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Music Review: Terminator Salvation – Original Soundtrack

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In 1989, Danny Elfman, from the band Oingo Boingo, scored the soundtrack to Batman starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, and directed by Tim Burton. From that moment on, whether Elfman was working with Burton or without, he had solidified himself in my mind as a composer with a unique edge and flair.

Over time I found myself consciously comparing each of the soundtracks after Batman to that first great exposure to his work. By doing this comparison, I found signature elements in each soundtrack that uniquely identified Elfman’s work.

With Terminator Salvation – Original Soundtrack I really had to hunt to find that signature sound. In my opinion, this is one of Elfman’s best because it strives to be unique for the continuation of the Terminator franchise, yet holds true to the sounds of the original movies. The thudding metal sound of the original Terminator score by Brad Fiedel was inspired, but Elfman has taken the melding of man and machine to another level.

When I saw Terminator Salvation on opening day, the soundtrack did what all great soundtracks do. It blended into the background when the action of the characters on screen was important, and accented some of those important moments to make them stand out that much more. With a mix of powerful action-oriented tracks and softer ones, I think he struck a balance that is difficult to do in any action or science fiction movie, let alone a reboot of the Terminator franchise.

I was unable to tell which orchestra was used for the non-electronic or synth portions of the soundtrack, but the blend between machines and men with the music was just as profound as the battle raging in the movie itself. The use of strings, powerful drums, horns, and soft guitar meshed with the metallic clanks, machine noises, and battle sounds beautifully.

Among my favorite tracks on the soundtrack album are “Broadcast” and “Marcus Enters Skynet.” “Broadcast” builds to a satisfying crescendo that cries out to me with the horns and strings. “Marcus Enters Skynet” slows the pace a bit to allow us to experience what Marcus is feeling as he discovers his true nature and rebels against the machines.

In addition to the score for the movie, the soundtrack also includes Alice in Chains’ song “Rooster.” This track was used in one of the movie trailers that I can recall and fits in perfectly with the storyline of the Terminator universe. It’s hard to argue with lyrics like “Ain’t found a way to kill me yet…” when talking about John Connor, who has now managed to survive four movies and multiple attempts on his life.

The last Elfman soundtrack that sounded promising was for Wanted in 2007. It had its moments, but the soundtrack for Terminator Salvation worked beautifully for me.

If you like soundtracks and are among the few fans of the original Terminator movies and actually enjoyed Terminator Salvation (like me), be sure to pick up Terminator Salvation — The Original Soundtrack at a retail store near you or online.

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About Fitz

Fitz is a software engineer and writer who lives in Colorado Springs, CO, with his family and pets, trying to survive the chaos!
  • pq

    Are you kidding me?

    The only recall to the old soundtrack was a few seconds in the intro track, and when the T-800 appeared, and in the freakin end titles.

    Rest was Totally absent of termonator feeling, No metal sounds, no dark (simple tonal) melodies with metal beats acordning it, and no machine feeling at all…
    Just some freaking fast paced violin asemble that has no place in terminator universe what so ever… its not phantom of the opera, ITS JUDGEMENT DAY!
    Let alone the machines were acting like Noobs compaterd to the old films.
    And the feeling of being helpless as a human was totally gone.

  • goonster

    yea, the terminators had uber chances to kill, yet they totallt effed up and got killed themselves, like wen arnie in T1 punched his arm thru the rocker dude at the beginning, now the terminators just grab and throw…