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TRON 20th Anniversary Edition DVD

TRON is a film that has gained some cult status among fans and has also seen resurgence in popularity over the last few years. This resurgence has been enough to warrant a DVD special edition, a sequel film, and a plethora of toys both old and new.

Tron DVD coverTRON the film is a story about a computer programmer who finds himself in an enviable position - placed inside a computer system as a 'program' to play video games. What he doesn't realize initially is that these games are life or death struggles and that he is the key to setting the computer system free from the evil Master Control Program, or MCP. Along the way he meets some other programs and they work together to restore freedom to the computer system.

The film was originally released in 1982 and was one of the first movies to use computer graphics for effects, and it used them extensively. The project was the brain child of director Steven Lisberger who sold his idea for the story and computer effects to Disney. At the time, Disney was a very conservative studio and took a significant risk bringing in Lisberger on TRON with both untried technology, and a first-time director.

The cast was lead by Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner, along with Cindy Morgan and David Warner. All these main actors played dual roles as their real-life characters and their program counterparts.

As a film, TRON isn't a masterpiece, but the effects sequences have held up well over time. It's a straightforward tale of good versus evil, with a tyrannical computer program playing the role of the villain. The plot isn't terribly deep, but there are many themes within it that can have deep resonance with some viewers. It is an interesting movie and worth seeing at least once, and if you've seen it you will know whether you like it or not.

DVD's are a chance for studios and filmmakers to be able to let the viewer look behind the scenes at the process and work that goes into making movies. With the DVD you can access information in any order and filmmakers can add in vast amounts of additional material. TRON comes in a 2-disk set, the first of which has the original film while the second disk is filled with extra features. This set retails for $20-25 and is available at Amazon.com and most mass-market retailers.

It seems the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the theatrical release was the time that Disney finally got the DVD version of TRON right. Previously the film had been released on VHS, laserdisc and DVD, but the prior DVD had no extra features - just the basic film. The prior laserdisc version (made years before DVDs) had special features such as artwork and deleted footage that wasn't included in the first DVD release for some reason. All of this has been restored and more for the special edition DVD, and the film is in widescreen format, which preserves the original aspect ratio of the theatrical film.

The interface that was designed for this set is both appealing and functional. Ease of access for information is an important aspect for the user, and the computer graphics help immerse the viewer in the world of TRON even before the film starts. The film disk features an animated scene with TRON throwing and catching his identity disc, while the special features disk puts the viewer into the computer system complete with mazes, tanks and recognizers patrolling the pathways. As items are selected the viewer 'flys' to a particular area where the selected features can be accessed. One neglected function on this DVD set is the use of the 'play all' feature. Any section that has multiple video segments should give the user the option to play them all at once, as most viewers will want to watch everything upon their first viewing of extra material. It's a convenience feature that should be standard on all DVDs with special features.

This DVD features the original film digitally re-mastered in Dolby Digital Sound and can be used with THX, and the results are an impressive and clear picture and sound. The film is in anamorphic widescreen and can be shown with Spanish and French subtitles.

While the re-mastered movie is well done, it's the extra features that really shine. There are a variety of features that include storyboards, concept art and a cadre of video features about how the movie was made and how the various effects were created. Nearly all the primary cast are included in the interviews (with the noticeable absence of David Warner) as well as the director and producers. They all give accounts of working on the movie and how it affected later films or roles they had. The special effects are covered in detail, and it's a very interesting look at a time when CG effects were unheard of and everything had to be created from the ground up. In all there is more than 5 hours worth of special features, including commentary by Steven Lisberger (the director) and others who worked behind the scenes to create the film.

There is a short teaser for the sequel to TRON - TRON: Killer App, which is slated for release in 2003 and also lists the official website for that film.

As for toys, TRON has them in spades and the new releases vastly outweigh those originally done for the film. For a look at the original toys from TRON, please read the section on TRON in the 3-3/4 archive. NECA has released a set of reproduction pieces that are designed to reproduce the original lightcycles and the four action figures that were released from Tomy. These are available in stores now and from some of our sponsors.

Medicom of Japan has two sets of TRON toys - one in the popular Kubrick form and another as articulated action figures. There are four sets of TRON kubricks and several sets that will include new figures with greater detailing and articulation than the Tomy releases.

With the re-issue of the original and toys on the way, we can only guess what may appear from the next TRON movie, but for fans of the original film you should be pleased with the 20th Anniversary DVD set.

Note for PS2 owners: there have been several reports about this DVD being unwatchable on PS2 systems, including a glitch involving the video degrading into green squares during certain scenes.

Rating: PG
Feature Running Time: 96 minutes
Studio web site:  Disney DVD
DVD web site: http://disney.go.com/disneyvideos/liveaction/tron/intro.html
Suggested retail price: $29.99 for the DVD, $14.99 for the VHS (both prices are USD)

Amazon.com: Tron - 20th Anniversary Edition (DVD)

Amazon.com: Tron - 20th Anniversary Edition (VHS)

TowerRecords.com: Tron (20th Anniv/Coll Ed) (DVD)

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