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Terminator Genisys
  • Composed by Lorne Balfe
  • Skydance-Paramount / 2015 / 71m

A geriatric cyborg comes from the future and attempts to change the course of history by making sure that Phil Collins never takes over lead vocals for the English rock group Genisis.  Unfortunately the early days of dementia are taking hold and he simply cannot spell the band’s name correctly.  Terminator Genisys offers a worryingly plausible plot which will no doubt leave many audience members very nervous indeed.

It is the fifth film in the franchise, which has had an interesting musical trajectory.  Brad Fiedel’s music to the first two films, built around his iconic theme, fit them like a glove even if I’d never want to listen to either of them on album.  Marco Beltrami scored the pretty bad third installment and provided an entertaining, predominantly orchestral musical backdrop which offered little in the way of continuity but did make an entertaining album.  The fourth film – which nobody remembers, especially those people like me who have seen it – featured a decent score by Danny Elfman, though it was not one of his more distinguished efforts.

Lorne Balfe

Lorne Balfe

I can’t say that the excitement amongst film music fans was exactly palpable when Christophe Beck was announced as composer for Genisys; the prolific composer has written some fine music but I’ve struggled to identify much of a distinctive musical voice so far.  When the composer subsequently departed the project to be replaced by Lorne Balfe there wasn’t a great deal of reaction either; the Scottish composer is of course best known for his work for and with Hans Zimmer.  Of his solo scores, the more interesting ones have generally been either for animations or video games.  His best solo score to date that doesn’t fill either of those categories was The Sweeney, which was very entertaining but essentially Inception 2 in all but name; and that’s far from his only score which shares a lot in common with ones he worked on with Zimmer (the recent Sons of Liberty sounded like cast-offs from the Pirates of the Caribbean scores).

Terminator Genisys sounds not so much like cast-offs from the Zimmer/Nolan Batman scores, it’s essentially an extension of them, with a bit of Man of Steel thrown in for good measure.  Aside from the bookending cues (the opening “Fate and Hope” has a promising atmosphere, with some decent synths and a nice piano theme; the closing “Terminated” is a great, bold statement of the Fiedel theme) the album consists largely of very generic modern action music which could be from pretty much any modern film scored by one of the Remote Control composers other than Zimmer.  All the modern Zimmer action music clichés are here, with great comedy value coming from the dreaded HORN OF DOOM, heard here mostly in an obnoxious synthetic variant; there surely can’t be anybody left alive on the planet who doesn’t laugh when they hear it.

The music isn’t bad; it’s just bland, so free of personality and identity, and in some ways that seems worse.  You could pick up any of the large number of action tracks here, play it in isolation and wonder what I’m going on about, because in themselves many of them tick the boxes and do the job.  But listening for over an hour to the whole thing is a fairly draining experience because you’re sitting waiting, just willing Balfe to give some hook to it, something to mark it as the score for Terminator Genisys and not for The Dark Knight 4 or Transformers 11 or whatever, but it never really comes.  It’s a shame really because the groundwork is laid and the foundations seem solid – the mass of concrete stuck on top simply doesn’t inspire.

It’s Lorne Balfe’s name on the album cover but you just know that if it had been Steve Jablonsky’s, Ramin Djawadi’s, Kelvin Wheelbarrow’s, Uncle Tom Cobley’s or countless others’ then the music would sound identical.  I don’t really understand why so many filmmakers have decided they want their films to sound the same as each other, but they evidently do and it’s evidently working, because audiences don’t seem to notice and film critics never mention it so it clearly is working for Hollywood.  It isn’t working for me though.  Terminator Genisys has its moments but goes in one ear, out the other and is completely forgotten as soon as it’s over.

Rating: **

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  1. na na NA NA na na BATMAN on Tuesday 30 June, 2015 at 01:36

    Dear Diary,

    Today I created a bland, inter-changable score that went nowhere. I’m a genius!

    Sincerely,
    Balfe

  2. Martijn on Tuesday 30 June, 2015 at 07:38

    James, you took the words right out of my mouth.
    (It must have been when you were kissing me).

  3. Clayman on Wednesday 1 July, 2015 at 11:50

    Good. I have skimmed through a few reviews and most of them were raving about the music.

    Honestly, I couldn’t get myself to care about this album. As you have stated, it might very well be the score for the new Transformers movie, or Batman… If I didn’t know Balfe did the music, I would have guessed Jablonsky was the author.

    Apart from the sparse use of the Terminator theme, there is literally NOTHING that would give the score some sense of identity, as you have also mentioned.

    All in all, a great review for what feels like an uninspired piece of work. A shame really.

  4. Art on Sunday 10 January, 2016 at 05:55

    vi IV I V is the absolute mark of mediocrity to me.
    Come now, Lorne! Seriously? Throw me a bone here. How many times do we need to hear that inescapable, lame chord progression? Can we at least pretend to try, please?