Music composed by Danny Elfman
Label: Warner Bros/Reprise
Catalog: 519707-2

Year: 2009

1. Opening
2. All Is Lost
3. Broadcast
4. The Harvester Returns
5. Fireside
6. No Plan
7. Reveal / The Escape
8. Hydrobot Attack
9. Farewell
10. Marcus Enters Skynet
11. A Solution
12. Serena
13. Final Confrontation
14. Salvation
15. Rooster (Alice In Chains)

Total Time: 50:24

Reviewed by
Tom Hoover

This has been quite a movie season thus far for fans of the summer blockbuster. Already, films like Wolverine, Star Trek, and Angels and Demons have touched down in theaters and May isn't even over yet! The next "must-see" movie is the fourth installment in the Terminator franchise, Salvation. Along with a new director, Danny Elfman signed as the composer of the film, making him the third to have worked on the series. While I'm always up for a new take on an existing stories, I must say that I found the choice of Elfman to be a curious one. I didn't think his style would be a match. Regardless, the score is being released by Warner Bros. Records this May and features 14 score cues and 1 song track by Alice in Chains. The makeup of Elfman's material is a hybrid, merging electronic accompaniment with orchestral elements. The sound quality is decent (though it sounded like the orchestra was playing small at times).

Here we have another sequel (and arguably a reboot) that provides a great scoring opportunity for a composer. Not only is there intense science fiction elements to represent, there is also mankind's plight to stave off extinction to hone in on with the music. If that's not enough ammunition, there is also a main theme that has been embedded within pop culture for decades that could be built on. So, to take one look at this package, one might think that Elfman, with all his creative capabilities and reputation, would deliver a highly original effort for Salvation. You'd be wrong. In fact, what I find most original about this score is that Elfman elected to use a ukulele in it!

I won't say that the music is terribly weak or difficult to listen to because it's really not. It's just that this was scored as if Elfman was writing music for a fairly routine action movie. In some ways, I can compare it to Michael Giacchino's end result with the Star Trek score (though Trek's music is more entertaining) in that Elfman seems to have neglected to embrace, in full, the musical spirit of the franchise.

During my entire listening engagement, I was waiting and waiting for the original Terminator theme, in all of its mechanical and industrial glory, to erupt on the scene in some new guise. This never happened. While true enough, Elfman did use a bevy of electronic instruments to convey the man vs. machine concept, there was never any sense of dread that resulted from it. By comparison, the original Terminator theme would be ever menacing, presenting a constant sense of fear and unease when heard. Here, the electronic underscore simply passes by without evoking any sense of white knuckle peril, at least for me. I'm not sure if this approach was intentional so as to not overshadow the more dramatic angle of the story or if it was a case of Elfman simply being unable to pull it off.

And speaking of themes... in Salvation, Elfman seems to have incorporated a fragment of Brad Fiedel's original piece as his main theme for this story. It's more of a simple, uncomplicated motif and it fails to make any type of significant impact when heard. Again, better off calling on the original theme with more of a complete reinterpretation instead of a strand of it. And let's face it, wouldn't it have been memorable to hear the classic theme incorporated into an orchestral framework?

In the end, Terminator Salvation will close out May with a score that is as disappointing as that of the other blockbusters that came out (Angels and Demons excluded). The shift toward the more human component in the score is appreciated but its overall impact is slight. The darker side of the score also fails to deliver what was expected. I actually think that Elfman's Planet of the Apes would have been a better fit for T4 than what is presented here.