Tron: Legacy is a perfect pop culture intersection involving gaming, coding, robots made of coding, electronic music, the digitalization of the world, and game-loving robots made of coding who play electronic music.
Most people probably remember the 2010 film as “The One With CGI Jeff Bridges,” but music lovers know it for the participation of Daft Punk, the aforementioned robots.
Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, who created Daft Punk in 1993 and retired the concept in early 2021, recorded their lone soundtrack and score for Tron: Legacy. It was a labor of love as both were fans of Tron, the 1982 film that spawned a beloved arcade game.
As with most things Daft Punk, any vinyl pressing of the soundtrack commands big bucks. There’s even a CD box set from France that sells for hundreds. However, the movie can be had for $4 from every major streaming service, which is appropriate given the film’s love affair with all things digital.
Why are we talking about this now? Oh, no good reason. Unless you consider a $2,500 USD Sennheiser soundbar that weighs about 40 pounds, is 50 inches wide, and transmogrifies movies into a sensory experience a good reason.
The Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar is rightly considered a state-of-the-art home theater product. It does many things extremely well, but its special trick — spatial trick? — is to create a three-dimensional soundscape that mimics surround sound. I considered selling a kidney to buy the loaner that Sennheiser kindly sent.
Given how much love the Discogs Community has for Daft Punk, we decided to stream the movie with the Ambeo cranked into the 40s on the volume. That won’t mean anything to you, but believe me, anything above 45 on this monolith is scare-the-cat loud — maybe even scare-the-neighbors loud, and I live in a house soundproofed by dander and despair.
Let’s get one thing out of the way from the start: Even though Daft Punk scored the entire movie and appears in a couple of scenes, there still isn’t enough Daft Punk in Tron: Legacy. Maybe that’s just the nature of Daft Punk — you always want more.
When I say there isn’t enough Daft Punk, what I mean is that the score isn’t filled with bangers you’ll find on any of the duo’s non-soundtrack albums. It’s a score in the traditional sense and a damn good one. Daft Punk really gets the whole Tron thing and delivers music that expertly combines visceral, blood-pumping movement with sleek digital perfection.
The movie is painfully simple: Kevin Flynn (Bridges), the protagonist of the original movie, has disappeared and left his son, Sam, in the care of … someone. There’s no mother mentioned that I can remember and it really doesn’t matter in the context of the movie because the whole idea is to get Sam into the world of Tron. Back story, schmack story.
Sam is now an adult, played by Garrett Hedlund. He spends his days hacking ENCOM, the billion-dollar computer corporation that his father helped build, and riding a sweet Ducati motorcycle. It’s not entirely clear why Sam bothers breaking into ENCOM’s mainframe and physical building seeing as how he’s the primary shareholder, but plots, amirite?
In response to a mysterious message, Sam goes to his father’s old arcade and finds himself sucked into the Grid, a virtual reality created by his father that’s meant to make the world a better place. It’s never explained how this miracle is supposed to happen, and two entire movies spent detailing how dangerous the Grid is to flesh-and-blood nerds strongly indicate that the Grid actually kind of sucks.
The Flynns team up with a humanoid algorithm called Quorra to battle Clu, a powerful algorithm version of Kevin. Things explode, sacrifices are made, and Sam hooks up with an algorithm to live happily ever after.
The whole thing is an excuse to have fun with CGI and it still looks very cool. It also has tremendous sound design, especially during the fight scenes, and the Ambeo creates a literal wall of sound. The audio was consistently spread several feet to either side of a 55-inch television and climbed toward the ceiling, and yet the dialogue remained impressively vivid at all times.
The Ambeo’s dynamics are ideal for Tron: Legacy and Daft Punk. The duo’s electronics are largely in service to the movie — low-key, moody, the kind of music that you may not explicitly notice even as it sets the scene perfectly. But when turned loose in a few scenes, Daft Punk delivers. The party scene is a fan favorite, mostly because the movie’s only truly interesting character is introduced in Michael Sheen’s Castor. But it’s also Daft Punk’s first appearance on camera — as DJs, of course — and the Ambeo digs deep and gets loud.
Daft Punk’s crowning moment, however, is near the end of the film when Clu’s army of programs gather for a good old-fashioned rally. The score builds, swells, and explodes as things get real, and the next 20 minutes is a feast of Daft Punk and sound effects, with the Ambeo cruising at full speed with zero strain.
Long story short, the Ambeo is an amazing achievement — music streamed via phone was crazy good — and Tron: Legacy is just an OK movie. It remains relevant, however, when you stop to consider the technological advances made since 2010. We have machines in our pockets and sitting on coffee tables that speak to us, learn our preferences, and, to an extent, run our lives. It’s only a matter of time until we’re all a CGI Jeff Bridges.
Published in partnership with Sennheiser.