The original "Tron" hit me where I lived as a geeky boy back in 1982, but try as I might I can't get excited about this reboot, "Tron: Legacy," opening in theaters Dec. 17. Given the exponential leaps forward in computing and gaming since the original film, it seems remarkably unimaginative for the follow-up to stick with motorcycles and Frisbees as the prevailing visual metaphor for data and code.
Daft Punk, the French team behind dancefloor staples such as "One More Time" and "Around the World," also follow the composing model from the first film, in which Wendy Carlos melded electronic music with a symphony for maximum effect. The difference: Carlos didn't have a legion of raver fans salivating for the arrival of his work. Daft Punk followers seem overly eager to hear the results of their acclaimed duo (and the soundtrack has already leaked widely online) and many might be disappointed.
The CD is billed as a soundtrack, but it's really a score. These are not chipper, upbeat Daft Punk songs. These are short pieces of music carefully constructed to enhance a series of visuals. From the sound of it, this music will be pretty awesome in that context -- it's somber, foreboding, often quite subtle, recalling good Tangerine Dream mixed with less commercial Hans Zimmer. But as a stand-alone album, it's a colorless bore.
The repeated patterns that comprise a great film score make for dull listening on their own; tracks like "Disc Wars" and "C.L.U." -- some of the few that surpass the two-minute mark -- are nearly identical, droning with the strings of the London Philharmonic scratching out the same three notes. Occasionally, as on "Adagio for Tron" and "Recognizer," the symphony runs the kind of lines you'd expect Daft's synths to deliver, making the marriage slightly more intriguing than just a set of keyboards coloring outside the orchestra's lines. Only on "Derezzed" do Daft's electronics really lead, stitching up a thrilling patchwork of clipped and distorted riffs, but only for a minute and a half. The rest of it's just funereal outside the context of the film.