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December 07, 2010

‘Tron: Legacy’: Daft Punk rocks the grid with ‘Derezzed’

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WELCOME TO THE MACHINE: On Dec. 17, the Disney film “Tron: Legacy” picks up the story of the 1982 movie “Tron,” which was neither a critical nor commercial success but somehow still echoes in pop culture as an early signpost of the digital era’s glowing frontier. “Tron” is remembered more for its ideas and images (and its namesake video game) than for its story or characters, and that is a challenge presented to this new film, which is directed by Joseph Kosinski and stars Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde. We’re counting down to the release date and today’s post is on the film’s soundtrack.

Daft Punk

Daft Punk (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

For fanboys as well as fans of the Parisian electronica duo Daft Punk, the “Tron: Legacy” teaser trailer released in October did double-duty. It certainly hyped the movie sequel to 1982’s video game odyssey “Tron,” but the clip also functioned as the most fully realized taste to date of Daft Punk’s highly anticipated foray into movie soundtrack composition. Fans simply assumed the two-minute teaser was, in effect, a mini-video for the Daft Punk song “Derezzed.” But on Tuesday — timed to the release of the “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack — arrives a bona fide video for the song featuring all-new imagery.

The clip begins with two dudes sporting Daft Punk’s signature robot headgear walking into Flynn’s – which as any “Tron” completist knows, is the video game arcade operated by Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn character in both the new and old film. The robot dudes pump a couple of quarters into a “Derezzed” video game console that conspicuously bears the Encom logo, a nod to the technology company that Flynn works for in the first movie. And suddenly the action is transported to the video game realm, albeit a stylized combat dreamscape that evokes the ’80s video game “Tempest” and classic “Tron” more than Disney Studios’ upcoming $170-million reboot. There, the robot dudes morph into digitized warriors tooling around the digital countryside on light cycles and later appear as gladiators taking part in a jousting game, a game that leads to one robot dude’s avatar being “derezzed” – “Tron”-speak for killed off.

Musically, the song “Derezzed” isn’t a game-changer. It relies upon the kind of grinding, repetitive, heavy metal-tinged Big Beat electronic phrasing that fans have come to associate with the group’s songs such as “Aerodynamic” or “Television Rules the Nation,” which makes a certain amount of sense as an effort to appeal to hard-line “Robot Rock”-loving Daft Punk purists who are only too hungry for new music. But sticking to the familiar takes emphasis away from the impressive inroads band members Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have made as musicians working within a more classical-oriented idiom.

A careful listen to the “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack reveals the duo’s new skill at writing and arranging for an 85-piece orchestra – a sound way more in keeping with John Williams than, say, the Chemical Brothers.

Watch the video below.

– Chris Lee

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