Tron LegacyOne of the things announced fairly early on about Tron Legacy was that its music would be composed by Daft Punk. Now, I like “Robot Rock” as much as the next guy, but was this French techno/DJ duo up to composing the score for an entire film from a franchise whose fan base was very much attached to the synth-orchestral sound of the original movie?

As it turns out, Daft Punk was more than up to the challenge, and more than a few moviegoers are likely to snap up the soundtrack while quietly asking themselves “Who did the music to the original Tron? Carlos somebody?” Just as Wendy Carlos‘ expansive, at times almost abstract electronic music was a perfect fit for the original Tron, Daft Punk nails the sound that accompanies the new movie. It’s a giddy mix of synth and orchestral textures, with only a couple of tracks that hint at Daft Punk’s more typical sound. It’s a much more foreboding sound than Carlos’ music, which did a great job of establishing Tron‘s computer world as a wondrous, almost magical setting. The new movie’s setting is darker and more dangerous, and Daft Punk’s music is a perfect fit for that.

But you don’t just hear Daft Punk on the soundtrack – there’s also an orchestra of over 100 players here, and the CD credits make a note of an orchestration assist by veteran Hollywood composer Bruce Broughton – normally a name you see headlining his own soundtracks. There are also “special thanks” for advice on the art of film scoring listing names like Harry Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer (again, not exactly B-list names). Daft Punk chased after this assignment, admitting along the way to being fans of classic Tron, and they obviously also sought some help from some of the most prolific film composers in the business.

The result is a soundtrack with plenty of motifs for specific characters and situations, and an album that, while it isn’t necessarily in the chronological order of scenes in the movie, makes for a very satisfying listen. Helping things considerably is that the movie’s rookie director (at least as far as directing for the big screen goes) trusted his rookie composers enough to dial the film’s atmospheric sound mix back and let the music carry key moments. One of the best musical moments in the score – a piece that’s been getting rapt attention as far back as the movie’s trailers – is “The Game Has Changed”, but its quiet, moody intro lands on an unusually quiet moment at the beginning of the showy (and otherwise noisy) light cycle competition. It’s a surprising combination of scene and music, and it’s incredibly effective.

The closest Daft Punk gets to sounding like Wendy Carlos may be the mostly-electronic “Son Of Flynn”, which somewhat surprisingly accompanies scenes that take place in the “real” world rather than the electronic realm. Other highlights include “Nocturne” (a much more sedate take on the same basic melody as “Son Of Flynn”), the techno anthem “Derezzed”, “Rinzler” and another moment where the music dominates the movie’s sound mix, “Adagio For Tron”. Those pieces that are mostly orchestral are surprisingly good – not a bad film scoring debut for a couple of guys whose primary output is electronic dance music.

There is one big bone to pick, but it isn’t with Daft Punk. Listeners in the UK and Europe got a two-disc version of the Tron Legacy soundtrack with several extra tracks, and even more extra tracks were spread out among online music stores ranging from iTunes and Amazon.com to Wal-Mart and Nokia (!). The scavenger hunt approach might have been neat for the “Flynn Lives” alternate reality game that helped to build buzz leading up to the movie’s release, but don’t make it such a chore for us to get a complete soundtrack for the movie. The additional tracks will be covered in another review.

As a single-CD experience, however, the Tron Legacy soundtrack delivers most of the movie’s key scenes in musical form. I really don’t know if this score hails the beginning of a whole new career for Daft Punk, or just a brilliant way to get a new audience interested in their back catalogue and future works, but I would bet money on one thing: 4 out of 4Tron Legacy‘s soundtrack will become a frequent flyer in movie trailers for the next decade. Its dark ambience and rhythmic sense make for some pretty catchy music, either with or away from the movie for which the music was originally constructed. And that, naturally, makes it a pretty good soundtrack listen too.

Order this CD

  1. Overture (2:28)
  2. The Grid (1:36)
  3. The Son of Flynn (1:35)
  4. Recognizer (2:37)
  5. Armory (2:03)
  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)

Released by: Disney Music
Release date: 2010
Total running time: