Released in December 2010, Disney movie Tron: Legacy picked up the thread of the cult 1982 movie Tron. The original film transported audiences inside a video game, the first time anyone had seen such a concept rendered on the big screen. And the sequel added loads of neon and eye-popping CGI polish, splitting original star Jeff Bridges into two characters: game designer Flynn, familiar from the first film, and his evil simulated double CLU (essentially a digitised clone of Bridges himself).
Tron: Legacy may have picked up lukewarm reviews, but it sported a stylish visual aesthetic and a fantastic soundtrack from helmeted French duo Daft Punk. They continued the electronic legacy of Tron composer Wendy Carlos, working with orchestrator Joseph Trapanese to craft a compelling blend of organic orchestra and pulsating synthesised effects.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of both the film and the score, we've picked our 10 favourite cues from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack.
The success of the Tron: Legacy soundtrack resides in its clear melodic impetus. The score is built on clear thematic building blocks, which become apparent during the opening Overture. A powerfully rising brass melody acts as the film's overarching theme, speaking of heroism and defiance as it's adorned with all manner of piercing electronic effects. The old and the new are bridged in one cue, setting out the stall for the soundtrack as a whole.
2. 'The Grid'
Incorporating voiceover into a soundtrack album can go one of two ways: atmospheric or annoyingly distracting. The Daft Punk score gets away with its brief snippet of Jeff Bridges' narration, re-establishing Flynn as central to the Tron narrative as he explains the construction of virtual world The Grid. The main theme is then treated to a funky electronic adaptation, closer to Daft Punk's dance roots, and demonstrating the malleability of their core musical ideas.
Once Flynn's grown-up son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) ventures into the game to search for his long-lost dad, the harmonics of the music change. With Sam now on a war-like footing, battling computer simulations in a deadly arena, the score absorbs heavy-duty percussion and timpani to indicate how The Grid has been corrupted from within. And the ever-present synths do an excellent job in painting a picture of a fantastical, non-human landscape.
Danny Elfman-style surging strings introduce this dynamic and exciting piece, which builds up a formidable head of steam. The Tron: Legacy score does an excellent job in foregrounding the might of the symphony orchestra, which caught many off-guard when they first listened to it. Given Daft Punk's background, many expected a conceptual album that would be suitable for a club night. Instead, they got a rousing orchestral/electronic masterpiece that channels the spirit of past masters, not just Wendy Carlos but also the likes of Jerry Goldsmith.
5. 'Adagio for Tron'
The Tron: Legacy score is smart enough to allow us some aural downtime amidst the more bombastic set-pieces. The depth of emotion is piercing and assured in the string-led Adagio For Tron, Daft Punk again going above and beyond what's expected of them. One must also credit orchestrator Joseph Trapanese in this regard – given the duo were inexperienced in the realm of film scoring, he acted as the go-between and ensured the delivery of the score's cutting-edge sound.
6. 'End of Line'
That said, Daft Punk are allowed to honour their roots in this pulse-pounding track. It's the one cue on the album that most approximates their 'Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger' aesthetic, heard within the context of the movie as we're introduced to the trippy End of Line nightclub. (Michael Sheen cameos as a vaguely sinister, David Bowie-haired entertainer.)
There are plenty of dark and dissonant moments in the score, too, largely revolving around the nefarious C.LU.'s machinations. The discordant strings and unsettling electronics in Derezzed suggest what C.L.U. does to his enemies, the appropriately fragmentary nature of the music blowing apart any notion of melody or cohesiveness.
8. 'Solar Sailer'
A sense of calm is restored with the hypnotically beautiful Solar Sailer. A repetitive electronic beat is joined by oscillating strings and steadily encroaching synths to convey a sense of awakening realisation, or the emergence of something truly awe-inspiring. Once again, the plethora of textures that Daft Punk is able to hit throughout the score is truly impressive, pinballing us from optimism to brooding menace, euphoria to sadness with ease.
9. 'Flynn Lives'
Every great film soundtrack demands a memorable climax. Ordinarily, this is the moment where the fragments of the main themes and motifs will come to a head, erupting with full statements during a closing moment of action or realisation. Daft Punk and Joseph Trapanese do a brilliant job in reinstating the main theme, aligning its sense of heroism with Flynn and his son as they work together to take down C.L.U. The power of the music reminds us this is much a father-son story as it is a virtual adventure.
A great film score will also learn how to modulate itself. This is another area where Daft Punk succeeds: after the soaring final battle, they sensibly calm everything down with the understated and attractive finale, signalling how peace and calm has been restored to The Grid. The music also signals Flynn's redemption, underlining the character's arc and enhancing our understanding of the story.
What are your favourite soundtrack moments from Tron: Legacy? Let us know @Cineworld.