TRON Movie Poster Image

TRON

Dated and mediocre but kid-friendly sci-fi from Disney.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 1982
  • Running Time: 96 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

While the good guys stage an illegal break-in at their place of business, they are otherwise supposedly on the side of morality in trying to take down criminal software tycoon Dillinger. There is a qualifier that both Flynn and his cohort have slept with the same girl (no hard feelings, evidently). In the "virtual" computer world, lines between good and evil are simply drawn, literally, with a religious angle: the software beings who believe in their "users" (that is, their creators) are subject to persecution/torture/execution by the nonbelief-preaching cyber-villains.

Positive role models

Dillinger embodies a longstanding Hollywood stereotype of businessmen as corrupt and dangerous. Few female characters or ethnic diversity in computer-world; it's implicit that program-based beings take on the appearance of their real-world creators -- overwhelmingly white, male software engineers. The human heroine is a brainy scientist, however.

Violence

Violence is mainly of the stylized, low-resolution video game style, literally. When fatalities happen, characters dematerialize (though there is also an energy-draining torture sequences when skeletons become visible). Bloodless collisions of spaceship-thingies, motorcycle-thingies.

Sex

Brief dialogue indicates both leading male characters had previous premarital bedroom romps with the heroine.

Language

A few "damns."

Consumerism

Dated plugs for arcade video games -- no names of real ones mentioned, but classic gamers will recognize Pac-Man noises in the background. Tron tie-in games were peddled (and later successors came out, especially in anticipation of a Tron sequel).

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Nothing to speak of, but main character Flynn runs what looks like a saloon-video arcade as a side business.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that in addition to its cutting-edge special effects, this Disney feature was also a pioneer as one of the Magic Kingdom's early PG-rated films. To seem more "mature" there's verbal acknowledgement of premarital sexual relations among the main characters (nothing shown) and very mild swearing. Violence and death are unrealistic (mostly dematerializations) but in one scene a software-based humanoid being tortured reveals a glowing skeleton; small children may be troubled by that and some of the menacing imagery associated with the villains. Religious households might note the spiritual undertone about religious persecution.

What's the story?

Unscrupulous computer magnate Dillinger (David Warner) financed his technology empire with a hit video game he shamelessly stole from fired programmer Flynn (Jeff Bridges), with the aid of a "virtual" partner in crime, an intelligent software called the MCP, or Master Control Program. The ambitious MCP, growing ever more powerful, now seeks to dominate the outside world as well. With the help of some friends left at the company, Flynn tries to break into the company mainframe for evidence of Dillinger's guilt. The MCP, however, uses an experimental laser to "digitize" Flynn, zapping the nuisance human right into the computer circuitry itself. Flynn finds himself in a fantastic electronic world, where glowing humanoids like himself -- the literal embodiments of computer software -- are forced to fight and die in video game-style tournaments as the ruthless MCP maintains its control.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

TRON offers mediocre sci-fi, but is agreeably kid-friendly, for the most part. It boasted revolutionary CGI special effects in the early 80s, although it probably will not impress modern kids. The basic premise is something out of The Flintstones: inside computers dwell little guys, who do tasks assigned to them as programs. For audiences of 1982, many of whom had never touched a keyboard or mouse, that seemed easier to accept than it might for later, PC-savvy generations.

As in many f/x spectacles, characters aren't too interesting. Flynn, as a mighty "user" incarnated as a fragile program (the unexpected Christian angle is one of the more inventive things about the predictable plot) wields ill-defined, demi-godlike powers. In other words, he's a cheat code. Though it failed to captivate viewers of all ages the way Star Wars or even 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea did, Tron maintained enough interest to generate a sequel a quarter-century later.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the advancements in computerized special effects since this film. Does Tron still impress kids visually?

  • On a deeper level, discuss the script's metaphor of computer-generated beings who are victimized for proclaiming their belief in `higher powers,' their own creators. That would tend to make the human Flynn -- a real, live programmer downloaded into the mainframe -- very much a Christ figure.

  • Note the very naive, unrealistic depiction of pre-Windows computer technology, and talk about other movies of the era (such as Superman III) that saw computers of the time as miraculous and almost magical (sci-fi movies of the 1930s held the same awe for radio and TV). 

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 9, 1982
DVD/Streaming release date:December 12, 2000
Cast:Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Jeff Bridges
Director:Steven Lisberger
Studio:Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Adventures
Run time:96 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

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Adult Written byTCK December 18, 2010

An Epic Movie For Today

LOVED every single minute of this epic movie. Ignore the idiotic critics and go see this on the big screen before it leaves.
Kid, 12 years old August 16, 2013

A Groundbreaking Sci Fi Movie

I totally agree with Mammoth. First of all, this is the ORIGINAL Tron, not TRON LEGACY, which came out in 2010. The special effects were great for the time. Remember this was made in 1982! That's 31 YEARS before the date I'm writing this. Nothing is an issue, but kids under 8 might not understand it.
Kid, 9 years old December 21, 2012

This was a good movie, but I thought it was gonna be at least as good as Star Wars.

Language: d*mn is used once. Violence: If you let your kid see Wreck-It Ralph you should see this.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing