Hat tip to Tron 2.0 News for this:
Steven Lisberger the creator/director of the movie Tron gave an interview to IGN Entertainment. Here is Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview. They talk about what’s happening now (no, there’s no Tron sequel in the making, unfortunately), and they reminisce about some funny things that are Tron-related, and talk a bit about the making of the film, among other things.
In my opinion the best part is when Lisberger talks about the philosophical basis for the movie:
Lisberger: There’s a metaphor in the film which is that you try to reach your program. But forget about technology for a second. What the movie is really saying is that for each of us, there’s a higher self… a potential self. We had to kill off Clue, Flynn’s program. God, are you really going to listen to this tape?
Lisberger: We had to kill off Flynn’s program so that he wouldn’t run into himself when he went into cyberspace, but we’re like programs! I like to think that somewhere on some dimensional level there’s a User for me. There is a version of me that is the best person I could be. Whether I live up to that and whether I communicate with that, it’s up to me. That’s why the disc-mandala that Tron uses to communicate with Alan is a symbol of self. Mandalas are always a symbol of self! His higher self — his User — puts the information he needs to succeed on that disk. So either you believe in the Users or you don’t. Either you believe that there is a potentially great version of you and your job is to communicate with it… and what is the force or the MCP in the real world that is standing between you and the best version of yourself that you would like to be?
In some way I always knew that the movie had this basic subtext behind it, even if I wasn’t mature enough to understand it. You could tell because in the real world (in the movie) they added effects that looked vaguely computer-like in some scenes. There’s the conversation between Dillinger and Dr. Gibbs where Gibbs says, “[O]ur spirit remains in every program we design for this computer!” There’s the scene where Tron approaches the I/O tower, which has a kind of “temple” look to it. The tower guard makes a brief spiritual-sounding invocation, and then Tron enters, where he makes contact with his user, Alan–in a world where users are supposed to not exist. It’s almost like watching a spiritual experience, for a brief moment, and then it gets technical. And then there’s the final scene where Flynn in the real world greets his fellow travelers in victory and says, “Greetings, programs!” This is what I always liked about this movie. Even though the story line was not well developed at all, and the real reason a lot of people went to see it was the graphics (lots of eye candy), there was this aspect of it that actually had some deep meaning. Programs had users, but users had a higher connection with something as well, even though it was only implied. There was always the suggestion, just there subtly, that maybe we are “programs” too in some cosmic computer. Lisberger and the interviewer do get into “The Matrix” movie for a bit. It had a similar theme, though it got into it much more deeply, and in a darker way.
I have long felt a spiritual connection to computing, so I have an affinity for the idea that “our spirit lives in every program we create”. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, but I try to find ways to bring it back. I feel it has something to do with why I’m here on Earth.
Incidentally, I discovered an article yesterday that fills in some more details on the movie connection between Alan Kay and Tron. The article is in commemoration of Kay being inducted into the CRN Industry Hall of Fame, which happened last December. Most of it is about his background and accomplishments. Towards the end it says that he met his wife, Bonnie MacBird, while she was doing research for Tron. She worked as a storywriter for the movie, along with Lisberger. It was Bonnie who named the “Alan” character in the movie after Alan Kay. Neat, huh? 🙂