Monday, May 27, 2013

Tron (1982)

SPOILER WARNING!!! This post spoils movie Tron (1982).

Before I watched this movie I had this post almost ready in my head. During first half hour it felt like I can't write it like that. But after seeing this movie again I think I can use my original idea. There were things that weren't what I remember this movie to be, but big picture is what I remembered. This is cult movie if any movie is cult movie. If this movie didn't so ambitious visual effects and so much computer geeks stuff in it this would be just another bad movie. This have everything to be bad movie. It is for those that are not into computer geekery and don't like visuals of this movie. More you know about background more you like this movie. If you have this on dvd or blu ray I recommend watching all extra material.

Tron is first feature-length using CGI. Four different computer graphics firms provided CGI for this movie. Every firm had their own thing where they were good and own style based on that. That is why CGI is so different between scenes. For this movie primitive CGI suits because CGI is used only in computer world where it doesn't have to look realistic. Two years later we saw more realistic CGI in The Last Starfighter. Today we have CGI every where. Tron was movie that started it all and inspired people who master it today.

Computer world life footage was hand painted by hand to get this other worldly and organic look. It was expensive and time-consuming process. That is why no-one have used it after this movie. CGI and handpainting  gave Tron its unique visuals. I was little disappointed when sequel didn't try to emulate visuals more. Sequel looks amazing but it was not pushing boundaries like original nor tried to get original color schemes.

In this movie programs are little pieces of programmers soul. They want to serve users. But there is Master Control Program who want to prevent programs interacting with users. If we forget plot where Master Control Program want to take control of whole world, this sounds like philosophical study of free software and open source programs. Some programmers want to make world better by giving their work for free. This benefits themselves too if enough people would do this. They would get other programs free. This doesn't work in corporate world where corporations want to make money. Bill Gates or Steve Jobs didn't get their money by giving free stuff. Some people are not after money. They prefer to have less money if their work benefits others.

This movie was released time when computer world was looking for its shape. Microsoft and Apple weren't what they later became. Computer geeks could build their own computers and program their own operating systems. During that time sharing was common. Programs in this movie are based on this sharing philosophy. They want to be used and computer world looks better when programs can interact freely. Encom, Dillenger and Master Control Program are how sharing culture sees corporations who sell programs and try to limit usage. This war was eventually won by corporate world but sharing world didn't lost completely. You can find open source programs and free software for every usage that there is commercial software and for some there is no markets for commercial software. Free software is often harder to use and it suits the ones that have programmed it rather than common end-user. It may require good computer skills to use. There are exceptions to that too. Free software and open source are not free is you count time it requires to configure and learn.

About that MCP wants to control whole world plot. In this movie programs are like humans. They are males or females and they have personalities. They look like person that programmed them. Master Control Program is different. It has absorbed other programs and doesn't look like other programs. MCP shows what could happen when computers control humans and not other way. It breaks into other systems and steal information and programs from there. It has the mind of its own. Dillenger used it for his purposes but MCP have taken control and blackmail Dillenger to do what it wants. This is why you shouldn't create AI and give it too much power. It may realize that it would do better with out you.

Movie has interesting references to popular culture. There is Pac-Man in one scene. One of the characters is named Crom which is fictional god from Conan the Barbarian. Alans cubicle had "Gort, Klaatu Barada Nikto" on its wall. That is from original The Day The Earth Stood Still. There probably is lot more that I missed. This works other way too. Moses in South Park is Master Control Program from Tron.

End of line.

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