Outside of Isaac Hayes and Shaft, there’s rarely been a more promising movie-soundtrack marriage than that of French house automatons Daft Punk and Tron: Legacy. A film about a man consumed by machines, scored by two guys who pretend to be robots—it’s a synergistic dream made all the more auspicious by Daft Punk’s visual acumen, from the sensory overload of their live shows to their collaborations with Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry. Who better to update Wendy Carlos’ primitive Philharmonic-meets-Moog soundtrack for the original Tron to the dazzling, IMAX-scope future of its sequel?
With those weighty expectations, it’s only natural that Daft Punk falls slightly short. Tron: Legacy is neither groundbreaking experiment nor crucial entry in the duo’s catalog, but it’s an adeptly realized, tonally complementary companion to what sounds like an extremely intense science-fiction movie. In aiming for a more cinematic sweep, Daft Punk adds its arpeggiated loops and house beats to a traditional 90-piece orchestra, rather than the other way around, and as a result, only three tracks are distinctly Daft Punk: the moody electro vamp “End Of Line” (featured during the duo’s cameo as digital DJs), the frenetically phased rave-up “Derezzed,” and “Tron: Legacy (End Titles),” which recalls Vangelis’ Blade Runner credits in its welding of crackling electric tension to warmly human strings.
Vangelis also serves as spiritual predecessor to the spaced-out soundscapes of “Solar Sailer” and “Arrival,” while the mournful romanticism of Maurice Jarre seems like an obvious touchstone for the orchestral centerpieces “Adagio For Tron” and “Nocturne.” However, the rest is so dominated by Bernard Herrmann-like staccato violins and martial drum patterns building toward fat, foghorn brass notes, it suggests one of those iconic helmets has been hiding Hans Zimmer this whole time. It all functions fine as mood music, but that interchangeability—especially combined with the incredibly brief run times of its tracks—makes for a listening experience probably best appreciated on the big screen.