Opening December 17, 2010, ” Tron Legacy” is sequel to Disney’s groundbreaking “Tron”, one of the first feature films to incorporate large amounts of computer generated imagery, or CGI. It definitely wasn’t the first computer themed movie – or TV show for that matter – but its big budget and flashy visuals ushered in a new age of movies using computers for special effects, as well as story material.
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)
Strictly played for laughs, and always fun never truly dopey, this Disney film featured a young Kurt Russell (Escape From New York) as a brainy teen made brainier through a computer mishap blessed by Mother Nature. After a thunderstorm fries up Dexter Reilly (Russell) while he’s fixing a computer, he starts spouting mathematical equations and yaps out foreign languages. This was first in a trilogy of films starring Kurt Russell. It’s no “Tron”, but worth checking out as a grandfather of Hollywood computer jaunts.
Yet another Disney computer themed film, but the quaint 60’s notions of room sized computers have been drowned in neon colored magic. Starring Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner and David Warner, the movie plays much like a digitally dark version of “Alice In Wonderland” meeting “The Matrix.” Instead of Alice falling down the rabbit hole, or becoming a monosyllabic hero like Neo, Kevin Flynn (Bridges) is yanked down a computer black hole by a nifty laser like scanning process. He’s turned into 0’s and 1’s – binary code – and now Master Control (David Warner) has nasty plans in store for him. It was the ultimate in digital eye candy for its time, and its sequel promises to carry the torch into a bright artificial reality future.
War Games (1983)
Shall we play a game? How about Global Thermonuclear War? These seemingly innocent, if not odd questions, are traded by Matthew Broderick’s character with a super computer capable of actually carrying out the threat. Co-starring Molly Ringwald, the film plays somewhat quaint today with its vintage hardware and graphics, however the acting and plot payoff in the finale is still quite powerful. A lethargic sequel, “WarGames: The Dead Code”, was released in 2008.
Superstar Angelina Jolie was only twenty years old when she was threatened by villain Fisher Stevens, in this visually sophisticated tale of brilliant, but socially clumsy high school hackers. Matthew Liliard, Shaggy from the Scooby Do movies, bounces along for the ride, and it’s indeed a lavish romp in terms of cinematography and art design. Look for a young Penn Jillette (Penn & Teller) playing a corporate technical geek.
The Net (1995)
One of star Sandra Bullock’s first big feature films, and showcasing one of her strongest performances to date, this techno thriller still stands up with its creepy net neurosis. Bullock is Angela Bennett, a well paid software geek, whose world consists of computer crutches and alternatives like telecommuting for her job. When an earth shattering political secret lands in her possession, she becomes caught in a kind of digital limbo world, where evil computer geeks and hackers can do nearly anything to her. The movie may play it broad sometimes, and now in the age of WikiLeaks such political secrets may appear outdated, however Bullock’s razor sharp performance keeps us rooting for her and enjoying every twist and turn.
The Matrix (1999)
Perhaps the most famous computer themed movie of them all. Though the first in a triology, this first installment resonates most with fans. Neo (Keanu Reeves) plays Mr. Thomas Anderson, a mild mannered sort who dabbles in computer hacking in his free time. When his mind, body and soul are quite literally and figuratively freed to make him realize his life – everyone’s lives – are a sick, sad lie, the real fun begins. The movie’s ‘bullet time’ special FX signature look still influences film making today. Whenever fans experience a ‘glitch’ in real life, they can’t be sure if they’re imagining things, or simply trapped in a digital dungeon – captive of the monstrous Agent Smith.