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Soundtrack review: Terminator 2 – Judgment day (Brad Fiedel, 1991)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Terminator 2 – Judgment day (Brad Fiedel, 1991)

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In the Terminator mythology, August 29th 1997 was supposed to be Judgment day, the day when the Skynet machines became self-aware. In “honor” of this day, today I’ll review the score for “Terminator 2 – Judgment day”.
After the brilliant and raw synthesizer score of the first movie, the second one sounds more polished. It opens with the famous main theme in a 2.0 version, and, just like the Terminator models, this one is better, shinier and more efficient. I love the way it builds up, coming as from somewhere far away with a steady and heavy step. I like it more than the first version, it’s more intense.
The entire score is very unsettling and menacing. Once again Brad Fiedel captured the mood of the dark and almost hopeless world portrayed in the movie. There’s an unescapable sense of inevitability in the sound of this score. The rhythm is simple and joyless, but that’s the way a movie like this should sound. Tracks like “Sarah’s dream (nuclear nightmare)”, “Cameron’s inferno” or “I’ll be back” make me shudder at the thought of being trapped in a world as scary as that one.  
But for me, this score is all about the final minutes of the movie. The end of T2 is one emotional sequence, and the cue that accompanies it, “It’s over (Goodbye)” is a divine intervention. The combination of the two makes my top ten favorite movie scenes ever. This track sounds exactly how I feel watching that scene. It has two distinct parts, perfectly synched with what’s going on in the movie…It begins with the decision…I feel the first half of this track as delaying the inevitable, as those moments when you fight tears and the lip starts to tremble slowly. You know what’s going to happen but you don’t want to accept it. The cue almost stops for a second at the moment when everything’s decided, just before The Terminator is being lowered in the melted steel. He just told the kid “I know now why you cry. But it’s something I can never do…”. Fortunately, it’s something I can do, something we all can do and I am curious just what you all feel after minute 2:50 of this cue…The track really is brilliantly constructed, because everything that was keeping the feelings in check before that moment collapses in a heartbeat and it’s better to just let it out…The synth rhythm from then on touches some very deep chords inside me and it’s just perfect to make the scene of the Terminator’s sacrifice even more memorable. 
The ending of the movie simply gets to me. “It’s over” gets to me, every time. It’s a farewell track like no other, and it’s immortal. This scene is one of the reasons I began to love film music. Up until then I had barely noticed music in movies besides opening credits from TV shows.  But with “Terminator 2: Judgment day”, everything changed and a whole new dimension opened. I am grateful to Brad Fiedel for being one of the composers who fired up my love for movie scores and, thus, enriched my life.
Thumbs up…Goodbye…
My ratings:
Cue score: 75 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 25 / 54
Album excellence: 48%

In case you missed it, here’s my review of the score for the first Terminator movie

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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