This isn’t the first time that I’ve seen a studio spend hundreds of
millions to get a film made. This isn’t the first time that I’ve seen a
studio spend just as much money to advertise a film. This isn’t the
first time that I’ve seen a movie hyped to within an inch of its life
and it isn’t the first time I’ve seen totally ubiquitous and infectious
anticipation for a film.
But this has to be the first time I’ve seen such a film in which the
soundtrack was every bit as hyped as the film itself.
Hype for Tron Legacy (then titled TR2N) was already
high in the March of 2009, even before it was announced that the French
musical duo of Thomas Bangalter & Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo had
signed on to provide the soundtrack. Those names might not sound
familiar, but this surely
That’s right, the legendary artists of techno known as Daft Punk had
agreed to provide the music for the sequel to Tron. What’s more,
they quickly became an indispensable and extremely active part of the
film’s development, to the point where they had composed 24 tracks for
the movie within three months. Rough cuts of these songs were made
available to the cast and crew during filming, and Daft Punk themselves
appeared for a prominent cameo as a pair of house DJs in The Grid. Later
on, it was revealed that their score would be a mix of electronic and
orchestral, with the latter parts recorded by an 85-piece orchestra in
Meanwhile, the very concept of a collaboration between Daft Punk and
the makers of Tron had set the filmgoing world ablaze with anticipation.
Disney was smart enough to cash in on this, making the score a
centerpiece of their marketing campaign. Hell, the trailers and posters
don’t list any of the cast or crew of Tron Legacy, but many of
them prominently say “Music by DAFT PUNK.”
It’s all been leading up to today: December 7th, the much-anticipated
release date of the Tron Legacy soundtrack, a full ten days
before the release of the film itself. The reviews are already in and
they all agree that this soundtrack is stellar. In fact, with this
soundtrack’s high popularity and its undeniable quality, the score may
very well get an Oscar nomination. It might just win, too.
Let’s think about that for a moment. Daft Punk getting an Academy
Award nomination. Can you imagine these
guys walking down the red carpet and talking with Joan Rivers?
Sitting in the Kodak Theater? Maybe walking up onstage to make an
acceptance speech? Do you find that idea as awesomely hilarious as I do?
Anyway, the soundtrack’s release is such a special occasion that I
think it calls for me to try something different: My first-ever
soundtrack review! I’ve got the soundtrack with me now and I’m going to
break it down track by track, typing up my thoughts as I listen. If
you’ve got the soundtrack yourself, listen along!
The song starts out with some low strings to set the mood, presumably
as the studio logos go by and the opening credits start. It slowly and
softly builds toward what I’ll call our Grid Theme on what sounds like a
French horn at the 50-second mark. The theme gently crescendoes to the
1:15 mark, when soft violins further support the theme.
This is a relatively understated piece, completely devoid of any
electronica. I’m very fond of how this film slowly and surely builds to
its brief yet undeniably big finish. This isn’t the most impressive
piece on the score, but it isn’t supposed to be. This is a song that
beautifully introduces a central theme to the score and very nicely sets
the stage for the rest of the movie.
2. The Grid
We get some opening narration from Kevin Flynn to start this track
off. Not sure why they put that in the soundtrack, but there are
certainly worse things to listen to than Jeff Bridges’ voice. Anyway,
the music gradually builds under the narration, driven by steady
rhythmic pulses and a low violin ostinato. More strings join in,
bringing up the rhythm and intensity as the narration closes, cutting
off just in time for a techno statement of the Grid Theme.
The track makes an ideal introduction to The Grid. Not only do we
learn about the film’s basic premise through Flynn’s voiceover, but I
find that the prominent rhythmic beat seems evocative of a bustling city
and the Grid Theme is stated in a way that invokes a sense of grandeur.
Also, the track is almost entirely techno, which is very fitting for
the introduction to an electronic world, though the soft violin backup
is very effective.
3. The Son of Flynn
This track is all rhythm. It’s centered around a neat electronic
sound playing sixteenths in constantly shifting sequences of ascending
notes. This establishes the beat of the piece, which is further
strengthened by low techno pulses 18 seconds in. Violins also take part
as a very subtle support at the 45-second mark. Horns come in with an
extremely subtle melody, crescendoing in from 1:08 or so.
I wish I knew the scene that this track is meant to score. The title
makes it obvious that this track is our introduction to Sam Flynn, but
what’s he doing here? Call me crazy, but I hear this track and I think
of some guy hacking into a secure database or maybe — with some
modifications — a bank vault. In a pinch, I might be able to visualize
this as the score to one of Sam’s motorcycle joyrides. But I just can’t
see how this would be suitable for bungee jumping or sky diving.
However, if this song is actually for Sam’s preparation toward
jumping off the Encom tower, cutting off just as he takes that leap,
then… well, I just hope I’m right about that.
A heavy violin ostinato welcomes Sam to e-world. The violin fittingly
morphs into a techno sound after a few seconds. The Recognizer itself
arrives, heralded by some Inception-esque horn stings. The
violins refuse to stay down, though, keeping time under the ostinato
without overpowering it until 50 seconds in. The violins take over the
ostinato as the techno beat takes a low and steady rhythm. The Grid
Theme makes a subtle appearance by way of horns, starting at 1:10. The
horns blast with a vengeance at 1:42, clearing the way for a soaring —
if greatly simplified — variation of the Grid Theme on brass and
Even more than in the previous track, this one depends entirely on
rhythm. The violin ostinato and the low techno pulse are what drive this
song, intertwining with each other in some very interesting ways. Use
of the Grid Theme is enough to describe the grandeur of The Grid, though
the Theme is restrained enough to serve as a reminder of the context
and its dangers.
This one is all techno. There’s a rhythmic bass pulse that booms
every two measures, but in a very calming way. A low techno ostinato
plays, setting a rhythm in the background. There are some other sounds
in here, with notes that change pitch every two measures or so, and that
makes our “melody” for the track.
The song is very decidedly not one of the most exciting ones on the
soundtrack. In fact, one could be forgiven for calling it boring.
However, I personally find the song to be very calming. It’s a welcome
bit of peace between Sam’s harsh arrival and his debut in the Game Grid.
Additionally, “Armory” works as a nice theme for the beautiful,
precise, impersonal and mysterious Sirens.
Welcome to the Game Grid, ladies and gents!
After 19 seconds of dead air (why?), a brief techno riff comes in,
quickly crescendoing as it repeats. At 1:00, the Arena Theme is at full
volume and we get a neat little drumming pattern to add some flavor.
The song is brief, but it gets the job done. The Arena Theme sounds
like it would be perfectly at home in a mob of screaming fans and the
crescendo wonderfully illustrates the arena’s reveal. That drumming beat
at the end doesn’t add much in the way of rhythm, but it’s a nice
little exclamation point on the song’s end.
If you don’t already know, Rinzler
is the chief enforcer of our villain, Clu. He’s a terror on the Game
Grid, an ace light cycle pilot with the unique ability to split his
identity disk into two separate weapons. Additionally, the distinctive
“T” on his chest has led to fan speculation that Rinzler may actually be
Tron himself in disguise.
Last but not least, his song KICKS ASS!
After some intimidating Bear McCreary-esque percussion stings and
what I think is a slowly crescendoing cello note, the song finally
begins in earnest at the 30-second mark. That’s when we get a steady
techno beat in the foreground, supported by a steady two-note string
pulse. The techno pulse becomes a heavy ostinato at 0:45, which gives
itself a completely different second half at 1:04. The ostinato
continues with these changes as the violin pulse grows louder. The song
crescendoes and crescendoes until those drum stings come back with a
vengeance at 1:30. What sounds like a flute ostinato joins in at 1:35
and joins the rest of the song as it constantly presses forward, growing
in volume and intensity until it crashes into a horn sting and abruptly
This track is a juggernaut. Strings, wind, percussion and techno all
band together with one ostinato after another, working in perfect
harmony, mercilessly pushing the beat, consistently growing in volume
and intensity into an avalanche of pure WIN.
8. The Game Has Changed
This one starts out mellow enough, with a rather laid-back repeating
theme in a soft techno sound. But the song slowly and gradually builds
in intensity through a persistent violin ostinato and some aggressive
drum beats with varying degrees of modulation. That initial techno theme
comes back to the foreground a few times, but the violin ostinato in
the background gives it a darker edge. The song also has a peculiar
“twanging” pulse to keep time in places, as well as an electronic sound
in a repetitive descending sequence, starting at 2:08, growing louder
until it overpowers the song and stops at the 2:25 horn sting. The
violins and drums continue to drive the song to its violent conclusion.
This song is quite interesting in its contrast. The foreground is
loaded with beats and melodies that grow increasingly loud and
aggressive, though they’re constantly anchored by the soft and steady
rhythms in the background. Moreover, the song constantly seems to start
and stop. It all makes for a song that constantly builds in intensity
without becoming a runaway train as “Rinzler” did. The song is good for
what it is, though I personally prefer the song with unrestrained
Now here’s an interesting change of pace: A song that’s entirely
The whole song is driven by shifting violin ostinatos, occasionally
punctuated with stings from percussion and woodwind. We also get some
sustained notes and descending sequences from the brass section for
This is the song that plays while Quorra is driving Sam away from The
Grid and toward Kevin Flynn’s safehouse in the Outlands. The way there
is loaded with tunnels, steep mountain passes and other such rocky
terrain. I can easily picture how this song might fit with such a
10. Adagio for Tron
A song in three distinct parts, the first part is a very slow and
moody piece. It’s almost entirely made of various strings and almost
completely devoid of techno. The song is anchored around a particular
theme divided into sets of three descending notes. Strangely enough,
this theme somehow reminds me of Wendy Carlos’ work from the original
film. This feeling of deja vu is amplified by the peculiar percussive
sounds starting at 1:11 and the crude keyboard repeating melody starting
The song shifts into a second movement at 2:20. The cellos start off
to inject some energy into the song, with a familiar techno background
pulse cutting in at 2:32 and the same three-note theme on violin as
before. This song continues the moody atmosphere of the first half, but
with the aforementioned background rhythms to add a sense of urgency and
some melancholic notes from the brass.
The song changes once again at 3:08, as a solo violin plays us out
with the three-note theme.
It’s quite certainly not an exciting piece of music, but the mood and
atmosphere of it is exquisite. I haven’t the slightest idea what scene
this was written for, but the song seems ideally suited for exposition.
A song like this practically demands to be played as a story is told.
Independently of the film, I could easily imagine this song as the score
for a ballet scene or a silent short film.
Another very moody song that’s heavy on strings and light on techno.
The difference is that this one doesn’t have any particular theme to
center itself around. In fact, the song doesn’t seem to have any
discernible rhyme or reason, just so many string instruments playing
sustained notes that change in pitch every now and then. It’s
beautifully arranged and it makes for some very soothing ambient
background music, but there’s absolutely no melody that I can make out
or anything else that could make it memorable.
This is definitely the biggest disappointment in the soundtrack so
far. Maybe after two orchestral tracks in a row, it’s time for something
12. End of Line
Oh, HELL yeah! Words can’t describe how thrilled I was to hear that
this on the soundtrack. Why? Here’s why.
When that secret door first opened during the SDCC of 2009, those
present immediately heard the first of Daft Punk’s score that had ever
been heard by public ears. And when that event hit YouTube, the whole
world got to hear it at a time when everyone was still salivating at the
very thought of Daft Punk composing music for Tron.
Countless remixes and mockups were made, all of them trying to copy
that song and figure out what it might sound like when completed. This one was
probably the most prominent. Just doesn’t sound quite right, does it?
None of the other myriad imitators sounded any better, but alas, those
of us anticipating the movie didn’t have anything better to go by.
With all of this in mind, I hope you can understand my thrill at
finally being able to hear the genuine article a year and a half later.
Yes, the song is quite repetitive and there are a bunch of bloopy-bleepy
sounds in the background that I don’t quite understand. Nevertheless,
there’s no denying just how catchy that riff is and the beats in the
background are wonderful. Maybe it’s just nostalgia or so much
anticipation finally paying off, but I love this song.
Here’s another track that played a prominent role
in the film’s advertising.
This song, coupled with “End of Line,” are probably the two songs on
this soundtrack that most closely resemble the kind of music that made
Daft Punk famous to begin with. And it’s awesome. The central riff may
be slightly repetitive, but they change it up just enough to keep it
interesting and the background percussion is superlative. This is just a
fun and energetic song, quite probably the most dance-worthy of the
Call me crazy, but I don’t really like this one. After the cello
ostinato kicks in at 0:14, the song seems like it’s on a constant loop.
It doesn’t seem to get much louder and it does precious little that’s
new, it just more or less plays the same ten seconds over and over
again. Also, that shrill white noise in the background really doesn’t
I could maybe see this working as the score to some big action scene,
but the song by itself is nowhere near good enough to stand on its own.
15. Solar Sailer
Now this is an interesting one. It’s another very repetitive song,
but I find the ambient nature very appealing. The background music is
very calming and the techno pulse in the foreground is very soothing to
me. It’s all rather “Blue Man Group”-esque. Then we get some strings and
a curious techno ostinato, both of which add to the song’s atmosphere.
This song isn’t nearly as moody or melancholic as “Adagio,” but it
isn’t quite as aimless as “Nocturne,” either. It’s just a neat little
coffee break from the overwhelming energy of the last three songs. As to
the title, given what I know about the Solar Sailer from the first
movie, I think that the song is well-suited for a ride on one, provided
it’s an uneventful ride.
What makes this song good is that it has no subtlety. I have no idea
what a Rectifier is, but this song makes it sound like a goddamn dragon.
Also, what makes this song bad is that it has no subtlety. The entire
song carries on with that one-measure repeating string motif with
precious little room for nuance or variation. It’s not catchy and it’s
not fun to listen to.
Nevertheless, there’s no denying that this song painted a crystal
clear picture in my head, so kudos to Daft Punk for their work in
scoring the Rectifier. Can’t wait to see it onscreen.
17. Disc Wars
This is an interesting piece. The string ostinato is very effective,
particularly in how it’s supported by all the background instruments and
techno beats (except for that one annoying electronic ostinato starting
at 2:00 and the other one at 2:38). The song builds nicely, but it
doesn’t seem to go anywhere. This doesn’t feel like an action scene so
much as the preparation for an action scene. I’m very curious to see
what it might accompany.
Folks, this is how you score a climax. This song has countless
string ostinatos all going on at the same time and building beautifully
on top of each other. The song also calls back to key parts of the
soundtrack, such as the drum beat from “The Game Has Changed” that makes
a reprise at 2:06. The violin and trumpet parts at 2:42 shake things up
very nicely with clear signs of peril. “Fall” also appears at 3:10 and
repeats quite frequently, but there’s much more variation here than
there was the last time around.
The song is very skillfully written and arranged. It’s absolutely
perfect for a grand final battle.
This one’s got “denouement” written all over it, filled with ambient
sounds. The only part of this song that’s memorable or noteworthy is its
downbeat rendition of the Grid Theme, nicely played by the trumpets.
20. Flynn Lives
Well, it sounds like the movie ends on a confident note. The
underlying violin ostinato adds to the mood wonderfully, conveying a
quiet strength that wonderfully carries the song in its first half. More
importantly, the Grid Theme is absolutely triumphant here. Every
repetition is played with more gusto than the last until it’s played
with great woodwind support and awe-inspiring glory at 2:44.
21. TRON Legacy (End Titles)
The theme starts out with a strong electronic beat that’s high-energy
and a lot of fun. This serves as the backup for another solid rendition
of the Grid Theme at 1:19, this time played in techno. The Grid Theme
gradually morphs from electronic to manual, until the Theme is played in
all its orchestral glory at 2:35. What’s more, the Theme all but
abandons the techno backup at that point, soaring entirely on its own.
The end credits continue. At first, this song seems rather aimless.
It sounds like there’s just one instrument playing, but I can’t make out
what it is (some kind of brass, I think). The strings take over at
1:22, but to no apparent point or purpose. Then, finally, the song
rallies at 2:14 for… the same nothing, but they’re playing it with
much more determination than before. Then 2:40 comes and it’s apparent
that the musicians were rallying for yet another statement of the Grid
Theme. It’s relatively understated, compared to the last two tracks, but
it sounds great all the same. Afterwards, the song rambles about some
more, finally fading its slow, slow fade to the end.
Rather like “Nocturne,” the song is totally unmemorable, but it’s
still nice to listen to in its own way. Also, the soft and orchestral
song serves as a nice bookend to “Overture.” And anyway, who will still
be watching the movie at this point?
In this music, Daft Punk shows great skill at blending orchestral and
techno. The Grid Theme is a key example of this, as it’s a song that
sounds equally beautiful with both approaches. They had a tremendous
toolbox to work with here and they knew exactly which one to use at any
given time. The various rhythms, beats and ostinatoes are marvelous,
driving the soundtrack forward in novel ways that are wonderful to
Taken purely as its own product, this soundtrack has some great
songs, with “Rinzler,” “End of Line” and “Derezzed” chief among them. It
also has such clunkers as “Nocturne” and “Finale,” but what album
doesn’t? Moreover, it remains to be seen how well these songs will work
in the context of the film.
Tron Legacy is coming quick, with only ten days to go until
release. I know I’ll be there and I encourage you to give the soundtrack
a listen before then, if you haven’t already.