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Midnight Movie: Tron

When: Aug. 31-Sept. 1 2012

Laugh all you want about what Disney considered — what was — the state of the digital art in 1982. Not just the visualization of the binary-coded ether as one giant dorm-room black-light poster, but also the clunky hardware on screen that’s the equivalent of those breadbox-sized wireless phones used in old war movies. And yet the same year William Gibson was just introducing the term “cyberspace,” Steven Lisberger’s through-the-monitor-screen fantasy was advancing the concept, using the tale of a programmer turned uploaded warrior (Jeff Bridges) who challenges the tyrannical ruler (David Warner) inside a vast mainframe. (Perhaps “vast” needs some qualification: The computer used for the movie’s groundbreaking digital animation held a whopping 2MB of memory.) The movie’s awkward, stilted quality makes it seem all the more alien, and it even works as a generally prescient portrait of the modern-day Internet — a realm of enormous power and promise, yet with anonymous creeps and assholes lurking everywhere.

Jim Ridley

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