The Terminator: a Musical Analysis

Topics: Sarah Connor, The Terminator, John Connor Pages: 7 (2703 words) Published: January 29, 2013
At the heart of the film industry is a man who has revolutionized movies for generations to come. Since the release of The Terminator in 1984, James Cameron has been one of only a handful of writers and directors who is consistently certain to bring profit and success to Hollywood. According to Stephen McVeigh and Matthew Wilhelm Kapell, James Cameron “shares the rarefied heights of such A-list directors as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, directors who work in similar generic and commercial landscapes of the action-fantasy blockbuster.” Although of a later generation than Spielberg and Lucas, his movies reveal many similar aspects of cinema and he has, in countless ways, taken many of these facets to a new level (McVeigh and Kapell, 2011). James Cameron is undoubtedly a cinematic genius when it comes to writing and directing smash hit movies, but the overall production of those films is part of a much larger picture that Cameron cannot possibly achieve on his own. Amongst the extensive team of specialized professionals is someone who is absolutely crucial to the assembly of a motion picture: the music composer. Sound and music are key components of cinema that cannot be overlooked in any type of major analysis. When it comes to the dissection of the music score of any one of James Cameron’s films, there is really no better place to start than the production of The Terminator in 1984, which was in many ways looked at as the start of his career and his first revolutionary blockbuster. Rebecca Keegan claims that, “The Terminator introduces many of the themes and motifs that would come to define Cameron’s career: a bleak future setting, an exploration of humanity’s relationship to technology, a love story with a potent heroine and a stoic hero, and, oh yes, lots of cool explosions.” However, The Terminator would be just another overly- ambitious, washed up picture that would have been out of theaters in a few weeks without the music composer (Keegan, 2009). Brad Fiedel’s music provides character analysis, establishes mood, reinforces settings, and generally enhances The Terminator which helped to create one of the most inspirational, smash hit science fiction-fantasy movies of the 20th century.

The Terminator is a dystopian film set in a pre-nuclear war, 1984 Los Angeles. The story traces the path of The Terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is a cybernetic organism, sent back in time to kill a young girl by the name Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton. In the year 2029, the world has turned to ashes due to a nuclear war that was engineered by a defense network computer called Skynet. This artificial intelligence sends the Terminator that targets Sarah Connor for assassination because in the future she will bear a child, named John Connor, who will lead the human resistance against the machines. Additionally, a man named Kyle Reese, played by Michael Biehn, has also been sent back in time to the year 1984 to protect Sarah. In the movie, we learn that it was the future John Connor who sent Reese to protect his mother, and indirectly himself. Reese volunteered because he fell in love with Sarah based on a photograph of her that John had given him. By the end of the film we discover that these events have been set and John’s fate was already created because Reese turns out to be his father.

The setting of the film is urban, industrial, and occasionally desolate and barren. The film begins in a future war zone that sets the mood for a dystopian scenario. Similar to ‘future’ scenes found in The Matrix (1999), machines are evidently in control and the dark ambiance creates an extremely bleak mood. The sound effects are absolutely crucial in establishing this type of atmosphere. Flying machines whoosh overhead firing laser artillery. The rapid-fire capability of these future weapons create explosion after explosion showing the relentless nature of the machines. Karen Collins describes...
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