Daft Punk firmly establish themselves as more than just dance guys in the score and soundtrack to Disney’s forthcoming “Tron: Legacy,” though holding dear the same elements in the classical orchestrations that they do in their famous electronic compositions.
The French duo had talked with and culled ideas from other Hollywood music-makers like Hans Zimmer before they delved into scoring, and it was precisely Zimmer they channel in stretches of “Tron.” One of the overriding motifs is the blare of horns, like a foghorn, that dominated the dream-in-a-dream sequences in “Inception.” And like that score, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo don’t care to bother with major key, but sits firmly in minor-keyed revolutions – yes, cycles – in as much as a temperamental fashion as this sometimes-ridiculous movie would allow.
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But that’s like “Inception” in timbre not always in style. Particularly in “Adagio for TRON” or in “Outlands,” the 100+ person orchestra shift through the modulating that the synths and drum machines normally would in a Daft Punk song. It’s a full restructuring of a dance song with new instrumentation, plunging into two- or three-minute vignettes, capped by those foghorns or with a blast of “Flynn’s Theme” that take you back to the original arcade of the first film.
“Tron: Legacy” the Film is a lot on the eyes, and rarely do these tracks interfere with the feast. That’s why they were hired, that’s why it works. “End of the Line” is that essence, where it verges on dance music, album-esque territory, but avoids it altogether by just staying with the same repeated motif. The only tracks that maybe could be pulled from the mix as traditional Daft Punk songs and beats are companions “End of the Line” and “Derezzed,” the latter of which just got its own music video.
The pair stay traditional orchestral for the overtures, and the sign-off credit and finale songs. But as Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and his son Kevin (Garrett Hedlund) battle programs in The Grid, electronic battles these flesh-and-blood orchestras, and sometimes move in tandem with them. In one particular scene, as the Flynn family flies toward the light that will send them back into the Real World, they’re accompanied by beautiful half-“human” iso program Quarra (Olivia Wilde); the organic and electronic music shifts from harmonic to turbulent as the threesome battle evil program C.L.U. and his other flying minions.
It’s the perfect platform for the artists themselves, considering their propensity to appear as robots at their blockbusting dance shows: Daft Punk themselves have one leg in machinery and one in humanity. In “Tron,” they’re performers as Daft Punk, but composers as Homem-Christo and Bangalter.
As far as arc goes, though, the duo and its crew of musicans can’t help themselves but send the needle always to either the one and two, or to the nine and 10, with nothing in between. Like the film itself, there’s few blissful plateaus and letups before well-intended plans are foiled by interference and static. This is a series of slow-breathing warm-up and cool-downs, with bounding melodramatic beats and chest-beating orchestrations in the creamy middle. It’s a slow, mean march to the batter’s box (or the disc wars grid). But it’s far, far from a DaftPunk album, even with their “Electroma” in mind. They use their orchestral resources wisely, but not too cleverly. We’re not going deep down into seventh-level dreams or whatever, there’s just that unstoppable, ever-useful Grid structure -- that 4/4 time.