When asked why he chose Daft Punk to create the score for the insanely late sequel to cult 1982 sci-fi movie Tron, director Joseph Kosinski said, "How could you not at least go to those guys?" He has a point. A band who have essentially made themselves into robots seem perfectly suited for a film about humans becoming trapped inside a videogame.
The premise – that the boundaries between the real world and the virtual world are blurred to the point of non-existence – is so commonplace these days it almost seems facile, but by the same token, the original film speaks to the modern condition more eloquently than it could ever have imagined at the time.
Smartly, then, Thomas Bangalter and Guy Homem-Christo have reprised the aesthetic of that era by drawing upon the late 1970s/early 1908s fad for self-consciously futuristic, electronic scores: think Tangerine Dream for Thief, Vangelis for Blade Runner, Giorgio Moroder for Midnight Express and even Jan Hammer's work on Miami Vice.
Sadly, that's only half the story. A huge chunk of this soundtrack is the work of Joseph Trapanese, a jobbing composer whose CV includes the likes of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and Dexter. Using an 85-piece orchestra, Trapanese has resorted to traditional pseudo-classicism, from the opening "Overture" (which nods to Dvorak and John Williams) onwards.
The clash of styles between the French dance duo and the American arranger sometimes pays off, neeooww noises from Yamahas doing battle with thunderous timpani. What's frustrating is wondering what might have been, had Daft Punk been left to their own devices. They do, lest we forget, have considerable ground to make up: their last studio album, Human After All, was five years ago, and it was frankly a bit rubbish.
This score is a safety-conscious move: if it works, they lap up the plaudits. If it doesn't, well, it's only a film soundtrack. In its favour, this is the first time in way too long that they've released something that doesn't sound like it was calculated to be on an Apple ad. However, it's the twelfth track ("End of Line") before we get anything with a serious beat to it.
It all kicks into life with the haywire, dancefloor-oriented single "Derezzed", before settling back into clichéd movie-music mode. There's one, and only one, glimpse of humanity here, and it backfires. Post-Lebowski, it's impossible to take Jeff Bridges seriously as a solemn action hero. When he gives his explicatory monologue on "The Grid", it's difficult not to picture the Dude strapped, bemused, to one of those cool-looking "light cycles": Kevin Flynn abides.
What few will be willing to admit is that the experience of listening to Tron: Legacy without the film to look at is an often-boring one. And it ought to be OK to say that, without anyone shouting "philistine".