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Tron Legacy by Daft Punk

Tron Legacy

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Tron Legacy (Soundtrack) by Daft Punk

Tron Legacy
Composed by Daft Punk
Walt Disney Records (2010)

Rating: 8/10

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“For DAFT PUNK fans there is enough of the duo's signature style to make this pleasing listening experience and, while this score may not be a technical marvel to established industry composers, even long-time listeners of the genre may find the original score for TRON LEGACY a worthwhile listen.”

Arcade Punk
Review by Christopher Coleman

TRON LEGACY - the film has been on our minds since the Summer of 2008, when we were given our first of many teasers. By December 2010, expectations could hardly be any higher. Fans of the original film, TRON, from 1982 were joined by those dazzled by the amazing visuals painstakingly dispensed to the public over those two years. In 1982, TRON, took audiences into the inner-world of the computer; one that most folk had hardly any understanding of. Credit has to be given to the visionary writers and directors for producing a film that was visually stunning by the day's standards, but conceptually a bit before it's time. WENDY CARLOS' original score for TRON was only appreciated, like the film, much later than in its original release. Now, TRON LEGACY returns to that world,...but in 2010 it's a different audience with different expectations.

Accompanying first time director, Joseph Kosinski, are first time film-score composers, DAFT PUNK. In the world of electronica and dance music the enigmatic duo reign like mysterious luminaries. Even if you don't think you've heard their music you probably have if you watch any amount of TV; as their music ("Musique", "Around the World", "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" and "Technologic") has been utilized in several major commercial campaigns. There was little doubt that Kosinski's design and architectural background would result in a visually stunning film. Similarly, there was little doubt that DAFT PUNK could bring a decidedly modern, electronic edge to the film's score. Even with veteran screenwriters Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis (LOST) and the star power of actors Jeff Bridges and Olivia Wilde on-board, the big question still remained. Would all this come together to make for a successful film?

Visually, Kosinski delivered a rich experience that, while making its nod to the original TRON, is unlike anything we've seen on screen before.  Sadly, the writing for the film left some audiences wincing far too often and hitting "ctrl alt del" in their heads in futile attempts to "make it stop." So where does that leave the original score? Does DAFT PUNK succeed in delivering an effective one despite their lack of experience and inferior script? Does their music have life outside of the film?

Depending on who you ask those questions to, the answers will vary...rather widely. DAFT PUNK's pre-existing fanbase seem to, more often than not, love the resulting score; however, a number of of more established composers (who can certainly see this career-hindering-trend easily enough) have been able to find technical faults in DAFT PUNK's efforts here. But then there are those of us who are somewhere in between. As a member of that sizeable camp, I'll try to answer those questions here.

First, DAFT PUNK most definitely delivers an effective score despite their neophyte status. The duo crafts a strong signature motif which is used liberally throughout and in numerous adaptations. In it's simplest form, it's is a heroic fanfare reverberating with echoes of Aaron Copland. Two of the best performances of the theme are found in the opening and concluding tracks: "Overture" (1), and "Finale" (22). The former is a big, symphonic slap in the helmet, which was a delightful surprise given the tech-nature of the film.  "Finale" bookends the soundtrack in an equally surprising way. It is powerful, yet reflective piece, resting on the shoulders of the brass section before layer after layer of strings slowly joins in.  To answer the second part of the first question, unfortunately, DAFT PUNK's original score is not good enough to overcome the writing (and even acting) deficiencies of the film; as evidenced by the lack of award nominations TRON LEGACY has garnered in the "Best Score" department.

There is certainly much more to TRON LEGACY than the poignant opening and closing tracks. In between, DAFT PUNK definitely stretches its electronic-legs, putting their distinctive stamp on the score. In so doing, they answer the second question. Simply put, the music is most certainly enjoyable outside of the film. In track 2, "The Grid," after Flynn's brief monologue, we immediately get a Daftpunkian version of the title theme lead on synths and backed with electronic rhythms and strings. "The Son of Flynn" (3) delivers an oft repeated idea of ascending synth notes; giving us the feel of a flow of data itself. "Recognizer" (4) is built from the foundations laid in "The Grid," becoming another important motif; one representing the negative forces at work in the world of TRON.  In the track, Low notes on cellos form the backbone as higher strings layer in. Added later is a healthy dose of electronic instrumentation which gives us our first, true hyrid track of the release. Expansive brass blasts (now forever associated with Zimmer's score for Inception) add the last ingredient to make this a very strong piece. DAFT PUNK use this compelling instrumentation at the most intense moments of the film and consequently make up some of the better moments of the soundtrack. Just have a listen to "Rinzler" (7), "The Game Has Changed" (8), "Fall" (14), and "C.L.U." (18).

While the duo could have kept this hybrid style for every track, they don't. Helping to round out the symphonic side of this experience, DAFT PUNK delivers tracks such as "Outlands" (9) a short but quick tempo piece where strings pulse and undulate and finally culminate into a full orchestral burst. This piece is followed by "Adagio for TRON" (10). The first half of it seems to draw its inspiration from the two most famous adagios of the 20th century: Barber's "Adagio for Strings" and Remo Giazotto's "Adagio in G minor (Albinoni)". The second half sees the tempo quicken and the theme played by full orchestra, but undergirded by DP's pulsing synths. Drawing inspiration from at least one other classical piece, "Night on Bald Mountain" by Modest Mussorgsky, we get the increasingly intense piece "Rectifier" (17). A short-lived effort to be sure, but much preferred to the electronic butchering that wasn't recently laid upon Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" found in another popular, 2010 soundtrack.

For longtime fans of DAFT PUNK, there is also a good helping of music to like and will certainly give them plenty to listen to until the duo's next audio venture. As we enter into the second half of the soundtrack, we start to hear DAFT PUNK's unmistakable style take center stage. "End of Line" (12) and the pre-released "Derezzed" (13) are quintessential DAFT PUNK tracks, ready-made for the clubs. Beyond these high energy tracks, DP is able to synthesize pieces like "Solar Sailor (5) and "Arrival" (19), which pay homage to iconic composers of 80s like VANGELIS and BASIL POLEDOURIS. 

The surprise that exists in giving TRON LEGACY more than an cursory listen is finding harmony and consistency within the track-to-track-diversity that exists.  Somehow, by exporting and importing a bit of music here and a byte of instrumentation there, these rookie-composers bring an overall cohesiveness to a score whose range is a bit wider than we may have anticipated in the first place.  Unfortunately, the glaring failings of the film look as though they have negatively impacted impressions of the original score associated with it.  A tragedy that James Newton Howard can certainly identify with this year.  Still, the basic concept of the films remain sound...sound enough to spawn off talk of an animated series and potential film sequel. Mirroring the basic idea of the film, DAFT PUNK's music is "the organic living in a synthetic world."  And out of this seemingly impossible combination comes something fresh...something with life in it.  For DAFT PUNK fans there is enough of the duo's signature style to make this pleasing listening experience and while this score may not be a technical marvel to established industry composers, even long-time listeners of the genre may find the original score for TRON LEGACY a worthwhile listen.



Rating: 8/10


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Overture 2:28  ****
2 The Grid 1:36  ****
3 The Son of Flynn 1:35  ***
4 Recognizer 2:37  *****
5 Armory 2:02  ***
6 Arena 1:33  ****
7 Rinzler 2:17  ****
8 The Game Has Changed 3:25  ***
9 Outlands 2:42  ****
10 Adagio for Tron 4:11  ****
11 Nocturne 1:41  ****
12 End of Line 2:36  ***
13 Derezzed 1:44  ***
14 Fall 1:22  ***
15 Solar Sailer 2:42  ***
16 Rectifier 2:14  ***
17 Disc Wars 4:11  ****
18 C.L.U. 4:39  ****
19 Arrival 2:00  ***
20 Flynn Lives 3:22  ****
21 Tron Legacy (End Titles) 3:17  ****
22 Finale 4:22  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 59 minutes  

 

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