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“ Disgruntlement remains for strict Terminator fans who have waited too long for a score that does what it has to do: kick ass. ”

T3 soundtrack review

Terminator 3 Soundtrack review

Thu 26 Jun 2003 | 10h59 GMT+1
Info: TF News search

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines' Marco Beltrami: The mythology revolving around the Terminator saga has intrigued audiences since the 1984 original by James Cameron became a hugely popular cult hit. The second film, complete with a vast new technology in special effects, broke box office records in 1991 and supposedly ended the saga on a guardedly positive note. And yet, a third sequel features a seemingly ageless Arnold Schwarzenegger and his usual grimace tackling a situation suspiciously similar to that of the second film.

A much more powerful terminator has once again come from the future to kill the human who is destined to return control of the future Earth to humankind. While the first two films furthered the saga by toying with possible futures and revealing more of the first film's unanswered questions, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines treads on more dangerous ground... threading that fine line between a viable saga continuation and a simple action remake of an old idea.

Thus, young director Jonathan Mostow wanted to distinguish the third installment from the previous one, including a new approach for the music for the picture. Rumors of extensive song use and a return of saga composer Brad Fiedel were dismissed by Mostow, who decided upon equally young composer Marco Beltrami for the job. Mostow was familiar with Beltrami's work for such thriller and horror films as Scream, The Faculty, and Mimic, all of which top Beltrami's resume in the genre.

Looking for the same unique edge in orchestration and emotions, Mostow directed Beltrami to produce a score that would better assert the emotions of the characters on the screen rather than simply accompany them in the background. If the first two Terminator films had a common weakness, it was the use of Brad Fiedel's sufficient, but uninspiring electronic underscores.

Fiedel's music for the first two films varied from highly effective to highly underachieving. Few viewers criticize the first film's original score, for it represented the era and cult environment of the film well. When the sequel launched directly into the mainstream on a huge budget, however, Fiedel's mundane collection of sound effects and limited elaboration of the first film's themes and motifs caused widespread disappointment. The score for Terminator 2: Judgement Day offered two or three statements of Fiedel's ironically compelling and lyrical theme, as well as a return of the heart-stopping percussion rhythm that represented the terminators themselves. Otherwise, it was lacking in basic cohesion. Beltrami would not adapt Fiedel's theme into Terminator 3 on the whole, whether by choice, direction, or legality. Nor does Beltrami offer the same staggered percussion rhythms that brought the terminators to life in the previous films. Instead, Beltrami starts from scratch for Terminator 3, armed with nearly 100 musicians from the Hollywood Studio Symphony and the singers of the Hollywood Film Chorale. For fans who disliked Fiedel's electronically simplistic approach to the other Terminator scores, the prospect of Beltrami breaking into the mainstream limelight with a massive orchestral score was exciting. But alas, it wasn't to be so.

The result of Beltrami's effort is an equally mundane underscore that offers new themes, new motifs, but little dynamic enthusiasm in performance, instrumentation, or spirit. Musically, Terminator 3 doesn't frighten or exhilarate the listener, and unfortunately, it seems as though Beltrami fell into the trap of composing music that accompanies the action mood rather than establishing it.

The part of the equation that defies logic with Terminator 3 is how a score with such lofty goals and over a hundred performers could end up sounding so confined and understated. The lack of power behind the composition and orchestrations by Beltrami, Pete Anthony, and others is startling. After the score begins with a promising choral introduction and a driving percussive statement of awe and terror, the music becomes flat. Despite the quantity of talent involved, the score is repetitive, underdeveloped in its rhythms, and not scary to the least degree. Chase cues, which are grand opportunities to create whopping rhythms of electronic and orchestral power, are accompanied by incoherent rhythms that never establish enough of a presence to get your adrenaline rushing. Emotional interludes for the contemplative scenes are performed at very low volumes, causing problems with consistency on album. Lacking in evocative emotions, the secondary string theme desperately cries out for more of a voice.

Even more curious is Beltrami's title theme for John Connor. Stated briefly in full during action sequences, the theme is given a very troubled off key performance during "JC Theme," a cue that is mind-bogglingly repetitive and patience wearing. The "T3" cue offers this theme, as well as the string theme as an interlude, in full, with the orchestra backed by a chorus and Beltrami's own interpretation of the percussive terminator rhythm. Mainstream listeners may find the theme appealing in its simple construction, even though it does repeat itself without further development.

But film score fans may be troubled by some obvious similarities between this theme by Beltrami and John Ottman's title theme for Apt Pupil. With an estimated 80% overlap in rhythm, pace, and note-for-note theme, the nearly identical nature of Beltrami's Terminator 3 theme may be disturbing for film music fans, and especially so for dumbstruck Ottman collectors.

The reasons for this incredible similarity are unknown, but the positive side of the situation is that Ottman's theme was stunning in Apt Pupil, and a similar theme might serve Terminator 3 well in the film. On the other hand, however, the bareness and unadornment of the rest of Beltrami's underscore jostles the title theme further out of place. An emotional constraint and reticence causes several cues to lose their intensity and, thus, their effectiveness. There is no steely, modern edge to Beltrami's music to match some of Fiedel's better cues (such as "John and Dyson into the Vault" from the second score). On album, over forty minutes of the score is generously presented before one interpretation of Fiedel's Terminator themes (which, after being disappointed by Beltrami's score, is like hearing an old friend return with glory).

After the two-minute recording of the original Fiedel theme, the album finishes with two songs, the first by Beltrami and the second by Mia Julia Schettino. This is one of the absurd and rare situations in which the songs are considerably better than the score! Insane, you say? No, but it raises more befuddlement. Why Beltrami couldn't translate the emotional theme directly from his song into his score is frustrating. The Mia Julia performance of the second song is equally romantic and easy on the ears.

As the album stands, the songs are an awkward glimpse of heart at the end of the album that score fans were hoping to hear throughout the deeper moments of score. Ultimately, though, the muddled underscore is perplexing in its inability to excite, tantalize, or terrify. Even so, orchestral score fans may find Terminator 3 to be more accessible than Fiedel's previous entry in the saga. The disgruntlement remains, however, for strict Terminator fans who have waited far too long for a new Terminator score that powerfully and forcefully does what it has to do: kick ass.

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