Written by Caballero Oscuro
The Legacy appended to the title of the new TRON film doesn’t just refer to the story and visuals of the seminal original, it’s also applicable to the soundtrack crafted by French electronic music stars Daft Punk. Furthering the themes of electronic music married to full orchestral accompaniment as pioneered by Wendy Carlos in the original film, the duo worked closely with director Joseph Kosinski throughout the new film’s production to fully develop the soundscapes necessary to guide viewers through its visionary world. The end result is like nothing they’ve produced in the past, and yet somehow still recognizable as their work.
Daft Punk are know for peppy, uplifting techno house hits such as “Around the World” and “One More Time”, songs that utilize catch melodies and warm, bouncy beats to put smiles on clubbers everywhere. As such, it’s initially shocking to enter the somber, muscular, dystopian soundscape they’ve created for the film, a joyless virtual world that heavily emphasizes drums, but not to move bodies. No, these drums are of a far more primal and tribal nature, more akin to the Kodo drummers of Japan than the electronic beats of clubland. Rather than rely solely on their synths on top of those drums, the duo utilized the full London Philharmonic Orchestra to masterfully expand the epic aims of their work with intense brass and strings, greatly increasing its powerful impact.
In fact, their usual electronics are somewhat de-emphasized, called in for important extra color here and there but most consistently providing the low end bass to max out the subwoofers of the world. There’s nothing incidental or off-topic in the score, with barely anything approaching a ballad or dance beat, just a consistently strong and otherworldly auditory adventure into the dark electronic heart of TRON.
This is a score that demands to be experienced at peak volume in an IMAX theater, throbbing with a dangerous intensity and deep, deep bass that threatens to destroy lesser sound systems. It reminded me of Hans Zimmer’s excellent work on the Inception soundtrack earlier this year, with a similar urgency and focus on forceful repetition of notes rather than grand melodies, and like that film there’s no ignoring the score here as it’s clearly an integral and prominently featured component of the film.
If you’ve seen any of the recent trailers for the film, you’ve already experienced a taste of what’s in store, and the suits at Disney must recognize they have a clear winner on their hands as it’s also being called into heavy and constant action during their current regular “elecTRONica” festivities at their California Adventure themepark. The score stands strongly on its own as a visceral and enthralling work that will undoubtedly have a long life regardless of the film’s success, but it’s almost assured that this audio legacy will follow in the footsteps of its soundtrack predecessor to fully expand the cutting-edge vision of the new film.