One might argue that audio is equally as important to movies as the images on the screen, and therefore soundtracks are often pivotal to the success of a film. Disney’s 2010 TRON: Legacy is unique in that its entire soundtrack was produced by French duo Daft Punk. I think this is extremely critical to this movie because it really sets up the entire frame of the movie. The Daft Punk music is very futuristic; its mainly electronic components give it an other-worldly feel which really plays into creating the world of The Grid. Clu’s completely fabricated world is full of very advanced technology and robotic life forms and the techno music helps to create this different realm.
A pivotal scene in which Daft Punk’s music plays a key role is the club battle scene. At the beginning of the scene, a song is playing in the background but is overshadowed by the noise of the fighting. When Quorra comes to aid Sam, the same song continues to play but the music picks up and is more at the forefront, but when Clu arrives he places his hand on the ground and the music is completely silenced. The audio pauses for a few seconds, drawing the viewer’s attention directly to Clu, and then the music completely changes to a new song with a different tone. The intensity of the music heightens and has the same effect on the action of the scene. As Louis Giannetti states in Understanding Movies, “it’s the composers business to translate these dramatic needs into musical terms” and Daft Punk truly does their job in this scene (214). I feel that the music is very discriminately produced to progress the scene in this way and the importance of Clu’s arrival would not be nearly as recognizable without the severe change in music.
The one instance in the film in which the producers chose to incorporate music that wasn’t done by Daft Punk is in the scene in which Sam goes to the abandoned arcade and Journey’s “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” starts to play in the background. I believe this song is used for two reasons: to date the arcade and to subliminally allude to the entering of another world. This song was released in 1983 and I think the producers chose to have it playing in the arcade to serve as a timeframe and to show how long it has been since the arcade has been abandoned. Also, it’s hard to miss that, although this song is singing about lost love, its “worlds apart” lyrics are referencing another world, maybe the cyber world that Sam is about to enter. They took a risk in venturing away from Daft Punk and using a well-known, recognizable song, but it clearly served its purpose and the risk was worth the reward.
As Andrea Lunsford and John Ruszkiewicz state in Everything’s an Argument, music can have a very powerful effect on a film when it “hits precisely the right note” and Daft Punk’s compositions truly do an incredible number on this film (40). I believe the techno, electronic music has a hard time being soft and subtle, so the audio is somewhat lacking in adding to any tender or emotional scenes, but it does do an incredible job adding intensity and heightening suspense. It is finely tuned to each scene and takes the film to a whole new level; I am positive that if I tried to watch any of the battle or action scenes from the movie sans Daft Punk, they wouldn’t even compare. Am I a huge fan of Sci Fi Action Thrillers? No. Was TRON: Legacy my favorite movie? No. But do I think that the soundtrack served as an effective tool for the film? Absolutely. For this reason, I give the TRON: Legacy soundtrack a generous 4 popcorn bags.