Jeff Bridges is among the most magnetic actors working today, delivering astounding performances in whatever new film he’s in. He’s starred in classics like True Grit and The Big Lebowski, but it’s the boundary-pushing cult classic Tron that the actor had the most confidence in, and for a good reason.
In 1982’s Tron, Jeff Bridges starred as programmer Kevin Flynn, who gets digitized and transported into the world of his video game creation. It received strong positive reviews from critics and created a legion of devoted fans (rightly so too, it stands as one of the best science fiction movies of its era), but was ultimately a financial failure, losing Disney millions. On a broader level, though, Bridges has explained why the movie was always destined to succeed, revealing why failure wasn’t an option.
“In the early days of my career, I was always looking for scripts that were unusual,” said the star in a new interview with The Guardian reflecting on the legacy of his film. “Scripts like Tron feel risky but it’s actually much harder to fail when you’re doing something so innovative. There’s nothing for the film to be compared to.”
It’s a straightforward point that Bridges makes, but one that’s absolutely true. When a movie is as innovative as Tron, or something like Star Wars, a level of success is always guaranteed, especially when it comes to the pioneering visual effects. At the time there were no other movies like Tron, automatically making it the best of its small sub-genre.
In the years since, the reverse of Bridges’ fascinating point has proven to be true as well. After years of endless superhero movies, we’re now in a position where even ones that are perfectly fine (Shazam 2, or Black Widow) have underwhelmed and come under fire for bringing nothing new to the table, and therefore feeling stale.
Then there’s something like The Matrix, which is the exception that proves the rule. The Matrix is obviously influenced by the likes of Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and – yes – Tron. But, like Tron, it was so innovative in what it attempted to do on a visual and technical level that it felt incomparable to the eras of cinema that had come before it. Now, it stands as one of the best movies ever made.
Arguably, part of the issue with the sequel Tron Legacy (and the upcoming Tron 3) is that lack of innovation. Because the central premise is fundamentally the same as what’s come before, a level of comparison is inevitable. Tron Legacy is widely underappreciated (the score alone should be enough to justify any love for it), but could never claim to be as successful as its predecessor because it’s building on the past, rather than creating something new.
On a much broader level, mega-movie studios around the world would do well to hear Bridges’ words of wisdom about innovation being its own reward: in an endless era of reboots, remakes, sequels, and franchises, so little feels risky. Of course, that is the point (studios don’t want to take a financial risk on new movies that don’t have an audience baked in, like box office struggler The Creator), but the lack of desire for anything original means that movies like Tron would probably be less likely to get made today, and what a shame that is.
If original science fiction is your vibe, read our The Creator review. Or, check out the status of the new Star Wars movies, and of James Cameron’s Avatar 3. Or, go bigger and read why we think the Star Trek trilogy is better than the Star Wars trilogy. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.