Much like its predecessor, 2010’s sci-fi action adventure Tron: Legacy has left behind a curious legacy.
The original 1982 film Tron was a moderate box office success and received middling reviews from critics which praised the groundbreaking visuals, but criticised its storytelling.
In the years after its release the movie garnered a cult following, resulting in a franchise consisting of video games, comic books and an animated television series.
And then in 2010 a long-awaited sequel hit the big screen, Tron: Legacy, which had so much promise but quickly faltered.
Interestingly it fell to the same fate as Tron did, making modest money at the box office and receiving average reviews from critics who, like with the original, praised the stunning visuals but were left unimpressed by the story.
But once again, since its initial release the movie has become a cult hit with a dedicated fan base, all of whom were rather excited when Disney officially greenlit a third movie earlier in 2020 after years of the project being in a cryogenic freeze.
Reflecting back on Tron: Legacy as it celebrates its 10th anniversary this week, admittedly overall the film is rather a mess.
Very much favouring style over substance, the characters and story become lost with the result being convoluted and even more disappointingly, just boring.
However with that said, the stunning production design and visuals are quite frankly unreal, and I’d happily watch Michael Sheen do his eccentric and weird David Bowie impression all day long.
No matter what you think of the film though, there is no taking away from the fact Tron: Legacy delivered one of the greatest soundtracks ever to grace cinema, arguably being the best of the past decade.
French electric duo Daft Punk did an outstanding job with the score, which was remarkably the first one they had ever composed for a film.
When director Joseph Kosinski initially approached the pair about the project he didn’t think they would say yes, but they did, and it turns out Tron and Daft Punk were a match made in heaven.
Combining the electronic sounds for which the duo were known for with the more traditional orchestral music you find in films, the result was fresh, unique and crucially something unlike anything else we had heard before.
Not only was it different to the music heard in other movies, but it was also a departure from Daft Punk’s previous work too as they placed a higher emphasis on orchestral instruments such as violins and timpani.
The synthesisers and 85-piece orchestra blended together in perfect harmony, meaning there are no harsh clashes or moments which don’t quite translate.
Able to stand on its own two feet and be enjoyed outside of the film watching experience too, it is perhaps one of my most played albums in the decade since I purchased it.
In fact my main memory of watching Tron: Legacy on the big screen was being so blown away by the score, I rushed out of the cinema once the film ended to run to my nearest record shop to purchase the soundtrack on CD.
Still an emotional and fun listening experience today, 10 years on there is still to be a soundtrack released that is in any way quite like it.
Most importantly though, it achieved what it set out to do with flair, which was to match the tone of the movie, helping to intensify emotions where needed, and elevating the excitement of the action set pieces.
We have already established that the story and characters of Tron: Legacy were rather underwhelming, but it is a certainty they would have fallen completely flat if it wasn’t for the incredible work of Daft Punk.
The innovative score was also in complete synchrony with the groundbreaking visuals that greeted our eyes with Tron: Legacy.
You needed something inventive to match the electric and fast-moving world of Tron, and the soundtrack delivered just that.
All of the above was established from the second Daft Punk’s gorgeous score starts, with the opening song The Grid telling us everything we need to know when it comes to what’s in store for our main hero, and us the audience.
Setting the backdrop to Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn’s narration, the music tells us that whilst the world of Tron may be thrilling, it is not without its dangers with a haunting undertone in the score warning us of this.
As Flynn’s narration continues the score builds and builds, adding new layers, until the last line of “I got in” is spoken, with the music suddenly cranking up as the exciting main theme composed of beautifully pitched keyboard notes kicks in.
It is a great introductory track and sets the tone for what is to come from the rest of the film when it comes to the score.
Other highlights include Derezzed, an electronic and upbeat dance track made to make those hearts beat fast, which wouldn’t be out of place in a nightclub making it perfect for the movie’s neon lit fight scene at Zuse’s club.
Meanwhile the thundering and unnerving beats in Recognizer help welcome Sam into the overwhelming realm of the grid, whilst Rinzler is quite simply a great and menacing villain theme with the drums ramping up the tension as our hero faces off against an antagonist in the arena.
Adagio For Tron makes use of a minor key to create an mournful ode to a fallen hero that is filled with sorrow, and The Game Has Changed balances out the orchestra and electronic sounds to represent the concept of a bridge between technology and humanity, a major theme of the film.
And those are only a handful of the highlights!
Although Tron: Legacy is most definitely still a flawed movie, Daft Punk’s immersive and spectacular score ensured it wasn’t game over for the film, instead bringing dynamism and energy to the picture.
The movie’s legacy may still be tainted a decade on, but the score remains not only a testament to the electronic duo’s impressive work, but to how soundtracks can add so much to a film, even making or breaking it.
Cue the epic last song on the soundtrack, the grand and soaring Finale.
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