Tron’s Light Cy­cles

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - View Screen -

Dave Bradley, Group Edi­tor- in- Chief

I was hooked on my ZX Spec­trum when I was a young ’ un, and ev­ery trip to the sea­side in­volved plough­ing large amounts of 10p pieces into bleep­ing ar­cade cab­i­nets. So the very idea of Tron was im­pos­si­bly in­tox­i­cat­ing – the glo­ri­ous neon dream of be­ing in­side a videogame.

The two Tron films, the orig­i­nal in 1982 and its be­lated 2010 se­quel Le­gacy, are nar­ra­tively dis­ap­point­ing, but the vi­su­als and the con­cepts are spec­tac­u­lar and the com­put­erised world they con­jure is sleek and ex­cit­ing. The cen­tre­piece of each film, and the cre­ation which has al­most come to sym­bol­ise the se­ries, is the Light Cy­cle. I want one.

Its orig­i­nal de­sign sprang from the same mind that gave us ve­hi­cles and build­ings in Blade Run­ner, Star Trek: The Mo­tion Pic­ture and, erm, Time­cop. Syd Mead, now 81, is the designer and “vis­ual fu­tur­ist” who gave us the Spin­ner from Ri­d­ley Scott’s clas­sic, mak­ing him one of the most in­flu­en­tial cre­ators in sci- fi. Work­ing along­side art leg­ends Jean “Moe­bius” Gi­raud and Peter Lloyd he gave us the es­sen­tial el­e­ments of Tron, in­clud­ing the tank and Sark’s car­rier.

The ba­sic Light Cy­cle, which spits out a solid trail be­hind it, form­ing a wall ri­val bik­ers can’t cross, is a master­piece of sim­plic­ity. It only turns at 90- de­gree an­gles and there’s a canopy in the orig­i­nal model that cov­ers the rider – it was a prac­ti­cal choice to make the graph­ics eas­ier to ren­der, but it leaves the Cy­cles rounded, with an ar­ti­fi­cial smooth­ness that could only be­long to the stylised, vir­tual world. Daniel Simon up­dated the de­sign for Tron: Le­gacy. They have a hint of Audi TT about them now, in the big wheels and gleam­ing lines. Tech­ni­cally th­ese canopy- free bikes are des­ig­nated “fifth- gen­er­a­tion” Light Cy­cles and they tilt as they turn, the danger­ous stream of en­ergy spew­ing from their rears now fluid “light rib­bons”, not righ­tan­gled “jet walls”.

It’s es­sen­tially th­ese glo­ri­ous ma­chines, es­pe­cially Syd Mead’s orig­i­nal, that – along with Amer­i­can telly im­ports like CHiPs and Street Hawk – are re­spon­si­ble for my fever­ish child­hood fetish about mo­tor­bikes.

Roads? Where he’s go­ing, he don’t need roads!

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