It’s been well over two years since newbie director Joseph Kosinski stood in front of assorted obsessives, movie execs and a very large, very doubting media presence at Comic Con 2008 in San Diego to reveal concept footage of the much delayed sequel to Steven Lisberger’s ambitious 1982 sci-fi Tron.
Thankfully, most doubts were assuaged with an amazing three minute-reel from what would become Tron Legacy. Job done, Kosinski went back to prepping the film with dribs and drabs of information being fed to a curious public ever since (the film opens in less than two weeks). Then one of the bigger bombshells came along in March last year when it was revealed that Daft Punk would be creating the film’s soundtrack.
Daft bloody Punk! Back of the net.
Rarely, if ever, has the decision over a film score seemed to inspired, so obvious and so exciting at the same time. What followed this moment of alchemy was some 20 months of build up, as all the while the expectations surrounding these 22 tracks became slightly unrealistic.
Perhaps people expected 22 enormous anthems; 22 tunes that followed the club-friendly blueprint the French duo served up for the anime mutation of Discovery that was Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. Instead, what we get is a soundtrack that pretty much follows the John Williams method of writing an OST to the letter. In amongst the disappointment over what it’s not, the fact that it completes its stated mission with some distinction seems to be getting overlooked by many people.
It comes complete with epic scene-setters, distinctive theme tune (bonus 85-piece orchestra included) and thundering, industrial sounds for the film’s action beats. Everything you’d want for three acts of an event movie. So why the negativity?
Firstly, what shouldn’t be forgotten is that the pair were writing a score for a $200 million film that is an enormous risk to its studio to begin with (despite claims by half the English speaking world to have seen it upon release, Tron actually bombed at the box office and hasn’t necessarily been a Christmas classic ever since), so any thoughts that Daft Punk were going to reinvent the wheel were unrealistic from the get go.
They’ve said as much themselves whenever asked about the project. “We knew from the start that we were never going to do this film score with two synthesisers and a drum machine,” said Bangalter recently.
What also shouldn’t be missed here is that within the obvious restrictions placed upon them, Daft Punk have managed to create some wonderful heart pounding moments and a piece of work that will likely grow heavily in stature once the film is actually released. We do however, have to start with the bad as indeed the album begins with a Williams-lite effort called ‘Overture’ followed by the frankly misguided inclusion of some Jeff Bridges dialogue on ‘The Grid’. Sounding more like the intro to an Xbox 360 game, it jars against the rest of what’s on offer. After this uneven start though, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo get an awful lot right.
We get regular, well measured gems like ‘Arena’, ‘The Game Has Changed’ and ‘End of the Line’, then the dramatic excellence of ‘Rectifier’, all of which will most likely thrive alongside the action on screen and most of which you’ll recognise from the steady stream of trailers for the movie released over the last year. Meanwhile, the album’s more punchy highlights, ‘Fall’ and ‘Derezzed’, absolutely soar, as does – in an altogether different way – the quiet, gentle synth hum of ‘Solar Sailer’.
Admittedly the lack of more tunes similar in tone to ‘Derezzed’ (the most defiantly Daft Punk moment contained here) is somewhat disappointing, but you can’t help but get the feeling that Daft Punk have merely played the hand that was dealt to them.
Kosinski is aiming to make his ‘Star Wars’ here; he wants a trilogy; he wants epic, emotionally charged music to pull the heartstrings where needed; not to mention booming drum machines during the movie’s duelling lightcycle scenes. All of which he gets in abundance. There’s even the menacing ‘bad guy’ theme, delivered with some style on ‘C.L.U.’.
Many may have been waiting for something else, but get rid of the preconceptions and there’s a very fine soundtrack to enjoy here. Williams will be proud.