Home > Geek rants > A Ledge in Tron Raped My Childhood

A Ledge in Tron Raped My Childhood

What was I saying about geeks being traditionalists?

A couple of days ago, I watched the original Tron on Blu-ray. It’s the first time I’d seen it on that format, and the first time I’d seen it on a (relatively) big screen. I’m intimately familiar with the film, however, having owned it on Beta in the late ’80s and then buying the original DVD and the 20th anniversary DVD as well. This is the film that inspired me to move into computer science.

And yet never had it seemed so vibrant and immersive as it did on Blu-ray this week. It was as if I had the chance to time-travel back to 1982 and experience it for the first time in the cinema. However, I knew that writer/director Steven Lisberger had made some tweaks, so I was curious to know what the changes were, even though nothing jumped out at me.

Later that day, I did a search to find out exactly what alterations were made. Apparently, the flickering due to an original production error had been reduced, though not enough for anyone to notice. That’s interesting, but not exactly a big deal.

No, the big deal was an addition that strikes at the heart of debates about director’s cuts. Like Jabba the Hutt in the Star Wars Special Edition, a digital ledge has been inserted into a scene in Tron. Or in one shot, anyway

Yes, a ledge was added to one shot. The horror. The horror.

To quote Kevin Flynn from Tron: Legacy, “Check it ooooout”:

Earlier version (without ledge)

Blu-ray version (with offensive and gratuitous ledge added)

So what’s going on here? To me it looks like we’re getting a version of the film not as tightly cropped as before (and other comparisons confirm this—see here—though some shots more than others), but in this particular case, it requires an additional ledge to be added in order for the perspective to look right. In other words, by correcting the cropping issue throughout the film, a problem then arose for this particular shot—one that was itself corrected by the insertion of a ledge.

This alteration is somewhat controversial. One “Blu-ray Guru” called it “revisionism plain and simple”, while another viewer posted that they were “gravely disappointed” over a change they saw as being “100% unnecessary”. In fairness, this is a minority view, but the fact that it’s even a point of discussion is interesting in itself.

Of course, even in geek circles this is a pretty mild case, and indeed, A/V enthusiasts are even crazier about this stuff than the average geek. More significant examples of the same agonising occur over the aforementioned Star Wars Special Edition and the Blade Runner Director’s Cut, both products of the ’90s, as well as the E.T. 20th anniversary edition from 2002.

Greedo shoots first? Deckard is a replicant? Guns are now walkie-talkies? These are all fairly major changes, but what they share with the new ledge in Tron is a shift away from the original theatrical presentation. This goes against the desire of geeks to preserve the past, creative intent be damned: as with an original Tri-Logo Yak Face presented in its original packaging, the goal of most geeks is to hermetically seal-off a moment in time that is significant to them for one reason or another. Whether it’s the addition of a ledge in Tron or the removal of a snake’s reflection in Raider’s of the Lost Ark, you’ve still got the problem of a corruption of the original presentation. Geeks are forever fighting against the ravages of time.

As ridiculous as the declaration of “revisionism” against this innocent ledge may seem, at heart, it’s a hardcore realist position such that whether or not an alteration is deemed subjectively significant is completely beside the point—the change exists quite apart from subjective evaluation or even the ability to perceive it. It’s the same reason audiophiles will prefer lossless codecs even if double-blind ABX tests show no perceptible degradation for a lossy codec at a particular bitrate.

To be honest, I can kind of sympathise with the anti-ledge position and would rather have a copy of Tron that presented the film as it was in 1982. But in the grand scheme of things, this is pretty minor stuff. My major concern is having a Blu-ray copy of the original Star Wars trilogy as it was in cinemas in the ’70s/’80s, or classic Disney animated features without colours over-saturated and with grain restored. Until then, a ledge in Tron is low on my list of things to be outraged over.

(Oh, and of course poverty, hunger, etc. are bigger concerns than all of this. I hope that’s obvious.)

Are you a purist? Or do you think artistic rights trump all? Post your comments below…

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Categories: Geek rants Tags: ,
  1. November 22, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    I love what William Friedkin said about post-impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard who went into the Louvre to try to paint over and revise his painting. Officials grabbed him and asked him what he was doing. He told them he was the original artist and was revising his work to which their response was, It’s done! It’s over with! But as an artist and writer I am never happy with the finished product. Sometimes I think a blog I wrote has been revised enough. I post it, later that blog is reintroduced in some form or fashion and I read over it and I’m like, “Oh my, this could use improvement,” and I revise it again. I actually have William Friedkin’s film The Exorcist on blu-ray, the book blu-ray combo that has the extended version and the original version. I watched the extended version first were they added an extended ending and put spirits in the darkness when Ms McNeal enters the house. They also did something to Regan’s face when she’s sitting in the armchair. I’m use to the extended version. I watched it when I was a kid. Years later when I got the book blu-ray combo I watched the original theatrical cut and thought to myself, this is more visceral and raw in it’s presentation. Friedkin as with most director’s back in the day worked with what they had but it’s freaking beautiful. It’s like painters back in the pre-computer days being given a palette, brushes, canvas, and paints, and being told, “Here! This is all you got!” Now painters have the ability of working with Photoshop, etc to make lush art. It’s all perfect. You could redo a realistic version of a landscape you painted with real brushes and paints years ago and it would be stunning but it would lose the genuine feel that the first one had. I don’t think revised versions of films should be dismissed though. There are people who love the spider walk seen added back into The Exorcist. It was scary when I first seen it but it looks fine and more trim without it in my opinion. Chris McNeal realizes Burke Dennings is dead and that’s the horror right there. To add the Regan spider walk scene is horror on top of horror and it doesn’t give the audience relief until the next scene after the spider walk. It also takes away from the emotion of that moment. Look at this really cool effect is all it’s saying. I enjoy the theatrical more than the Director’s Cut of The Exorcist and some enjoy the Director’s Cut. I think both versions should be around and if you want to add continuity to them think of the the franchise as a multiverse, kind of like what Marvel does. The original movies are in Universe 1 and the new movies exist in Universe 2, that way both are canonical in their own right but audience members have a choice between one or the other. Entertainment is just that, what you prefer

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