fact that they were made on computers slower than your cell phone.
    • The most powerful computer they had for rendering was the size of a refrigerator, had a CPU core that ran at about 10Mhz, 2MB of RAM, access to barely 300MB of storage on a room full of storage devices also the size of refrigerators, and each one of those boxes cost many tens of thousands of dollars. And these folks had the audacity to decide to make movies on them! (In comparison, the average smartphone today costs a couple hundred bucks, fits in your hand, has two CPU cores running about 750 times faster, each, 1000 times more memory, and you can buy a memory card 1/4 the size of a postage stamp that offers 10x the amount of storage for about $20. =)
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: The film itself came out before the PG-13 rating (1982), and while it was technically aimed at kids, it was much Darker and Edgier than the usual Disney fare. On its roster; brutal on-screen deaths (including a Boom, Headshot! with some gibs), Electric Torture (CLU 1.0 is tortured to death, Dumont and the other Tower Guardians come close to it), overt religious themes (more blatant than the second film's), Threesome Subtext, snarky innuendo and a Shirtless Scene... then there's the Deleted Scene that was ostensibly cut for pacing, but was quite obviously sexual in nature.


  • Base-Breaking Character: Kevin Flynn. He's either thought of as a Crazy Is Cool Loveable Rogue (in the first film) and a good man who tried to build Utopia and ended up in ruin (Legacy), or as a egotistical, charismatic jackass who blundered his way into heroism, sexually harassed one of his allies, completely made a hash of things with The Grid, and threw his friends and allies under the bus, leaving them to clean up the mess when it inevitably blew up in his face.
  • Contested Sequel: Downplayed. While TRON 2.0 and TRON: Legacy are technically in different continuities, the video game is much lesser-known. 2.0's supporters point to Lisberger's direct involvement, the colorful look, the sympathetic treatment of Programs, and relatively hopeful ending as being closer to the original. The change from A.I. Is a Crapshoot to Humans Are the Real Monsters is also brought up as a selling point. Legacy's supporters will prefer the filmed sequel's sleeker look and bleaker storyline as a more mature take on the mythos. Of course, there's also enough support for discarding neither sequel by saying they both happened.
  • Fandom Rivalry: With Tomorrowland, but mainly one-sided. This is largely to do with the fact that Disney bet the success of science fiction as a whole on that one movie. After it had a similar turn out to, ironically enough, the original Tron, they cancelled all future endeavors in the genre for the foreseeable future. This meant the cancellation of several films, including an in-the-works Legacy sequel. Tomorrowland fans tend not to have any animosity towards Tron fans (assuming they aren't fans of both), but Tron fans aren't very happy that the lukewarm reception of another "theme park attraction as premise" movie didn't live up to Pirates of the Caribbean's standard.
  • Friendly Fandoms:
  • Idiosyncratic Ship Naming: Crops up sometimes, especially with Tumblr. Aside from "Shall We Dance," they are named for Journey songs.
  • Memetic Badass: More Badass Bookworm than traditional "badass," but there's a good argument for Alan Bradley being the most dangerous guy in the franchise and plenty of fanfic to lay out the case. Kingdom Hearts II added fuel to the joke by having Tron's user in that continuity being Ansem the Wise. Queue a few jokes in the fandom that Alan was another alias of Ansem.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: Two movies, two graphic novels, an animated series... about a dozen games. Not a surprise, considering the franchise setting.
  • Periphery Demographic: The fanbase is heavily and unsurprisingly loaded with IT staff, tech support workers, computer programmers, computer science students, and other tech workers. This has led to a few Strawman Has a Point moments in the franchise.
  • Robo Ship: Justified, given how many of the characters are sentient computer code. There's the established Robo Romance with Tron and Yori, and the Dating Catwoman scenario with Beck and Paige. Zed's hopeless crush on Mara in the same series. In TRON: Legacy, there's the downplayed flirtation between Sam and Quorra. With the Alternate Continuity of TRON 2.0, Jet and Mercury are interested in one another (it develops more in the Ghost in the Machine comic) and there's a case to be made for Alan and Ma3a, given Ma3a is Lora's Virtual Ghost. And once you hit the fanfic? See the entries for One True Threesome and Ho Yay.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: A common criticism of the franchise is that it neglects to explore the interesting - and somewhat disturbing - implications of the Program (and Iso) species, and their worship of humans as creator deities, as well as what humanity's responsibility to the Programs might be. The closest we get is that Flynn tried to be a benevolent deity, but proved inept in the Legacy canon, and that the villains of 2.0's canon pursued the path of virtual godhood to satisfy a lust for power.