Terminator 2: Judgment Day soundtrack review

Brad Fiedel’s classic soundtrack for Terminator 2 gets a digitally re-mastered re-release. But how does it stand up almost 20 years on? Here’s Glen’s review...

The Varese Sarabande release of Brad Fiedel’s classic score for James Cameron’s blistering second, and arguably best, instalment in the Terminator franchise has been unavailable for some time, but a re-mastered edition has being released through Silva Screen and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy.

In addition to being re-mastered, it’s also accompanied by notes from the composer where he states, “I take no responsibility for what may happen if you listen to this while driving!” This is sound advice that’s worth following.

After predominantly working in television early on in his career, Fiedel was approached by Cameron to compose the score for the first Terminator film in 1984. Such was the quality of the score for the original film that Fiedel became a composer in demand and composed seven scores in as many years, until Cameron called upon his services again for his ambitious sequel.

Terminator 2 really was a landmark in cinema that redefined what an action movie could be. Not only did it feature mind blowing effects and action sequences that, in part, made the film the most expensive film ever made at the time of its release, it also had a huge heart at its core, which plays a huge part in the film’s lasting appeal.

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It’s easy to compliment the action orientated elements of the score and, when I’ve spoken to people about this previously, these are the parts that tend to be the focus of the conversations. However, the bulk of the score is made up of emotive and dramatic numbers that carry a strong sense of loss and foreboding.

There are distinct pieces to portray the journeys of the characters in the film. My favourites are the eerie and disorienting pieces that play out when accompanying Sarah Connor’s exploits, the highlight of this being Escape From The Hospital, which has a slow build into its second half, playing out like an up-tempo nightmare.

To create the distinct sound that carries the score, Fiedel used two Fairlight CMI audio samplers and overlaid numerous instruments, blending technology and conventional orchestration to startling effect and creating a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere that serves the film to brilliant effect.

The combination of two techniques creates a futuristic sound that encapsulates the clash between man and machine. This is most effective in the iconic main theme, carried over from the first film, that blends that note perfect signature melody and industrial percussion, creating a stirring and emotive piece of music that is as much a part of the film as any of the images on screen.

Such is the power of the music on the film that it’s impossible to listen to this soundtrack without conjuring up scenes in your mind as you listen to it, and this is why it’s such an effective and brilliant piece of composing, not only for the action genre, but scoring in general.

The main theme acts as a leitmotif that runs through much of the film ,alongside the aforementioned pieces that accompany a number of the characters’ journeys. Whereas the opening main theme is a stirring number, latter variations are much more downbeat and emotional, particularly Trust Me and the album closer, It’s Over (Good Bye,) which, to this day, after dozens of viewings of the film, still brings a tear to my eye.

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The only downside for me is that it’s a reminder that Fiedel hasn’t composed for a film since the mid-nineties. When you hear pieces as perfect as this, it’s hard to understand why.

This really is a classic soundtrack that’s a worthy addition to any record collection and this release is a definitive edition. Even though there aren’t any extra tracks, it’s easy to hear the care and attention that has gone into the re-master, with the improved audio quality and, as such, it comes highly recommended.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day OST is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.


5 out of 5