Review: Tron Uprising (Soundtrack)

Tron: Uprising (soundtrack)
Joseph Trapanese

This is not Daft Punk.  This is not Daft Punk’s soundtrack for Tron: Legacy.

Neither of those are bad things.  I really enjoyed Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy soundtrack and thought it evoked the movie’s themes flawlessly.  But Uprising is its own show and should have its own music.  The needle to be threaded was very tight: The show’s sound had to be compatible with the movie but distinct in its own right.  Joseph Trapanese, who collaborated with Daft Punk on the movie soundtrack, does a great job resolving that tension.

It doesn’t take long in the first episode to notice that the music was going to stand on its own.  “Beck’s Theme” opens sounding thematically similar to “The Grid”, with synthesized strings that sound almost like wind chimes and then a driving beat underlying a motion motif.  Trapanese’s music is a bit faster, a bit more insistent, which it has to be if only because the format is so much more compressed — 22 minutes versus 127.  The Beck/Tron leitmotif is a bit more open-ended than the Legacy one, a little less resolved.

There is a progression throughout the first (only?) season of Tron: Uprising.  The music begins as distinct from Daft Punk, almost aggressively so, but hints and flavors begin to bleed through.  As Trapanese can be more confident that he’s carved out his own musical landscape, he can afford to allow more and more elements of the Legacy soundtrack to come through.  This makes a sort of meta-sense, as Uprising is a prequel to Legacy — as the season progresses, we are moving closer in time to the film (even if it’s not really clear how they’ll get from here to there).

Nearly a third of this album is made up of music from one episode, “Scars”.  In a Joss Whedon show, “Scars” would be the so-called WHAM episode … the one when everything changes and what you thought you knew is no longer true and never has been.  A two-parter, “Scars” revisits scenes from the flashback in Legacy:  It fills in details and adds new texture to Clu 2’s rebellion and shades Tron in a bit more fully.  In fact, this episode gives Tron more screen time and depth than the entire Legacy movie.  It’s also a masterful use of the surprise reveal, when we learn that what Legacy implied — that Tron is defeated by Clu 2 and then becomes Rinzler — does not happen immediately.  We even get a cameo of Kevin Flynn (who only appears one other time in the season).

Fitting for such an important episode, the middle tracks comprise an epic “Scars Suite”.  It has all the major themes and a grand sensibility to it.  There are a lot of issues wrapped up in the story — trust and betrayal, fall and redemption — and the music is comparably complex.  It is really here, in the “Scars Suite”, that Trapanese rises to the level of his material.  In other places the soundtrack can veer from the grandiose to the merely bombastic, but the suite is sparse and deep.

Overall, it’s a very satisfying soundtrack to a very ambitious series.  Trapanese does a masterful job connecting to what came before without being overshadowed by it.  One of the reasons to wish fervently that Disney sees the light and renews Tron: Uprising is that we might see further development of the musical themes.