Music is crucial to establishing a movie's feel. It's not just "background." Sometimes a score or theme is so stirring and memorable that the composers become legends known by the mainstream like John Williams (Jaws, Star Wars) and Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). Danny Elfman is well on his way to this lofty status. Millions know his work -- primarily the Simpsons theme. The prolific former leader of the cult new wave band Oingo Boingo started earning Hollywood acclaim for his work scoring movies by director Tim Burton. Elfman has composed the exciting music for 2009's Terminator Salvation, the fourth film in the blockbuster science fiction franchise, starring Christian Bale. Brad Fiedel composed the hauntingly memorable synthesizer-based music for 1984's The Terminator and 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Marco Beltrami took the reins for 2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which featured a more conventional orchestral score and a new take on Fiedel's original theme. Elfman's Terminator Salvation work is also orchestral and contains subtle nods to Fiedel's theme while maintaining a consistent vision. The strings, brass, and percussion superbly reflect the moods of the scenes: relentless action, dramatic tension, and emotional vulnerability. It's the deft little touches Elfman briefly adds here and there that give this music depth, most notably ethereal classical guitar lines, soft piano chords, and sputtering percussion. Elfman has 14 compositions on the Terminator Salvation soundtrack and the most powerful are "Opening," "Broadcast," "The Harvester Returns," "Fireside," "Reveal/The Escape," "Final Confrontation," and "Salvation." The last track is Alice in Chains' harrowing "Rooster" from the band's 1992 album Dirt. It's featured in the movie, much like Guns N' Roses' "You Could Be Mine" was used in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (and again in Terminator Salvation as one of many tips of the hat to the earlier films and their die-hard fans). In the Terminator Salvation soundtrack liner notes, director McG says that he chose "Rooster" "primarily because of the existential feel of the track and for the lyric ‘Ain't found a way to kill me yet.'" Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell wrote "Rooster" as a tribute to his father, a Vietnam War veteran, so there's a parallel with Bale's John Connor character -- the human resistance's leader in the war against murderous machines in a post-apocalyptic future. Elfman's richly textured music, topped off by the impact of Alice in Chains' "Rooster," makes the Terminator Salvation soundtrack stand tall on its own as a listening experience.
AllMusic Review by Bret Adams
feat: Alice in Chains